Following on the success of the 3-Litre model, W.O. Bentley had supplemented the line with the big, six-cylinder 6 ½ Litre, which was offered to accommodate growing customer demand for larger, heavier, and increasingly luxurious coachwork. The 6 ½ and the high-performance Speed Six derivative were flagship models; powerful touring cars built to compete with Rolls-Royce’s New Phantom. By 1927, the 3-litre four-cylinder had been developed as far as it could be taken, and Bentley needed a suitable replacement. Unlike Rolls-Royce, who remained staunchly opposed to motorsport, Bentley’s core audience remained the racing fraternity, and while the 3-liter had more than proven its worth, the time had come for a stronger and more powerful variant to take its place.
The 3-liter had proven its worth, so W.O. stuck with what worked for the new model, retaining the four-cylinder, sixteen-valve, overhead-cam layout, albeit with displacement punched out to 4,398 cubic centimeters. The chassis, brakes, and gearbox were suitably upgraded and strengthened to handle the additional output of the new engine. The new 4 ½ Litre was powerful and fast, proving itself at LeMans and elsewhere in the hands of the Works “Bentley Boys.” As always, Bentley only supplied the cars only as rolling chassis to dealers and customers, so the choice of coachwork was left to the buyer or selling dealers. Vanden Plas remained Bentley’s favored coachbuilder, and they constructed the majority of the bodies for all Cricklewood-built Bentleys, which ranged from sporty open tourers to more formal saloons and coupes. The 4 ½ Litre remains the quintessential Vintage Bentley, supported by a passionate and knowledgeable group of owners who take great pride in using their cars as W.O. Bentley originally intended.
We are pleased to offer this delightful 1930 4 ½ litre tourer, chassis number FS 3601. According to Stanley Sedgwick’s excellent reference All the Pre-War Bentleys, this home market car was first delivered in August 1930 to William Findlay. It was originally equipped with a Weymann Saloon body by Vanden Plas, and registered GH5449, a number plate it proudly displays. Little is known of the car’s early history beyond the factory records; however, it is understood that the current open four-seat tourer body was fitted by one of the masters of Vintage Bentley restorations, Tony Townshend of Whittonditch Works. In recent years, this beautiful Bentley enjoyed long-term, single-family ownership both in England and the West Coast of the United States where it was used regularly by an active member of the Bentley Driver’s Club. The owner and his family participated in numerous BDC tours and events and kept the car in fabulous condition for driving enjoyment.
It presents in excellent condition, with a light and pleasant patina that suits a Vintage Bentley so well. The classic dark green paintwork is in very good order on the wings, bonnet, and chassis. The painted body parts were restored in 2011 in England, while the car was being serviced by Elmdown Engineering in Berks, England. Some minor blemishes are visible on the bonnet, which come hand-in-hand with regular use. The Weymann-style fabric body is in excellent order, showing a mild patina that is in keeping with this being a well-loved and regularly exercised example. It is detailed with exterior tool boxes, folding windscreen, dual Brooklands aeroscreens, a Brooklands style fan-tip exhaust and beautiful nickel-plated Karl Zeiss headlamps. Weather equipment includes a vinyl folding hood and two-piece tonneau covers for front and rear cockpits. Turn signals have been added for additional safety while touring, and are easily removable should the next owner so choose.
The four-passenger cabin is trimmed in complementing green leather, which has taken on a careworn charm over the years of regular use. The leather seats are in fine condition, showing appropriate levels of character. Likewise, the green carpets are in good order, with some slight wear in places. Original instrumentation graces the wood dash, which also includes original switchgear and controls.
In 2017, the engine was completely rebuilt and the car was thoroughly inspected from end to end, with over $160,000 in receipts documenting the mechanical work. The work was performed by a marque specialist in California, and the exhaustive rebuild includes new valvetrain, new pistons, and every nut, bolt, and fastener was carefully examined. In concurrence with the engine rebuild, the clutch was rebuilt and relined with improved friction materials. Prior to installation, the engine was detailed and it presents in excellent condition today. It retains important period correct components including brass-body S.U. carburetors and dual ML ER4 magnetos. The gearbox is an appropriate C-Type unit which has been paired with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive unit, transforming this Bentley into an incredibly capable high-speed tourer. The recent owner has enjoyed the car regularly, ensuring it is reliable and enjoyable for Bentley Club touring and events. It is an absolute joy to drive, with the prodigious torque and refinement expected of a W.O. era Bentley, along with the additional comfort and cruising ability provided by the overdrive unit.
This is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a dialed-in, tour-proven Cricklewood Bentley that benefits from long-term ownership and cost-exclusive care. The iconic style of the open four-seat coachwork and pleasing, broken-in character make it a fabulous choice for regular enjoyment in BDC tours or other motoring events worldwide.