Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
*Please note that the sale of this car is now accompanied by a copy of its Clare Hay report.
Madame De Bourbon, Paris, France (purchased new in 1928)Mr. Donnigan, London, England (acquired circa 1948)R.J. Sincock Esq., Berkshire, England (acquired circa 1954)Colonel A. MacLennan, Doncaster, England (acquired circa 1955)Dr. J.W. Crabtree, Cambridge, England (acquired circa 1957)G.A. Nelstrop, Cheshire, England (acquired circa 1957)Don Hinmon Esq., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above in 1971)John P. Southward, Wellington, New Zealand (acquired from the above January 1998)Jonathan Savage, Pawtucket, Rhode Island (acquired from the above in 2001)P. Stalman, New York, New York (acquired from the above in 2008)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
VSCCA Lime Rock, October 24, 1987, Hinmon (4th)VSCCA Pocono, May 1, 1988, first race, Hinmon (13th)VSCCA Pocono, May 1, 1988, second race, Hinmon (14th)Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, Schenley Park, Pennsylvania, July 23, 1988, Hinmon (6th)
By 1926, Bentley saw the need for a new four-cylinder model. Although a Le Mans winner, the 3 Litre was losing its edge in international competition and the standard road cars were built with increasingly heavy bodies. With the 6 1/2 Litre in production, Bentley sought to combine the light chassis of the 3 Litre with the added power of a larger motor. The result was essentially a chassis from a 3 Litre with a cut-down four-cylinder version of the 6 1/2-litre engine.
As one would expect, the new 4 1/2 was immediately put to use in competition. With a handful of 4 1/2 Litre Team Cars at their disposal, Tim Birkin and the Bentley Boys quickly amassed Le Mans and Grand Prix finishes and victories. Although the Speed Six was the true victor at Le Mans for Bentley, it was Birkin’s respect for the 4 1/2 Litre that led to the development of the Blower Bentley.
The 4 1/2 was W.O.’s racing workhorse, but the production 4 1/2 Litre was to be, in most cases, a luxury car fitted with saloon coachwork. For Bentley enthusiasts, the 4 1/2 Litre was a racing car. Campaigned privately throughout Europe, the 4 1/2 quickly gained a reputation for being the best-handling Vintage Bentley and having an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. It was only fitting, albeit sad, that many 4 1/2 Litre models were stripped of their original coachwork and rebuilt as Vanden Plas Le Mans-style Tourers.
This is not the case with the remarkable 4 1/2 Litre Open Tourer on offer. Chassis FT3221, registered XV 3694, retains its original body, 1519, which the coachbuilder fitted to the 10’ 10” wheelbase chassis in 1928 and identified as a “Special Four Door Sports.” Furthermore, this Bentley carries the very rare distinction of retaining its original engine, FT3222, placing it in truly rare company.
Shortly after Bentley completed its final test of FT3221, it was delivered to its first owner, Madam de Bourbon of Paris, a woman of considerable status and means. The car was built to her exact specification with the body completed in aluminum rather than the Rexine fabric that was far more common on the open cars. Mme. Bourbon kept multiple W.O. Bentleys, including a 3 litre and an 8 litre, over several years at her lavish Seine et Oise home, Chateau de Babincourt. She was succeeded by several owners in the UK who held this Bentley into the early 1970s, concluding with fourth-generation flour miller G.A. Nelstrop of Cheshire. After that, the Bentley came to the US under the ownership of Don Hinmon of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Hinmon campaigned the 4 1/2 in vintage racing events in Pennsylvania in 1987 and 1988; his ownership of FT3221 would eventually span 28 years. In the 1990s, he had significant restoration work performed, including an engine rebuild by the renowned Leydon Restorations in Lahaska, Pennsylvania.
In 1998, Mr. Hinmon sold the Bentley to John Southward of Wellington, New Zealand, where it remained in his care until 2001. At that time, noted East Coast collector Jonathan Savage had begun to search for a 4 1/2 Litre Bentley of particular distinction and originality. Remarkably, two of Mr. Savage’s contacts within the Bentley world knew of such a car that was, at that same time, in a shipping container, headed to the US to be sold. Based on the detailed description of FT3221, Mr. Savage bought the car sight unseen.
As the Bentley had covered many thousands of miles since its initial engine rebuild, Mr. Savage had the engine rebuilt once again, by Tivvy Autocraft of Vermont. The paintwork that the car retains today was done by the esteemed Paul Lane of Connecticut.
In 2008, Mr. P. Stalman purchased the Bentley and enjoyed it on at least two 1,000-mile rallies in Argentina. Recently, Mr. Stalman was able to acquire another 4 1/2 of great sentimental value to him, and the consignor, an avid collector and vintage Bentley enthusiast, purchased FT3221 from him about two years ago. On a recent test drive by a Gooding & Company specialist, the Bentley started easily, exhibited smooth acceleration, and excellent road manners.
Extensive files of original receipts, some dating from the 1940s, are included with the sale. The documentation provides a fascinating trip through much of the car’s history, suggesting that this car has managed to have a golden age of 80-plus years. The records chronicle FT3221’s respective owners’ ardent efforts to tirelessly service and maintain this spectacular automobile in full operational status for decade upon decade.
Presenting in fitting British Racing Green with dark brown hides, and showing a well-earned patina, this car is an elegant expression of Great Britain’s most sporting and exclusive prewar offerings. It has earned the respect of experts as one of the finest examples of its kind, and its appearance at auction brings about an extremely rare opportunity. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