17-18 August 2012

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Lot 238

1924 Bentley 3/8-Liter 'Hawkeye Special'

  • Chassis no. 477
  • Engine no. TW2702

Sold for $671,000

Est. 437 hp, eight-liter OHC six-cylinder engine, twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual transmission solid front and rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 117.5"

• Multiple-award-winning, street-legal, race-ready, vintage Bentley

• Original three-liter “Red Label” Speed Model with alloy two-seater body

• Fitted with 6½-liter Speed Six engine; built to eight-liter specifications

• Built by John Guppy and Hawkeye “The Flying Swede” Wijkander

Bentley Motors has long recruited eccentric enthusiasts to the brand, far more so than virtually any other automaker. This is hardly a shortcoming, but rather a compliment to the enthusiastic following Bentley has enjoyed since the early “Bentley Boys” era of the heady 1920s. Unlike many postwar sports cars, however, where "numbers-matching" is of primary importance, vintage Bentleys are a different genre entirely. A few years after the three-liter was launched, 4-1/2 or 6-1/2 liter Bentley engines were being installed in a number of three-liter chassis. The cars' original closed bodies were frequently set aside and replaced with custom sporting open designs. In the 1920s and ’30s, Bentley owners were often preoccupied with going fast and having a bragging-rights car resembling a Le Mans winner. Bentley cars, after all, had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930. An extraordinary feat indeed!

The first Bentley motor cars were unequaled for their time. With experience designing the B.R.1 and B.R.2 aero-engines used by the R.A.F. on the Western Front during World War I, Walter Owen Bentley re-directed his attention from aircraft engines to automobiles in the 1920s. He designed his first new sporting motor car aimed at sportsmen of the motoring world in 1921. Powered by a three-liter, four-cylinder engine, it was an immediate success.

On January 24, 1920, The Autocar published the first road test review, just before the first Bentley was released, and proclaimed it “a car which combines docility in traffic with exceptional speed potentiality on the open road.” The design was continually being modified during its years of production, by micro-manager W. O. Bentley, as evidenced by this review in The Autocar, dated January 16, 1925, “Impressions of the latest model, which is suitable alike for the speed lover and the potterer.”

Bentley three-liter buyers included Prince George, Duke of Kent, and actresses Beatrice Lillie and Gertrude Lawrence. The original price for the rolling chassis was £1,050, or about $4,000. Putting that in perspective, an annual income of $1,500 was quite respectable in 1921. A new home might cost as much as $2,000, while a Ford Model T was $810, so purchasing a new Bentley for $4,000 was restricted to prosperous buyers, especially given that the quoted price purchased the chassis with coachwork sometimes exceeding that price.

Once considered to be a cult car, the vintage Bentley, or “W. O.,” with its distinctive exhaust “burble,” has become an essential part of a complete prewar British car collection. A car like this one, based on a nimble three-liter chassis, powered by a throbbing and responsive eight-liter engine, is a perfect combination.

Values of vintage Bentleys are steadily appreciating because of their rarity, and because they offer a window into the culture of that era. In place of numbers-matching credentials, accurate provenance is critical to their history. It is more important to know the history of not only the complete assemblage but also that of each major individual component. When a vintage Bentley is accompanied by authentic records, as this car is, the value and charm of its uniqueness is validated.

Records document almost every Bentley produced. Referencing the car offered here, widely known as the ‘Hawkeye Special,’ records show the original chassis 477 was a very desirable Speed or ‘Red Badge’ Model and was first assigned British registration plate number DK2695, which this car still wears, at Rochdale, near Manchester. The original was replaced with a 6 ½-litre unit, putting out a stock 140 bhp, which was enlarged to an eight-litre, 437 hp specification, along with an alloy body in the early-1970s by renowned Bentley builder John Guppy and Hawkeye “The Flying Swede” Wijkander. This one-of-a-kind, open two-seater is finished in classic British Racing Green with a two-place bucket seat leather interior. Presented in excellent condition throughout, and still wearing its distinctive and original “Red Badge” on its German silver radiator shell, this street-legal motor car is equally well-suited for concours competition or vintage racing.

After winning vintage races throughout Europe, the Hawkeye Special was purchased from Bentley specialist Stanley Mann Racing and brought to America in 2007. Since then, it has won numerous concours awards, including the Los Angeles and Rodeo Drive Concours, and successfully competed in vintage racing and rallies.

Its current owner agrees with other Bentley enthusiasts that three-liter chassis cars are the most fun to drive ,and he is frequently seen on the streets in the Los Angeles area, demonstrating the true power and tremendous speed of a well-sorted, vintage Bentley. David E. Davis Jr.’s words are as true now as when first quoted in 1991, “What is the highest tribute one can pay a noble, inspired, million-dollar classic automobile? Simple old boy, drive the bloody thing.” The search for a unique, fun, vintage Bentley with documented provenance ends with the Hawkeye Special.

Vintage Racing Record

1996 – 1st Place – VSCC Silverstone (Recorded fastest time for vintage Bentley: 1 min. 11 sec.)

1998 – 1st Place – VSCC Silverstone

1998 – 1st Place – Silverstone GP Italia Trophy

2000 – 2nd Place – Silverstone

2001 – 1st Place – Spa (Belgium)

2003 – 2nd Place – Nürburgring GP Circuit (Germany)

2004 – 1st Place – Vintage Nürburgring

2007 – Fastest Pre-War Automobile – Copperstate 1000

2007 – Laguna Seca Historic Races

2008 – 1st in Class, People’s Choice Award, and Judges Award – Green Country Concours

2009 – 1st in Class – Los Angeles Concours D’Elegance

2009 – 1st in Class – Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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