1924 Bentley 3 Litre
1924 Bentley 3-Litre TourerCoachwork by Damyon Brothers, MelbourneRegistration no. BS 9082Chassis no. 365
The car offered here is a fine and original example of a 'Blue Label' Bentley 3-Litre Tourer on the standard long chassis, unusual in so far as it has survived intact and unmodified, unlike so many of its contemporaries.
Chassis number '365' was dispatched from Bentley Motors in rolling chassis form, fitted with engine '372', and sent Melbourne, Australia. It had been ordered by dealer A B Howlett together with two other chassis, numbers '289' and '383'.
According to a fascinating article (on file) written by a previous owner, Russel l Tapp, the Bentley's first owner was, reputedly, a Mr O J Syme, who commissioned Damyon Brothers of St Kilda to construct the four-seat tourer coachwork that the car carries today. According to Bentley The Vintage Years by Dr Clare Hay (Third Edition) the coachwork is thought to have had an aluminium bonnet "finished bright and then tooled to a uniform finish before application of a varnish tinted green, upholstery to match".
By 1925, '365' was owned by a Mr Arthur Lyttle, printer to the Government of Victoria, and at this time was fitted with rear wheel brakes only, the standard arrangement. Russell Tapp: "Mr Lyttle, drove 365, at the time equipped only with rear wheel brakes, into a 27 ton Melbourne tram. The tram driver apparently 'froze' with fright while the tram continued around a corner under full power before becoming completely derailed and bolting up the front stairs of the Town Hall as the passengers clung on like grim death. The tram was a complete wreck. Contemporary newspaper articles recounted, that, after apologising nicely and seeing nobody was seriously hurt, Mr Lyttle proceeded to drive quietly home in his Bentley. Subsequently half of Melbourne's roads were torn up so that the radii of all its tramways could be increased as a result of this incident. The public good humouredly thenceforth referred to '365' as 'HMS Hood', after what was then the largest battleship in the world, and the car was promptly fitted with 4 wheel brakes by the factory."
The article goes on to tell as much of the ownership history of '365' as is known, but it is fails to top the story of Lyttle's calamity. Various well known figures of the Australian Vintage motoring community owned the Bentley at various times including Alan Glenn (who also owned a supercharged 4½-Litre); Neville Webb, who had all sorts of interesting machinery over the years; and Ross Barwick, the son of Attorney General Sir Garfield Barwick.
In March 1999, Russell Tapp purchased '365' and registered the car in Queensland. In 2000, he had the engine overhauled, and a description of the works carried out is his aforementioned article. In 2004, '365' was brought to Europe for the Bentley Drivers' Club tour of France and then was used by Russell and Jennie Tapp on a trip to Scotland to see relatives. At this time the car was sold, remained in the UK and was registered for the road here.
The current owner, who has a collection of significant Bentleys, has used '365' for touring in Scotland and has kept the car on his estate there. With a fascinating and rather amusing early history, this fine and original Vintage-era Bentley will surely give the fortunate next owner one of the best stories to tell at any evening function.