Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Harrison
From the Collection of John Webb de CampiFormerly the Property of E. Ann Klein
Constructed in late 1928, XR3347 was specified as a standard 4 1/2 Litre chassis to be fitted with Harrison British Flexible Coupe coachwork. XR3347 is additionally specified with chromium plating of the hardware, a special A.T. speedometer, “Sloper” SU carburetors, and the most desirable D-type gearbox. Ordered new by J.D. Gordon, resident of both Scotland and London, XR3347 received the 1929 London registration XV 494.
Mr. Gordon, a highly regarded and worldtraveling engineer, chose the new 4 1/2 Litre Bentley for long-distance use between his two homes. One of just two coupe bodies produced by Harrison for the 4 1/2 Litre and the sole surviving example, XR3347 received unique equipment in keeping with Bentley’s sporting heritage: the coupe coachwork was outfitted with a raked front screen with opening capabilities, rain visors over the side windows, and, most impressively, helmet fenders.
While the exterior remained tastefully simple, finished in black with chrome trim and wheel discs, the interior was comfortably appointed. The pleated leather seats were adjustable and offered an unusual integral rolled pillow that provided lumbar support. The cabin was lavished with deep veneers and a silk screen for the rear window, which is controlled from the front passenger seat.
Mr. Gordon put his new Bentley to good use and saw that the car received regular care and maintenance by Bentley Motors. Surviving records show the regularity of service work as well as the mileage. By the close of 1931, XR3347 had covered some 28,000 miles.
Letters from Mr. Gordon’s son attest to the appreciative, long-term ownership of the Bentley, lasting roughly 25 years. In 1954, the Bentley was brought to market and came into the hands of noted Bentley collector and enthusiast E. Ann Klein of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Klein enjoyed some 14 Vintage Bentleys as well as an assortment of high-quality automobiles of various marques including the well-known Blower “The Green Hornet.” Perhaps due to the addictive road manners of the Blower, XR3347 saw little or no use in Mrs. Klein’s care and remained a fixture in one of her Pennsylvania garages.
A close friend of Mrs. Klein’s, renowned automotive collector and author John Webb de Campi, first spotted XR3347 in 1973. Although the Bentley had been sitting untouched for 19 years, Mr. de Campi was enamored with the car and proposed buying it from his friend to restore. In January of that year, a letter from Mrs. Klein to Mr. de Campi marked the sale.
A series of photos illustrates the process of removing the 4 1/2 Litre from its two-decade-long resting place. The photographs document an impressively complete and original Vintage Bentley in fine condition. Further photographic documentation provides an inventory of parts as well as the process of disassembly. The photos represent one of the purest and most original Vintage Bentleys to remain post-WWII.
Although the restoration process was slow whi le awaiting Mr. de Campi ’s retirement, progress was made during 34 years until he passed away in 2007. It was then decided by the de Campi family that the Bentley was to be finished and shown in Mr. de Campi’s honor at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Rarely is any car restored to this level , let alone a Vintage Bentley. With thorough photo documentation of the original finishes, t h e interior was exactingly restored using matched materials in both texture and color. The wood veneers were beautifully refinished, retaining the great majority of original product. The original ivory interior hardware was retained to show its lovely patina.
The engine rebuild was entrusted to Billings Cooke of The Vintage Garage. Upon disassembly of the motor, the utter originality and minimal wear was noted. To further the sympathetic restoration, many sound mechanical parts were restored and reused.
Chief Restorer Paul Connors and Chief Mechanic David Kennedy expertly prepared the chassis and body at Competition Motors in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As an example of the thorough work completed, the correct top material was sourced and the cutting and stitching pattern was replicated to utilize Harrison’s small V-shaped grooves that helped to flatten the seams. Painstakingly restored to original specifications, the Bentley saw only one deviation from the original – the Midnight Red finish, a favorite of Mr. de Campi’s.
Completed in 2009, the Bentley Coupe was breathtaking. The quality and attention to detail was abundantly evident. In August, XR3347 made its first public appearance in well over 55 years at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. XR3347, presented in Mr. de Campi’s name, enjoyed a delighted response among the enthusiasts present.
On an additional outing to the Fairfield Concours, it achieved a well-deserved First in Class. Minimally used or shown since, the 4 1/2 Litre receives monthly attention and exercise.
Among the finest restorations conducted on a Vintage Bentley, the Harrison Coupe is a testament to the originality and purity of the marque. XR3347 is one of the few remaining 4 1/2 Litre models to retain its original body on a matching-numbers chassis. Offering exceptional provenance and extremely limited ownership, XR3347 should be a welcome entrant in a host of international concours and driving events, where the restoration and drivability will leave their mark.