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Lot 118

2017   |   Pebble Beach Auctions 2017

1926 Bentley 6 1/2 Litre Le Mans Sports

SOLD $693,000

Estimate

$650,000 - $800,000

Chassis

WK2662

Engine

FW2616

Car Highlights

Bentley’s Flagship Model from the Marque’s Heyday
Retains Its Matching-Numbers Engine per Factory Documents
Well-Documented Provenance; Known to Bentley Drivers Club Since the Early 1950s
Stylish Le Mans Replica Body with Fine Patina
A Tour Veteran That Is Eligible for Numerous Events Worldwide

Technical Specs

6,597 CC SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Three SU Carburetors
Estimated 180 HP
4-Speed Non-Synchromesh Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Mechanical Drum Brakes
Solid Front Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Live Rear Axle with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs
Register to Bid

John F. C. Inglefield, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England (acquired new in 1926)G.W.S. Clark, England (acquired in 1950)D.M. Tindall, England (acquired in 1961)J.C. Walton, England (acquired from the above in 1962)P.N. Fitzsimmonds, England (acquired from the above in 1964)J.A. Fletcher, England (acquired from the above in 1968)F.W. Brown, England (acquired from the above in 1968)G. Brierly, England (acquired from the above in 1969)F.W. Brown, England (acquired from the above in 1970)G. Brierly, England (acquired from the above in 1971)Geoffrey A.W. Farrell, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England (acquired from the above in 1972)Richard Harwood, Chesham, England (acquired in 1997)Current Owner (acquired in 2000 via P&A Wood)

Bentley Drivers Club West Coast Prewar Tour, August 2001Scotland Tour, September 2001Copperstate 1000, 2003Colorado Grand, September 2003Colorado Grand, September 2004

The 6 1/2 Litre was Bentley’s flagship through the second half of the 1920s and, as a back-to-back Le Mans winner in Speed Six specification, is synonymous with Bentley’s essence. With replica Le Mans coachwork displaying a lovely patina, this fine driving example represents a compelling opportunity to experience the very best in vintage motoring.

While road-testing a prototype in France in 1924, W.O. Bentley chanced upon a Rolls-Royce prototype also undergoing tests. Some exhilarating miles of wheelto- wheel flat-out running ensued, and W.O. soon decided that his new flagship needed increased performance. By delivering this, in the form of the 6 1/2 Litre, he perhaps foreshortened the life of his company, since it was Rolls-Royce that bought a bankrupt Bentley early in the Depression, specifically to remove it as competition.

The Big Six, as the 6 1/2 was referred to in period, was a development of Bentley’s three-litre engine, aimed at carrying the heavier bodies that customers demanded while retaining the spirited performance that made the 3 Litre a Le Mans winner. First shown at the London Motor Show of 1925, these cars were with customers by March 1926. Total production over five years was 545.

This example, chassis WK2662, was built at Bentley’s Cricklewood factory in suburban London, and was first registered YR 7463 in London on November 29, 1926. Among the initial 58 of the 6 1/2s built, it was equipped with the standard 12/50 axle and clothed in a landaulette body by Harrison. This Bentley’s first owner was John F.C. Inglefield; a handwritten service history has survived, showing Mr. Inglefield living at various addresses. In March 1928, WK2662 is shown to have been updated to 1928 specifications. In November 1929, at 12,242 miles, further work was carried out, including decarbonizing the engine, and fitment of a new “heavy type” front axle. By the mid-1930s, WK2662 was being serviced at Jack Barclay of Mayfair, the oldest Bentley dealer in the world.

From 1950, Bentley Drivers Club records show a detailed ownership history. As was common at this time, this car was re-bodied with a replica of the Vanden Plas body used for the Le Mans Team cars. Work was carried out by Elmdown Vintage Automobiles of Hungerford, as noted by multiple stamped door thresholds. By the 1970s, the 6 1/2 Litre was owned by Bentley Drivers Club member Geoffrey Farrell, who kept it for more than a decade; photographs exist of this car at Silverstone in 1977.

In October 2000, the 6 1/2 Litre was acquired by its most recent keeper via noted Bentley specialist Paul Wood at P&A Wood. This caretaker was a retired orthopedic surgeon in Arizona, and it is clear from the doctor’s correspondence that this was the culmination of his long-held desire to own one of the great Bentleys.

The doctor commissioned work to prepare the 6 1/2 Litre for the 2001 Classic Malts Tour of Scotland. Following the recommendations of the Bentley Drivers Club, British craftsmen performed the work required to ready the car for the event by making new wheels and cycle fenders. When imported into the US, WK2662 was used on the Bentley Drivers Club West Coast Prewar Tour and ran in various other motoring events, including the Colorado Grand (twice) and the Copperstate 1000. Indeed, the doctor’s wife recalled regularly exceeding 100 mph during these tours, suggesting that this 6 1/2 Litre has a specification offering performance somewhere between the Speed Six and the Team cars. Throughout this period, correspondence reveals the continued use of British specialists for repairs. Work tended to be for items reflecting continuing use – magnetos, new locks for travel boxes, and stays for the cycle fenders.

Today, this 6 1/2 Litre presents as the quintessential Vintage Bentley. The beautiful patina on the Le Mans replica body illustrates the way the car has been cherished, yet enjoyed, by successive owners. Still wearing its original British registration YR 7463, and prominently displaying the chassis number stamped on various components including the steering box and rear axle, this 6 1/2 Litre retains its original engine, FW2616, and is authentic without being concours-correct in every detail. The patina and mechanical integrity are an incentive to further use. This is a rare opportunity to channel one’s inner Bentley Boy.