Classic car of the week: The 3 litre Bentley
Bentley, but not as you know it today
Classic cars built in the early 1920s are a rare sight on Britain’s roads but this particular 3 Litre Bentley has a historic as well as a very recent racing pedigree.
Originally built 1925, Car No.10 underwent a 14-year rebuild 2001 under the watchful eye of classic Bentley specialist William Medcalf. Ensuring that as much of the car’s original parts were restored and preserved, rather than replaced, means this Bentley is remarkably original.
Retaining its 1925 Vanden Plas four-seater body, the car was also originally fitted with a lower windscreen – an early effort to make the car more aerodynamic in a bid to up its speed. The addition of a 25-gallon fuel tank, stiffened suspension and an uprated ‘Supersports’ engine means this brute was a little more nippy than the average Bentley back in the day.
With all that, it would have been a shame to not take No.10 racing and so the Bentley Boys, led by charismatic W.O Bentley, entered it into the 1925 Le Mans 24hr race. To their dismay, a last minute change to the race rules meant the cars had to run with the roof up for the first 20 laps. The new rule reduced No.10’s aerodynamic profile to the point where the car eventually ran out of fuel on lap 19, crippling any hopes of Bentley taking home the silverware.
After the race, the car was used as a company demonstrator before being sold into private hands where it remained in active service before its restoration in 2001. This year, however, marked a very significant occasion as it returned to Le Mans 91 years after its debut race at the French circuit. Upholding the typical approach to 1920s racing, the car was driven down to France, raced, and driven home again, receiving a hero’s welcome at the H.R Owen Bentley dealership in Berkeley Square alongside 12 other classic Bentleys.
For more information on HR Owen Bentley click here or for details on William Medcalf Vintage Bentley, click here