1928 Bentley 6½ Litre Four Light Weymann Fabric Sports Saloon
Low mileage, rare survivor of closed 'Big Six' Bentley
Coachwork by Freestone & Webb
Registration no. MP1650
Chassis no. BR2353
Engine no. BR2351
6,567cc, SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Single Smiths 50BVS Carburetor, 147bhp at 3,500rpm
4-Speed 'C' Manual Transmission
Semi-Elliptic Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Mechanical Servo assisted Drum Brakes
*Known history from new, with Clare Hay report on file
*Period original images survive of the car
*Well-known as an example of the highest authenticity
THE SIX-CYLINDER BENTLEY
This year, the Bentley marque passes a milestone in its story, with the centenary of the brand. It is a huge achievement, not least because throughout those 100 years it is a company that has always been associated with the utmost sporting and luxurious cars.
That reputation was founded on the basis of magnificent automobiles like the 6½ Liter offered here today, cars which exemplified style and performance. Walter Owen Bentley would commence operations with his four-cylinder cars which as early as 1922 were stealing the march on others in events such as the Tourist Trophy, and even Indianapolis where a sole car debuted in 1922, but it wasn't long before the 'Grand Prix d'Endurance' at Le Mans was in his sights as the ultimate proving ground.
Forays began in 1923, with a 4th place and the following year an outright win became the first of a series of wins. Despite a dry spell through 1925-1927, the bigger 4-cylinder 4½ Liter achieved victory in 1928. Throughout this period, and frustrated by retirements at La Sarthe, production quickly evolved, and in 1926 Bentley introduced the model which would be the backbone of his final Le Mans campaigns – the fabulous 'Big Six'.
The tale goes that further development of the 4-cylinder was deemed not enough by 'WO' after a chance encounter with the prototype Rolls-Royce 'New Phantom' in France, sending them back to the drawing board. The result was two more liters! Boasting a stoic high-quality chassis, this now behemoth power unit was matched with beefed up transmission and axles. Production of these cars continued from 1926 through to the introduction of their eventual successor the 8 Liter in 1930. Along that journey the stealth of the 6-cylinder cars brought Le Mans wins in 1929 and 1930.
Whereas four-cylinder cars tended to receive light weight coachwork, the 6½ was unrestrained, so it is not surprising that of the 544 cars built, only 10% were delivered with open touring bodies. The buyer of the six-cylinder Bentley knew what they were doing, each country had its pinnacle cars, in Belgium the Minerva, in America Duesenberg and Packard tied for this crown, in Italy the Isotta-Fraschini and here in France the Hispano-Suiza, but arguably none blended luxury with sport as Bentley did, the owner of a Bentley was the driver and the 'red mist' was usually in the air!
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Offered for sale in the Centennial year of the marque, this handsome 'Big Six' Bentley is well-known and regarded as one of the most original of its kind to survive, retaining matching component numbers, the coachwork with which it was supplied new and even the Weymann patented fabric exterior of its body. Weymann were, of course, one of the best-known companies to experiment with lightening coachwork which they did with the use of a flexible wooden structure and fabric skin. It epitomizes the popular balance that clients chose in the late 1920s, of closed coachwork. The car's originality may be attributed to the fact that it has had a mere 8 owners from new and is strongly believed to have covered a mere 42,000 miles in its 90 year career.
A fastidious researcher of the history of his cars, the present custodian has worked with the noted authorities on the WO era of cars to research and document its life from day one. On file are copious pieces of information charting that journey. Thanks to noted historian Tim Houlding it was possible to prove that period photos of a fabric Freestone & Webb were indeed this car and those are repeated on these pages here, C.K. Bowers. They show BR2353 in all its splendour, a handsome purposeful sporting automobile, which ultimately is how we find her today.
The original owner of the car was a Mr. Linde of London who would keep the car for nearly a decade, only parting with it in 1937. During his ownership, the Bentley was routinely serviced at the Cricklewood Works, and when as in 1932 a minor accident occurred it was repaired there, all of which is charted on its factory record. It is understood that Mr. Linde was driven by his chauffeur and by the time it left his stable, the works notes display 33,885 miles.
Its next owner is listed a Mr. Heckman of which we known little, from another previous owner, Barry Anderson, two previous owners are listed as Mr. Edgar Lionel Roberts of Tatsfield in Surrey, then Frederick William Hunt of the Holland Road in London, and from him before arriving with Anderson in the early 1960s. In that ownership it received much refurbishment, including an engine rebuild and the chassis repainted. By that stage the front seats must have been showing their age and they were finally recovered.
From Anderson, the next long-term owner was J.F. Murcott, a wealthy industrialist from the British Midlands, and one who over the years had numerous important automobiles including an 1897 Daimler, and a Blitzen Benz. The Bentley would spend much of that ownership in storage rather than use.
The Murcott family would keep the car from 1965 to the mid-1990s, when in the depths of the recession of car prices it passed to noted collector Jack Kamper. In 1995 during Mr. Kamper's ownership, the Bentley was displayed at the Museum of British Road Transport in Coventry, as part of their 'Bentley – Sporting Luxury' exhibition
Since 1997, the Big Six has been in private family ownership. Over the course of this custody, the car has continued to be cherished, on the technical side in 2003, noted expert Tony Fabian of Blackmore Engineering completed an engine rebuild and it has been maintained when needed and such that it could be ready to use for tours. In more recent times the car has been on museum display, and its use has waned, leading to the decision to part with it. In preparation for the sale, a professional report was completed by the leading authority Dr. Clare Hay which is now on file for review.
BR2353 is a car that has always been prized for its originality and has been sheltered throughout its life, this special Bentley is the latest in a series of important Vintage 'WO' era cars to be offered by Bonhams in the last few years. This rare survivor of its form would surely complement any collection, serving as a world-class centerpiece and example of the marque. It arrives at the sale here in stunning condition, ready to be shown or toured in any number of events that will herald the 100th anniversary of this iconic brand.
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