Monterey

15-16 August 2014

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Lot 233

1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sports Coupe Cabriolet by Barker

  • Chassis no. YR5099
  • Engine no. YR5099
  • Registration no. GN82

$3,750,000 - $4,750,000


200–230 bhp (44.9 RAC hp), 7,983 cc SOHC inline six-cylinder engine with twin SU H08 carburetors, four-speed sliding-pinion manual gearbox, solid front axle and live rear axle suspension with half-elliptic leaf springs and double-acting dampers, and four-wheel Dewandre mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 144 in.

  • The only original two-passenger roadster built on an 8-Litre chassis
  • A one-off, bespoke “boattail” design by Barker
  • Matching-numbers chassis, engine, and gearbox
  • Authenticity verified by vintage Bentley authority Clare Hay
  • Powerful, beautiful, and absolutely unique—the ultimate 8-Litre




Please note, internet bidding will not be offered on this lot. Interested parties wishing to bid remotely are encouraged to bid via telephone or absentee. Please click here to register.


THE BENTLEY 8-LITRE

The gentleman sportsman reviewing the selection of fine automobiles available to him in 1930 would certainly have been tempted by the 8-Litre Bentley. For the man who had everything, it was the automobile that had everything.

Presence: It was over 20 feet long and as tall as a man, with an engine compartment more reminiscent of a locomotive than a car. Style: It was ideally proportioned for beautiful custom coachwork. Engineering: The exhaust pipe was asbestos-lagged, encased in aluminum to reduce resonance, and then coupled to a silencer the size of a 20-gallon waste bin. The starter engaged with surgical precision. Performance: Even with the heaviest custom coachwork, the 8-Litre was incredibly brisk and capable of 100 mph.

“This car can be driven really softly on its high top gear, as slowly as a man walks, and can accelerate from that without snatch and without difficulty,” proclaimed The Autocar.

In every sense, the 8-Litre was probably the greatest British automobile ever produced. Yet, only 100 chassis were built before the sheer cost of developing and building such a machine drove the company into receivership. Other Bentleys would come in the decades to come, but the 8-Litre was the last of the “W.O.s,” the great driver’s cars built under Mr. Bentley himself.

The majority of 8-Litre chassis were fitted with heavy, closed bodies, which were, for obvious reasons, often tossed aside by later owners and replaced with more sporting open coachwork. To find an 8-Litre with an open body that is the original for that chassis is extraordinarily rare, and most of those that do exist are four-passenger styles. Only a single 8-Litre was outfitted with two-passenger roadster bodywork when new, and that car is the one offered here today.

THE BARKER SPORTS COUPE CABRIOLET

Chassis number YR 5099 was the forty-ninth 8-Litre Bentley built, and it was one of thirty-four 12-foot wheelbase chassis intended for more sporting bodywork. It was ordered by Sir P. Malcolm Stewart, who was the owner of the London Brick Company, the largest brick manufacturer in the United Kingdom at the time. Stewart’s firm was highly regarded for its exceptionally fine working conditions, and after helping the Labour government devise methods to reduce unemployment in England, he was made a baronet in 1937.

Sir Malcolm was a devout Bentley enthusiast who had earlier ordered a 6½-Litre Speed Six, chassis number LB2330. That car had been bodied by Barker & Company, the London coachbuilders to the British Royal Family and numerous Indian princes, which was renowned for the fine quality of their work on a variety of chassis. Barker’s design for the Stewart Speed Six was a dashing two-passenger roadster with flowing individual fenders, curved pontoon-style running boards, and a tail that tapered into a gently rounded point, reminiscent of a boat’s stern. In American parlance, it would have been called a “boattail” speedster. Barker dubbed it a sports coupe cabriolet.

The owner apparently enjoyed that car, as he ordered this 8-Litre chassis to be finished with a virtually identical design. Sir Malcolm is pictured behind the wheel of chassis number YR5099 on page 132 of Johnnie Green’s respected Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque. He retained ownership of the car for five years, and in 1934, it underwent minor maintenance, which was followed by the addition of a D.W.S. jacking system.

