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1926 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model

by Vanden Plas

  • The most original 3 Litre Speed Model, boasting matching numbers throughout & sporting its original Vanden Plas body
  • Documented British ownership from new & supported by Bentley service records & maintenance books
  • Available following 64 years of single ownership
  • Referred to by one vintage Bentley expert as; ‘Reference grade, try finding another one…’
  • Serviced by W.O. Bentley specialists earlier in 2022

This 3 Litre Speed Model, chassis number ‘RT1542’ was completed in 1926 and delivered to a Mr Henry Martineau, a Cambridge undergraduate at the time. Martineau was clearly a man with many interests in life – President of the Cambridge Footlights, European Bobsleigh champion, SOE agent and finally a breeder of Friesian cattle in Norfolk.

Martineau opted for a Vanden Plas body to be fitted to his Bentley – a desirable choice which the car still retains to this day. Martineau a keen competitor at Brooklands would pass on his ownership of the 3 Litre to Edward Partington from Derbyshire within a year. After four years in Partington’s care, ‘YO 4275’ would pass to a Mrs Katherine Kasterima of Buckingham Gate, London. Factory service records state that the 3 Litre was serviced in her ownership with a recorded mileage of 30,078. In 1933, another Cambridge undergraduate acquired ‘YO 4275’ for a short period of time, Lord Acheson who would become the 6th Earl of Gosford. Acheson is also detailed in the Bentley service records as it shows an engine rebuild was carried out for him. In the same year Peter Thin from Aston Somerville Hall in Worcestershire bought the Bentley and had service work carried out by Squire Motors in Henley-on-Thames. In 1937, motoring enthusiast Robert Sumner from Surrey purchased ‘YO 4275’, the history files contain some images of Sumner proudly sitting in the Bentley with his dog sat on the running board. Bentley records show the 3 Litre changed hands in 1937 when Flight Lieutenant Sidney Carr from Bristol became the next owner. Carr worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company as a test pilot and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during his career in the Air Force. By 1941, Mr S.T.W. Mercer from Lloyds of London had acquired ‘YO 4275’, and in true Lloyds of London fashion, would write notes detailing all the maintenance and expenditure he lavished on the Bentley – his insightful notebook accompanies the car.

In 1958, the 3 Litre would enter its longest single ownership, some 64 years in the hands of Mr Christopher Power. There is a wonderful photo of the Bentley parked on the driveway of Mr Mercers home in Sussex prior to it being bought by Power. Power would largely entrust the service work to Hofmann & Burton – Bentley specialists in Henley-on-Thames and there are invoices dating from 1958 to 1996 documenting their work.

In 1958, it was decided by Power that the Bentley should receive some freshening up and so was treated to a back to bare metal repaint in indigo blue by Overton Garage, Farnham. The results are clear to see from an image of the Bentley parked in Kensington Gardens at a Bentley Drivers Club (BDC) event in 1959. Power a keen BDC and Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) member would use ‘YO 4275’ on rallies and there are two rally plaques fitted to the inside of the passenger door, one from the 1960 BDC Eastbourne rally and the 1961 VSCC Measham rally.

Mr Power’s career would include a period working in Milan, and in true BDC fashion, Power drove the 3 Litre from the UK down to Italy to use as his transport. Hofmann & Burton continued to dispatch service items to Power in Italy for his ongoing maintenance of the Bentley – various correspondence in the file confirms this. It would be on Powers long drive back to the UK that the 3 Litre would prove to fail him – the only time it broke down in his ownership. The incident occurred near the small town of Gy in Haute-Saône and arrangements were made through the Automobile Association to collect the Bentley and return it to Hofmann & Burton in Henley-on-Thames to replace the stripped timing gears. Power decided that as the engine needed to be taken apart that he would ask them to carry out a complete engine rebuild. In October ‘65, the works had been completed for the not inconsiderable sum of £604. 9. 3.!

Power continued to use the 3 Litre for weekend driving with the BDC and VSCC over the next forty years and clearly paid close attention to servicing the Bentley as there are numerous invoices showing what he had carried out. The more recent items have been a refurbishment of the wheels by Richard Bros, magneto rebuild by D.H. Day and a full flow oil filter conversion by William Medcalf Vintage Bentley. Earlier this year, Ewen Getley of Kingsbury Racing completed some service work and a set of new Blockley tyres were fitted.

‘YO 4275’ represents originality. It is highly unusual to find a WO Bentley that not only retains its original numbered components but its chassis and body work too. Chassis Number ‘RT1542’ is exactly that and in the words of one respected vintage Bentley expert is ‘reference grade, try finding another one…’.

Photo Credit: Riiko-Andre Nuud, Riiko Photo

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