Bentley 8-Litre Open Tourer 1931
Coachwork in the style of Vanden Plas
Chassis no. YX5116
Engine no. YX5116
Offered with original H.J. Mulliner body.
•One of only 36 short-chassis examples out of 100 built
•Known ownership history
•Matching chassis, engine, gearbox and other major components
•Present ownership since 2000
•Extensively campaigned worldwide
•Registered in the UK with its original registration ('GW 1571')
Chassis number 'YX5116' is the 91st of the 100 8-Litre Bentleys built in 1930-1931. The 8-Litre was designed as a fast, powerful chassis capable of carrying heavy closed coachwork with sports car levels of performance. Indeed, when the 8-Litre was introduced at the 1930 Olympia Show it was the fastest production chassis in the world, capable of 103mph with the high-ratio (15/53) rear axle. It was a better car than the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, and was priced by Bentley at £50 more for the chassis (£1,850 rather than £1,800) to reinforce the point. The 8-Litre was, and remains, a true supercar.
Chassis 'YX5116' was unsold when Bentley Motors went into receivership on 11th July 1931 and remained at the works during the receivership. This lasted until November 1931 when the company was renamed Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Rolls-Royce.
The Service Record notes André shock absorbers fitted to the front axle in May 1933; these were presumably Telecontrol shock absorbers, a typical 1930s modification. 'YX5116' is fitted currently with two pairs of Complete Automobilist replica Hartford friction shock absorbers to the front and a more correct pair of replica Hartfords to the back axle. The standard ignition arrangement comprised a Bosch GF6A magneto on the offside and a Delco-Remy MRS12 distributor and oil-filled coil set to the near-side. As now, 'YX5116' has a later Delco-Remy distributor and a Scintilla magneto.
Two different compression ratios were offered, a high-compression engine with a ratio of 5.5:1 for sporting chassis and a low compression engine (5.1:1) for closed cars, with a compression plate inserted between the cylinder block and the crankcase. The engine in chassis 'YX5116', number 'YX5116', was built as new with the 5.1:1 compression ratio. As seen, the carburettors appear to be the originals on the original manifold, with the slow-running device removed and new dash-pots fitted.
Transmission is by single-plate Bentley clutch to the separate 'F' type gearbox, designed especially for the 8-Litre. The Service Record for 'YX5116' notes the original gearbox as number '8113', which is retained.
The original Lucas 'snail' sidelights are still fitted to the original wings (with the car). The chassis is fitted with Zeiss headlamps (these were available as an option) with replica Lucas snail-pattern sidelights mounted off brackets by the windscreen pillars.
The 8-Litre was supplied with two Lucas S220 taillights as standard. The rear lights as now are reproduction CAV.
The steering column length for 'YX5116' is not specified; however, the first entry in the Service Record, dated 25th February 1932, is for a set of 2½" longer steering column tubes and controls. The original steering column is still fitted, numbered 'YX5116'. The Tecalemit one-shot lubrication system has been removed.
The instruments as now are mostly replica, while the wheel currently fitted is non-standard. The radiator has a separate chrome-plated shell and would have had thermostatically controlled shutters, using a Smithermet operating mechanism. As now, the shutters and the Smithermet have been removed, with a wire mesh fitted in place.
The Bentley Motors Service Record for 'YX5116' shows that it was built on the shorter of the two standard 8-Litre wheelbases: 12' rather than the 13' chassis. The axle ratio was 15/53 (3.53:1), the higher of the three standard ratios. The BM7055 camshaft was fitted as standard to the 8-Litre engine. This has the same cam profiles as the camshafts used in all racing Bentleys. The Service Record also mentions the standard suspension set-up with Woodhead rear road springs and Bentley & Draper friction front and hydraulic rear shock absorbers.
'YX5116' had not been finished when Bentleys went into receivership on 11th July 1931. Finished while the receiver was in charge, the chassis was sold initially through Jack Barclay and Jack Olding. The Service Record notes a 'C.D.' date of 25th January 1932, the date the chassis was despatched to the coachbuilder, H J Mulliner. The body is recorded as a 4/5-seater saloon. Fortunately, this body survives in restorable condition, although there are no known photographs of the car in its original form.
This original body is a four-door, four-light saloon of Weymann construction, with the Weymann licence plate still affixed to the sill behind the near-side front door. Fabric bodies were going out of fashion at this date so the body is a semi-Weymann or panelled Weymann; that is, a body with wooden framing to Weymann patents but with the exterior panelled in aluminium, in the present case to the scuttle and the body below the waistline moulding, with the upper portions of the doors and the roof and rear quarters covered with fabric.
