Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
Bentley Motors Ltd. (Showroom Demonstrator)H.C. Martineau, London, UK (acquired via Bentley Motors in 1929)J.P. Engster, London, UK (acquired from the above in 1932)G.F. Kennedy, London, UK (acquired from the above in 1935)Richard Wheatley, UK (acquired from the above in 1946)D.D. Haslam, UK (acquired from the above in 1951)J.R. Frenneau, UK (acquired from the above in 1952)Col. W.A. Howkins, US (acquired from the above in 1952)J.A. Howkins, US (acquired from the above in 1978)B.W. Howkins, US (acquired from the above in 1980)Colin Pettit, UK (acquired from the above in 1988)Brian Garner, UK (acquired from the above)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2001)
As Bentley celebrates its centennial this year, the models built during Bentley’s tenure deservedly warrant the most attention. Garnering its first Le Mans win in 1924 in its fifth year of existence, the British marque cemented its reputation for speed and endurance with a string of successive Le Mans wins from 1927 through 1930. Introduced in chassis form in October 1927 at the Olympia Motor Show in London, the 4 1/2 Litre combined successful elements of both the 3 Litre and 6 1/2 Litre models, and quickly established itself as a worthy competitor on the track. Bentley’s epic victory over Stutz at the 1928 24 Hours of Le Mans immortalized the new 4 1/2 Litre model. Offered here is the impeccable 4 1/2 Litre Sports Tourer, justifiably advertised by Bentley Motors as “The British Thoroughbred Sports Car.”
Chassis ST3006 was the sixth production 4 1/2 Litre chassis and the first standard 10' 10" wheelbase chassis fitted with Vanden Plas’ signature three-door, four-seat tourer body with rear-mounted spare. Michael Hay in Bentley: The Vintage Years, 1919–1931, succinctly summarizes the Bentley-Vanden Plas union: “This body style with its clean and simple lines was, and still is, in aesthetic terms, probably the nicest body to clothe these chassis.” The order for this body was placed directly by Bentley Motors, specifying a Zapon fabric body at a cost of £179. Extracts from the Vanden Plas Order Book list this as body no. 1408.
The factory chassis card details its mechanical specifications, including original engine no. ST3005, the “C” type four-speed gearbox, and the 15/33 (3.53:1) rear axle ratio. Designated a “Showroom Demonstrator,” ST3006 was maintained by the factory works and was treated to an overhaul complete with engine decarbonizing and installation of a singleplate clutch, providing lower pedal pressure. ST3006 made its media debut in May 1928 as the road test car for The Motor magazine, garnering praise for both the model in general and this car specifically. Accolades flowed from the opening line of this article: “To convey in words the precise charm of the 4 1/2 Litre Bentley without using an unconvincing wealth of superlative is a difficult matter; it is a car which must be driven to be appreciated.” It could certainly be argued that this statement holds true to this day.
ST3006 was first sold on June 11, 1929, to H.C. Martineau of London, a loyal Bentley customer who previously owned both the 3 Litre and 6 1/2 Litre models. Subsequent London owners prior to WWII include J.P. Engster and G.F. Kennedy. In the late 1930s, a photograph shows ST3006 equipped with a fold-down windscreen and a slight cut away to the body by the driver’s elbow, two features that remain present today. In 1946, Richard Wheatley acquired the car, followed by D.D. Haslam, J.R. Frenneau, and Col. W.A. Howkins. In 1952, Col. Howkins brought the car to the US, where it remained in the Howkins family until 1988. The Bentley then returned to England under the ownership of Colin Pettit, who passed it to Brian Garner before the current owner, a connoisseur of fine early automobiles, acquired it in 2001.
Well known in Bentley circles, ST3006 has participated in vintage tours and rallies, including a successful trek from Vancouver to Anchorage, Alaska, and back, demonstrating its mechanical prowess. The 4 1/2 Litre Sports Tourer recently benefited from cosmetic improvements and is currently finished in black throughout the fabric body and the metal fenders, complemented by wire wheels painted in British Racing Green. Accompanying ST3006 is a comprehensive history report researched and prepared by Bentley expert Dr. Clare Hay. This report is fascinating and important reading for any prospective bidder, as it details the incredibly original and correct presentation of this remarkable Bentley.
This thoroughly documented 4 1/2 Litre Sports Tourer exemplifies the glory days of Vintage Bentleys. Its command of the road makes it an ideal candidate for tours and rallies; its striking coachwork would be welcome at any concours; and its pedigree – with original drivetrain, chassis, and body – qualifies it as a fitting centerpiece to any collection. Welcome at Bentley Drivers Club, Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club, and RROC events, its next owner can discover firsthand what the drivers at The Motor learned some 90-plus years ago: this 4 1/2 Litre Bentley is “a real thoroughbred.”