1. 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer

  2. 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer

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  26. 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer

Lot Number
35
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer
Scottsdale Auction

Offered Without Reserve

ESTIMATE: $400,000 - $500,000
CHASSIS NO: 610
• High-specification example of the first “W.O. Bentley” model
• Adventurous presence with short chassis
• Original Vanden Plas body
• Restored chassis, engine, running gear; outstanding patina
• Well-documented in authoritative texts and by marque enthusiasts
• Delivered new to Australia; restored in 1950s with published article
• Offered from highly knowledgeable ownership; event-ready
• Engine rebuilt 2017-2018 by Jim Stranberg
• Significant as 1 of just 513 3-Litre Speed Models produced

2,996 SOHC inline four-cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, twin SU “Sloper” carburetors, non-synchromesh four-speed manual gearbox, solid front and live rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers, four-wheel drum brakes; wheelbase: 117.5”


In 1919, the first motorcar bearing the Bentley name began with a prototype engine designed, built, and tested in a mews off London’s famed Baker Street. While its intended chassis was first displayed at the 1919 London Motor Show, the engine’s development was continued and perfected through much of 1921. Named ‘3-Litre’ after its displacement, Bentley’s four-cylinder engine was sophisticated throughout, featuring “monobloc” construction, a single overhead camshaft operating four valves per cylinder, and aluminum pistons. Customer deliveries began in September 1921 and according to marque experts, as few as 1,613 3-Litre chassis were ultimately produced, all fitted with bodies by external coachbuilding firms. Four-wheel brakes were added in 1924.

The 3-Litre was built along three wheelbase lengths, ranging from 130-inches for the most numerous and more formal models – mainly “Blue Labels,” down to 117.5-inch “Short Standard,” “Speed Model,” and T.T. or Tourist Trophy replicas and Light Tourers, and the 108” Supersports. Three performance levels were offered, greater with the shorter chassis lengths and lightweight coachwork; speeds ranged from 70-mph for the heavy limousines, all the way up to the 100-mph Supersports. The Short Standard Speed Model provided a perfect balance of the two extremes for the era’s sporting motorists, with only 513 examples of this sporting legend, also known as the “Red Label” by virtue of its distinctive red radiator badge. Quality control was exceptional, with each 3-Litre carrying a five-year guarantee. Performance and driving dynamics were universally praised, with Britain’s iconic Motor Sport testing a 3-Litre in its first issue (July 1924), just after a 3-Litre driven by John Duff and Frank Clement handily won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first of five wins Bentley would score there through 1930.

Unlike many other examples that have come to market in recent years, this 1924 Bentley 3-Litre, Chassis 610, is a factory-original “Red Label” Speed Model, completed during June 1924 and fitted new with a lightweight and adventurous 4-seater Touring body by the renowned Vanden Plas coachbuilding firm. Well-known to Bentley aficionados and documented within Bentley marque expert Michael Hay’s authoritative book, “Bentley: The Vintage Years 1919-1931,” this high-specification 3-Litre Speed Model was purchased new by Captain N.K. Russell, for whom little is known at the time of the Bentley’s cataloguing, but he has been listed on the passenger manifest of the Orient steamer Orama, which was reported by The Advertiser newspaper of Adelaide, Australia, to have arrived with him at Fremantle, Australia on December 15, 1924. Published history of Chassis 610 picks up in the March 1955 edition of Australia’s Modern Motor magazine, with the venerable Bentley’s restoration chronicled in a highly detailed article entitled “Rebirth of a Bentley.” Following a long-term search, Trevor Willey, a confirmed vintage-car enthusiast from Melbourne, accidentally learned of the existence of this rare Bentley, which had been sitting in a backyard in one of Melbourne’s northern suburbs and still bore its old ‘UF-231’ Australian registration plates. Following complete disassembly down to the frame rails, the 3-Litre was thoroughly repaired, restored, and refinished by Mr. Willey and his wife, with the wooden framing of the Vanden Plas body (Body No. 1057) painstakingly rebuilt and the original engine, Number 612, rebuilt. Sadly, the original cylinder block was eventually found to have developed fine cracks after numerous trouble-free runs to Brisbane and back to Melbourne, so it was then replaced with the cylinder block numbered 1005, which according to Hay’s book was originally fitted to Chassis 990.

The consignor purchased the Bentley via a broker from the daughter of the late prior owner in 2014. In 2017-2018, the 3-Litre was sent to Jim Stranberg of Colorado, who reviewed the car thoroughly. Under his care, the engine was rebuilt, the gearbox, brake drums, wheels, and wiring were either rebuilt, restored, or properly sorted as required, in contemplation of fast touring use as originally intended. The owner reports the Bentley is a very fun and capable vintage car and has used it for enjoyable local drives. Handsomely presented, bearing a wonderful patina, retaining its unique “helmeted” fenders and original central gas pedal and right brake configuration, this ‘Red Label’ Speed Model Tourer is simply captivating throughout. 610 is a proper example that epitomizes the very spirit of W.O. Bentley himself. As written by famed automobile journalist David E. Davis, Jr., in a 1991 Forbes magazine article, “What is the highest tribute one can pay a noble, inspired . . . classic automobile? Simple, old boy, drive the bloody thing.” Those words still ring true, certainly in the case of this motoring icon.

1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer
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