The first owner is listed in the Service Record as James C Clark of Craven Lodge, Melton Mowbray, later changed to Scalford Hall, Melton Mowbray, who traded in his Bentley Speed Six (BA2583') against 'YX5116'. The Service Record for 'BA2583' gives his address as c/o Rt Hon J K Laidlow, Castle Knock, County Dublin, Ireland, as well as Craven Lodge. The 8-Litre's registration, 'GW 1571', is a London number allocated on 12th February 1932. James C Clark was a US cotton millionaire and keen sportsman from New Jersey, while Craven Lodge was a hunting club where he over-wintered.
The Service Record begins with the fitting of longer steering column tubes, while the first general look-over was carried out on 26th April 1932 at a mileage of 3,731. Subsequently, various minor works were carried out during Mr Clark's ownership. The front shock absorbers were changed, as noted above, with a reconditioned front axle bed fitted in July 1933, probably after an accident. The axle beam is standard 8-Litre with jacking pads, but with no number evident, and is heavily painted, so scraping may reveal a number. The last entry in the Service Record is dated January 1939.
The first change of ownership presumably dates from 31st March 1937 when a continuation logbook was issued. This new owner was Sir John Arnott, Bt, chairman of the Irish Times. The Arnott family ran a chain of drapery stores with other business interests including newspapers. The aforementioned logbook shows that the Bentley had been exported to Ireland by 21st January 1938 when it was licensed there, and that it was not licensed between 31st December 1939 and 15th August 1956. The last licence in Ireland expired on 31st December 1962. The logbook is signed by P J Campbell, works manager for the Irish Times. A continuation logbook was, presumably, issued by Middlesborough CBC after 16th January 1963 when 'YX5116' was bought by Keith Schellenberg (Nesham Garages).
Judging from the logbook, 'YX5116' was unlicensed and hence unused between 31st December 1939 and 15th August 1956 when it was re-licensed by new owner James Robert William Murland in County Down, Ireland. Sir John Arnott died on 26th July 1940 so probably he still owned the Bentley at the time. The logbook records T Bratt in County Louth as the owner at some point between 1939 and 1956, but the entry for a change of owner is undated and the Bentley was not used on the road. 'YX5116' was licensed in County Down through to 31st December 1962.
It was then sold to Keith Schellenberg, the logbook noting a change of owner to Nesham Garages, Middlesborough on 16th January 1963. It is understood that Mr Schellenberg never used the car beyond removing the front cross-member to use in his rally car, chassis 'YM5027'. 'YX5116' now has a modified front cross-member - probably an original cross-member cut down - with no number visible. The Bentley was sold to David Black in August 1986 in, it is assumed, more or less derelict condition, with the original body still fitted.
David Black removed the body and fitted it to a dolly, and the body remains in this condition. The chassis was stripped and rebuilt with a replica Vanden Plas sports four-seater body by Elmdown, with the engine suitably rebuilt and a high-ratio crown wheel and pinion fitted. The car generally is fitted out as a Le Mans replica with cycle wings and steps, wire mesh grille to the radiator, and a racing-style fuel tank. The instrumentation is in keeping. A new bonnet is fitted (original with car).
The Bentley passed in unfinished form to Brent Jackson, David Black's son-in-law. He used the car for a number of events before it was auctioned on 29th March 1999. Presumably the Bentley was unsold, as the current owner is noted in the V5 registration document as acquiring 'YX5116' on 9th May 2000.
The foregoing description draws heavily on the typically thorough illustrated report on 'YX5116' compiled in December 2018 by renowned marque authority, Dr Clare Hay (perusal recommended). Bonhams would like to extend its thanks to Dr Hay for her assistance.
While in the enthusiast vendor's care, 'YX5116' has been rallied extensively across the globe, successfully participating in events in the USA (three times), New Zealand twice), Australia (once) and South Africa, the latter country being visited on no fewer than eight occasions, most recently in February 2018. Photographs of the Bentley participating in these events may be found within the accompanying history file, which also contains the documents mentioned in Dr Hay's report plus many others.
The ultimate Cricklewood Bentley road car, the 8-Litre was one of the few genuine 100mph production cars of its day. This well documented and thoroughly sorted example, boasting the much admired Vanden Plas-style coachwork forever associated with the works team cars, is ready for use and worthy of the closest inspection.
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