This Remarkable 1926 Bentley Spent 60 Years Untouched In Dry Storage And Is Now Set To Be Sold At Auction
There is, of course, something about a Bentley. And there’s particularly something about a Bentley from the marque’s golden early years, when the cars quickly found fame as exciting fast tourers capable of beating the best in motorsport—not least at the Le Mans 24-Hour race where the ‘Bentley Boys’ entered folklore. Furthermore, many of WO Bentley’s products survive today, testament to his engineering and design skills.
Now, direct from this golden age, a ‘barn find’ 3 Litre, which has been in storage for nearly 60 years, is about to be auctioned at Bonhams’ Collector’s Motor Cars and Automobilia sale taking place at the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, on November 21. It’s a 1926 Bentley 3 Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer and it’s estimated to go for between £280,000 to £325,000.
This TT Replica model came to be known as the Speed Model and was introduced on the back of Bentley taking the Team Prize at the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. It is identified by the Red Label on its radiator—which also lent to its name—and featured various improvements from the previous model, increasing maximum power from 70 to 80bhp and top speed to 90mph.
According to leading Bentley authority Clare Hay’s definitive work Bentley—The Vintage Years, this car, chassis number PH1469, was completed in April 1926 and first owned by JWC McLaren. It is one of only 513 Speed Models built and still boasts the same engine it had when it left the factory.
PH1469 then went through a succession of military owners. Lt Col Sir Thomas Bilbe Robinson acquired it in 1929, then in 1932 it passed to Flying Officer John Heber Percy who was based at RAF Gosport in Hampshire. Percy was a distinguished figure, being one of the first RAF airmen whose life was saved by a parachute when in 1930 he successfully bailed out of his stricken Armstrong Whitworth Siskin fighter. He went on to have an illustrious career in the RAF, culminating in service with the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) in Paris after the Second World War. He owned four Bentleys between 1932 and the mid-1950s.
Bentley Motors service records, copies of which are on file, show that following an accident in April 1930 this car was repaired by the works and fitted with new front suspension and steering components. The next known custodian, from 1947, was Major JC Jackson, whose success in the Bentley Drivers Club’s 1949 Kensington Gardens Rally is commemorated by a plaque on the car’s dashboard.
The car then was exported to the USA and in 1957 was purchased by Parker Snyder of Ohio, who drove it for a couple of summers before putting it, still in excellent condition, into his newly-built garage in 1960. The car remained in this dry storage until it was purchased earlier this year by the current vendor, who is a long-standing member of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley community with a large collection of pre-war cars. It’s now offered as a restoration and recommissioning opportunity, ideal for a Bentley enthusiast to take this important WO creation back onto the road.
Images courtesy of Bonhams