Bentley 8-Litre Open Tourer

After the First World War, in a small office on Conduit Street, W.O. Bentley began designing a new engine. He recruited F.T. Burgess from Humber and Harry Varley from Vauxhall. By September 1919, the design was complete and all the parts manufactured. Nobby Clarke, chief mechanic of one of the R.N.A.S. squadrons that had used Bentley rotary engines, was hired to assemble the first car engine. The 2,996 cc long-stroke four-cylinder engine developed maximum power at just 3,500 rpm. It was successfully run for the first time at New Street Mews at the beginning of October, and a mock-up chassis was readied for the Olympia Motor Show in London.

The car made an immediate impression, with its tall, imposing radiator and winged Bentley badge that had been designed by famed motoring artist F. Gordon Crosby. The Autocar reported, “the Bentley chassis stands alone in its class as a car designed to give that peculiar and almost perfect combination of tractability and great speed usually to be found on machines built for racing, and racing only.”

Of course, Bentley would achieve incredible motor racing success for many years, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours four times in a row during the 1920s. Bentley’s drivers included Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, Jack Barclay, Glen Kidston and George Duller. The “Bentley Boys,” as they were known, became part of the Bentley legend, with W.O.’s clear policy to “race on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

S.C.H. Davis gave a 3.0-litre Bentley with an open four-seater tourer body its first road test for The Autocar in January 1920. Bentley moved to a factory in Oxgate Lane in Cricklewood, where the Bentley cars were assembled. The first customer’s 3.0-litre was delivered in August 1921. Bentley would go on to produce models of 4.5-litres, 6.5-litres and, finally between 1930 and 1931, the mighty 8-Litre.

The 8-Litre was basically an enlarged version of the Speed Six. It had a new and lower chassis, with out-set rear springs and an ‘F’-series gearbox differing from all previous Bentley designs with its casing split down the centre, as opposed to the square box with a lid on top, which was used in all the earlier cars. This layout allowed for larger bearings, which provided extra strength and reduced engine noise.

The first 8-Litres appeared at the Olympia Motor Show in October 1930 and created a sensation. This magnificent machine would top 100 mph with limousine coachwork and eight people inside!

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Battersea Evolution, London.

220 bhp, 7,983 cc single overhead-camshaft inline six-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder, dual SU carburettors, four-speed sliding pinion manual gearbox, live front and rear axles with semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 156"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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