1929 Bentley 3 Litre “Greenfly” Tourer

Virtually every vintage Bentley enthusiast holds a special place in their heart for the heroic Cricklewood-built 3-Litre; the car that started it all for W.O. Bentley when the very first prototype was fired up in 1919. By the following year, Bentley had a demonstrator on the road, and by 1921 customers began taking delivery of their magnificent new sports cars. In the hands of works drivers and privateer sportsmen alike, the stout, powerful 3-litre four-cylinder would soon be heard roaring along the great racing circuits of the world. Just a few years later, a 3-litre brought Bentley its first outright win at LeMans, followed by another win in 1927 that lead to a win streak that lasted until 1930. For a motor company that had been founded just a few short years prior, such results were quite astonishing.

The resounding success of the 3-litre was a testament to the exceptional talent of W.O. Bentley. The large four-cylinder engine featured four valves per cylinder, pent-roof combustion chambers, an overhead camshaft, and twin-plug ignition. The cars were not only powerful but incredibly well-built, with a light but strong chassis that could handle whatever abuse that was thrown at it. Customers could choose from three states of tune as well as three different chassis lengths depending on their wishes, and the 3-litre proved to be an incredibly versatile machine, with bodies (many by Bentley’s favored coachbuilder Vanden Plas) ranging from touring limousines to outright racers. Today, these early Cricklewood Bentleys are highly prized for their spirited performance, robust quality, and unrivaled competition legacy.

Chassis number DN1741 is documented to be the last 3-Liter chassis produced by Bentley Motors. This is an important distinction largely because the 3-Liter Bentley would distinguish the historic lineage leading up to the legendary 8-Liter powerhouse. This extraordinary car has been personally inspected and comprehensively documented by world-renowned Bentley authority Dr. Clare Hay. Dr. Hay confirms this Bentley retains its matching-numbers chassis, engine, and major ancillary components. It is also further distinguished by ownership including two of the most respected Bentley enthusiasts in both the United Kingdom and United States.

In the 2019 report, Dr. Hay recounts the unique conditions surrounding the construction of this final iteration of the venerable 3-Liter including the build as dictated under special order for Miss E. Phillips, a well-known tennis star of the era. Originally designated chassis number HT1644, it was dispatched to Freestone & Webb and finished with a two-seater body. Bentley records indicate the car was assembled with several non-standard features including a steering column set further back, the handbrake lengthened by three inches, and the forward deck board lengthened. Other non-standard features were further installed, and while there is no indication in the Bentley factory notes as to the origin of these changes, it is likely some were dictated to accommodate the owner and her smaller stature. The car was assigned a five year guarantee concurrent with a Bentley factory test run on 31 August 1928. Shortly after delivery, the car returned to Bentley where it was assigned the current chassis number DN1741, given a new body by Wylder Coachwork, presumably on order from Jack Olding & Co. Ltd., a Bentley agent in London. The Wylder body, a three-door sports four-seater with a single door to the offside rear and two doors to the nearside, was fitted with full length fenders, running boards, and a raked windscreen. References and later period photographs indicate the body was fabric covered, finished in black, with red upholstery and red fenders. The car was sold to the first owner, W.T. Townend, and changed hands twice more until acquired by Stuart Wilton in 1936, who, upon ownership, joined the Bentley Drivers Club in September 1936, making him one of the earliest known members.

On 17 October 1936, Wilton would finish 12th at the first Brooklands race in this Bentley. In 1940, Wilton sold the car to Johnnie Green who was an avid racer and member of the BDC. Green painted the car his namesake color at which time it earned the nickname “Greenfly” no doubt christened due to Green regularly achieving speeds exceeding 90 mph at the wheel of this Bentley. Subsequent documented ownership continued through the years including period photos showing the car in various races including a 1947 BDC race held at Silverstone, and a February 1947 Motor Sport magazine article.

Though Johnnie Green eventually sold Greenfly in 1952 to a fellow Bentley enthusiast, he never forgot the experience of ownership, recounting his years of enjoyable use as reflected in his renowned 1969 publication Bentley Fifty Years of the Marque. By 1956, noted Marque enthusiasts Bill and Ann Klein arranged for purchase through Carl Mueller. Housed in this celebrated collection in the company of numerous Bentleys including several 4 ½ Liter and Speed 6 examples, DN1741 spent many years in this famous and exclusive Klein Collection before becoming available for sale and purchased in 1999 by noted collector and Bentley enthusiast Jack Hilton. The most recent custodian acquired the car in 2017 and has since carefully maintained the car with his private mechanic, a capable UK specialist in vintage Bentleys. Under his ownership, a contemporary overdrive unit was discretely installed which improves highway touring and has recently been serviced.

Today this remarkable Bentley retains the original engine, DN1744 and the “A” type gearbox number 448, fitted in March 1934, confirmed by Bentley service records and documented by Dr. Hay. The unique Wylder body, with its impressive, powerful stance and race-bred design, is a handsome sporting combination featuring the remarkably original and beautifully aged nitrocellulose leathercloth installed by Wylder from the cowl back. The original chassis frame, original engine, captivating interior, and impressive instrumentation all display exceptional visual harmony in keeping with the patinated character of this Bentley.

An exceptional original car with known history since new, this Bentley Sports Tourer represents the last of the extraordinary 3-Liter series cars and a unique opportunity for a collector to own a car combining undisputed provenance, period racing participation, and premier historic ownership. This Bentley promises opportunities to participate in numerous top-tier motoring events and international concours d'elegance events. For anyone seeking a unique pre-war coachbuilt automobile with documented original features and sympathetically preserved body and chassis composition, this 3-Liter Bentley will impress those knowledgeable enthusiasts who recognize the rarity and distinction of these proud and magnificent motorcars.

 

Offers welcome and trades considered 

 

$495,000

Stock number 7682

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