1929 Bentley 4 ½ Litre Open Tourer by Vanden Plas
s/n FB3317 (AD3671), Engine no. FB3320
British Racing Green with Black Leather
By the mid-1920s, Bentley realized the need for a new four-cylinder model. Had it not been for Woolf Barnato, Bentley would likely have been out of business well before scoring four consecutive wins at Le Mans, starting in 1928. Barnato’s money was of paramount significance in the rescue of the fabled company. It enabled Bentley to reduce its reliance on the aging and unprofitable 3-Litre model by underwriting the development and manufacture of the 6½-, 4½- and 8-Litre models. True, all were designed by W.O. Bentley, but they came to fruition with Barnato’s help.
The new 4.5 Liter was immediately put into competition. The engine quickly proved its mettle with an outright win in the 1928 Le Mans race and subsequent Brooklands competition success. During the production run from 1927 to the takeover from Rolls-Royce in 1931, few modifications to the engine were deemed necessary attesting to its overall excellent design. In standard Vanden Plas Tourer form, the 4-Litre Bentley was good for 92 mph; in Le Mans trim, 120 mph was possible – quite remarkable for the era.
Though chassis frames were supplied by outside contractors, the balance was fabricated slowly and methodically within the modest brick sheds that sprinkled the Cricklewood site. On average, Bentley produced 300 cars annually or about six to seven cars per week. Engines and transmissions, manufactured to exceedingly high standards, were tested thoroughly before being fitted to a chassis.
No less than 120 coachbuilders supplied bodies for Bentleys, the most prolific being Vanden Plas, which provided 669 bodies between1922 and1931. Bentley’s relationship with Vanden Plas began in 1922; and in 1925 Vanden Plas leased a portion of their premises to Bentley for their service department. Vanden Plas became the coachbuilder of choice for Bentley in period, and remains the most desirable and collectable of the body variants today. Just one-hundred-sixty were bodied with the now very desirable Vanden Plas Four-Seater Open Tourer coachwork when new, as this car was.
This particular Open Tourer is unique in that it wears the body, engine and registration with which it was born. It was delivered in January of 1929 from the Bentley Motors, Ltd. Cricklewood, England factory to its first owner F.W. Howarth, The Danes, Higher Crumpshall, Manchester, England. Likely in the late 1930s, however, the original chassis bearing the number FB3217 was evidently exchanged for one bearing the number AD3671, which corresponds to another wonderful Bentley 4 ½ Litre that was sold new in March of 1930 to a Mr. W Holgate. In this format, the Bentley offered here has been the recipient of numerous concours and club awards for excellence and originality, and is truly a well known and respected car among W.O. enthusiasts. As evidenced by the detailed factory records provided by the Bentley Driver’s Club the vehicle passed through several European owners before arriving in the United States from England in 1956.
The Boone family of Winnetka, Illinois acquired the car in 1966 after which a complete ground-up restoration followed of the original Vanden Plas body as well as all mechanical aspects of the car. Confirming the quality of the restoration, the car was a consistent top award winner competing at 19 major events from 1968 to 1976. Those included three AACA meets, seven GIRCCA spring concours, two RROC National meets, seven Grand National Classics and one BDC International meet. Honors include the 1970 NIRCCA Grand National Award for Excellence, 1970 RROC 1st Place Vintage Bentley, 1972 AACA S.F. Edge Award for the Outstanding Restoration of the Year for a Foreign Made Automobile Entered in a National Meet, 1974 Best Overseas Car, PDC Kensington Gardens, London and 100 points in the 1976 Senior Foreign at the Indianapolis Grand Classic. The previous owner had participated in seven North American Vintage Bentley Meet rallies from 2000-2008, and the car has benefited from regular road us of some 400-500 miles per year.
The car makes a strong visual impression and the restoration work performed by the Boon Family is holding up exceptionally well. The car has been carefully maintained and is replete with period details such as the large Le Mans petrol tank, headlight with stone guards, Hartford shock absorbers, Wefco spring gators, twin leather bonnet straps, a corded steering wheel and sloper SU carburetors. Paint, brightwork, body fabric, and upholstery all share a uniform, light patina which the discerning collector’s eye will appreciate on a W.O. Bentley. That said, the car certainly remains nice enough, and correct enough, for concours showing. In its desirable and original Open Tourer format, this Bentley is likely to be a welcomed entrant to many of the world’s most prestigious motoring gatherings, both concours and tour events, and its current condition will lend itself nicely to participating in both.
Very recently, to insure reliability for long distance touring, the fuel system and fuel take were restored, the carburetors cleaned, and very smart LED turn signals fitted, among other minor works. Included with the car are records for the recent work performed. Please note that the car is titled to the engine number.
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