In February 1935, the 8-Litre passed to its second owner, G. Stewart Ferguson of Birmingham, England. At some point before or during World War II, it was taken to Scotland, and following the war, it was owned by one J.A. MacHarg. Mr. MacHarg modified the rear of the body to convert it into a four-passenger car, which was the opposite of what usually happens with 8-Litre chassis, and he drove the Bentley for some time.

In the late 1970s, the car was acquired from Mr. MacHarg by well-known McLaren racing team associate, Formula One boss, and car collector Peter Agg. Mr. Agg oversaw the Bentley’s restoration to its elegant original form, which included reshaping the rear of the body in the style of its original Barker design. The car won First Place at the highly competitive Bentley Drivers Club Concours at Kensington Garden in 1983, prior to being sold stateside to Bentley expert Frank Miller. Miller displayed the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1987, where it wore a two-tone blue similar to its original finish.

For the past several years, chassis number YR5099 has received the best of care as part of one of Europe’s most prominent collections of fine pre-war automobiles, where it was looked after by noted Bentley historian and restorer Graham A. Moss. Most recently, a report was commissioned from esteemed Bentley authority Clare Hay, who is known for her painstaking research into every component of the surviving “W.O.” cars. Hay’s comprehensive report, which accompanies the car, records, all-importantly, that this sole original 8-Litre roadster retains its original chassis frame, engine (number YR5099), and gearbox.

All is sorted and in order underneath the bonnet, where you will find SU H08 carburetors correctly finished in eggshell black, a Bosch starter, a Whittle belt-drive fan, a Tecalemit one-shot pump, Smithermet shutter controls, Bosch fuse boxes, and a Bosch FG12 horn and bracket, and these are all to standard. Special-order Twin Delco distributors are still fitted, as when new.

When seated behind the 18-inch Bluemel-sprung steering wheel, the driver is presented with an impressive instrument panel, which includes a larger-than-standard (probably fitted to special order when new) AT speedometer and odometer, a Jaeger clock, a Weston ammeter, a Cambridge thermometer, a Bosch ignition switch and lighting/starter switch, a Lucas headlamp dimmer switch, a rectangular Hobson 25-gallon telegauge, and a Smiths 0–100 pound oil pressure gauge. The bespoke exhaust cut-out, which is operated by a floor lever, is still in place.

Lucas P100DB headlamps are still fitted, as are the Lucas snail-pattern sidelights and twin Lucas S220 metal-bodied “diver’s helmet” taillights. In addition, a correct Lucas spotlight is fitted to a bracket over the dynamo casing. The rare Grebel spotlight, which is easily adjustable by the driver to be used for reading road signs, is present, and all of these items are correct for 1931.

Driving an 8-Litre Bentley is at once familiar yet very distinct from a more modern car. First is its size. In a word, it is massive. Steering feels heavy yet still lighter than expected. In a long, sweeping curve, the steering-wheel-to-road surface sensation sends a very strong message to the driver. The car needs to be steered, as opposed to more modern cars that take themselves around the bends.

An 8-Litre engine is heavy, its acceleration is thrilling, and one quickly senses the enormous power of its eight liters. W.O. Bentley began his career as a locomotive engineer, so it is not surprising that this car pulls like a train. The engine, when properly sorted, is whisper-quiet and smooth in comparison to many cars of that era, and the exhaust note is, in a word, “delicious,” especially at as it “burbles” at idle. The brakes are also surprisingly effective for stopping a 5,000-pound car. Once the gearbox has been mastered, it is immensely satisfying to know just exactly how many revs are required before one can slip the lever into gear with nary a crunch. The ride is quite smooth and comfortable; therefore, it’s easy to understand why these cars were favored for long-distance touring when new. If one should, indeed, need further assurance, they need only to take in the gleaming, menacing black lines.

This bespoke two-seater has been restored to the highest standard and is accompanied by documentation from noted historians to assure the new owner of its matching-numbers authenticity. As it is being offered for the first time at public auction, it is worthy of close consideration and inspection by all motoring enthusiasts and collectors alike. It is, quite simply, the ultimate “W.O.” Bentley.

Addendum

This title is in transit.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. He is a life-long automobile enthusiast and ... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

jonathan@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. He att... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more