Bentley '8-Litre Le Mans' 1931
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Updated: 21-June-2024 09:37

Bentley '8-Litre Le Mans' 1931

Model information
Make history

1931 Bentley ‘8-Litre Le Mans’.

We proudly present one of the most impressive pre-war motorcars ever built; the Bentley 8-Litre. This magnificent motorcar with registration GYXXX started life as one of only 39 build ‘short wheelbase’ 4-Litre Bentleys. Chassis VAXXXX is one of the last produced Bentleys in 1931. The automobile was road registered in the year 1932. The 4-Litre Bentley shared the chassis and all the components bar the engine with the 8-Litre model. Now fitted with a Bentley 8-Litre engine and engine number YRXXXX, Bentley 4-Litre chassis VAXXXX with registration GYXXX is presented here as a Bentley ‘8-Litre’. In 1932 chassis VAXXXX was supplied new with a Freestone & Webb coachwork to a Mr. De Solla. The automobile had known various authoritative car enthusiast UK owners before it was purchased by Mr. F.M. Wicock in 1976. Wicock had 4-Litre chassis VAXXXX upgraded to 8-Litre specifications by Don Mackenzie with original 8-Litre Bentley parts. Most of these parts like the engine crankcase and the steering gear came from chassis YRXXXX which was dismantled by Bentley Motors back in 1938. Mr. Wilcock had the ‘short chassis’ Le Mans coachwork made by H&H Coachbuilding in Sussex. Having completed the car, Mr. Wilcock sold it on to the well-known Bentley enthusiast Victor Gauntlett. This fantastic and very impressive motorcar was raced in Rallies by Prince Michael of Kent. In the year 2012 the automobile was purchased by a Dutchman who has added massively to the technical perfection and the history of this magnificent Bentley. The owner had the car fully improved to the highest standards by specialist ACS Engineering in the Netherlands. This to be able to drive and participate in many historic long distance (touring) rally events. Every component and part were given the utmost attention. Costs nor effort were spared in the process. Upgrades were given to the engine, electrics, brakes, suspension, cooling and exhaust using as many original Bentley parts as possible. Optically the vintage patina of the old paint and leather was beautifully preserved. A logbook describing all the work, the upgrades and all the regular service done on the car is available. From 2012 until 2019 the automobile has been constantly in the care of ACS Engineering and a specialist mechanic of the firm has accompanied the car for service and adjustments on all its outings around the globe. The owner has enjoyed this magnificent machine driving 5000 kilometres per annum, most recent in the Gran Premio Nuvolari. Furthermore, the Bentley has participated in the Beach to Bridge, Paris - Amsterdam, Tirol Classic and many other national and international events.
This is a rare opportunity to purchase a very rare and legendary motorcar. Only 39 Bentley 4-Litre ‘short chassis’ cars were built, and only 100 Bentley 8-Litre engines were produced. This magnificent Bentley ’8-Litre‘ Le Mans with registration GYXXX may be the most exhilarating pre-war car you will ever lay eyes on. This important motorcar comes fully documented and expertised. This rare and exclusive automobile is up-to-date serviced and ready to embark on beautiful rally’s and road trips.
Owning this superlative machine must be every Bentley enthusiasts dream. We are quite curious to learn to which car the owner will move on and not be disappointed. This is a unique chance to acquire a rare and super exclusive pre-war Bentley ‘8-Litre’ in immaculate optical, technical and mechanical up-to-date TOP condition. This impressive Bentley is ‘turn-key’ ready for any adventure.


Altena 1906

In 1931 the most impressive Bentley model ever saw the light of day; the 8-Litre. This car can be regarded as a real ‘super car’. Only 100 of these big cars have been built.

Technical data

Six cylinder engine (OHC)
cylinder capacity: 7983 cc.
carburettors: 2 x SU
capacity: 220 bhp. at 3500 rpm.
top-speed: 110 mp/h -  176 km/h.
weight: 2450 kg. 

Bentley history 1919 - 1931

The famous Bentley make, erected by Mr. W.O. Bentley, existed as a independent firm for only twelve years (1919-1931) before the proud firm was taken over by the Rolls Royce motor company. Those twelve exhilarating Bentley years were filled with racing successes and many important victories. The Bentley name as manufacturer of large, heavy, powerful and rugged sports cars has been imprinted in the human mind since the "roaring" 1920ies.

Bentley motorcars won the famous 24 hours of Le Mans race in the years 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. The years they did not win the long distance reliability race for production cars they finished second or third. Not only successes at Le Mans were counted but also victories in other long distance events like the Brooklands 500 mile race. The racing successes were mainly due to the rugged built of the cars and the meticulous preparation of the cars. In every race they learned and had the cars improved on small but important details (Head lamp covers, mesh gauze on the petrol tank, quick filler caps for engine oil and radiator, driver adjustable brakes.)


The Bentley 3 Litre was W.O. Bentley’s first design. The car was presented in 1919 but the first cars were sold in 1921. The four cylinder cars of rugged construction where in a class of their own for they combined the size and comfort of the big tourers and saloons with the road holding, and speed of the smaller sports- and racing cars. The Bentley was a true owner-driver car for the sporting motorist and connoisseur. The Bentley car could be had in three different types which were designated with three different radiator badges*. Red badge: short chassis speed model, Blue badge: the early short and then long chassis type for bespoke bodywork, Green badge: very rare and used for about eighteen 100 mph. These Green badge car won at Le Mans in 1924 and 1927 (Old Number Seven.) The 3-Litre was built from 1919 until 1929.

*The Bentley radiator and the logo were designed by the genius motoring artist Gordon Crosby. The logo is a ‘badge’ and not a ‘label’ as stated by AFC Hilstead in his book ‘Those Bentley Days’ (published 1953).

6.5 Litre and Speed Six

Then in 1926 the 6.5 Litre and the Speed Six were presented, these six cylinder models were in the eyes of W.O. Bentley the best cars the Bentley firm ever built. The bigger capacity was needed for many a customer had built a bespoke heavy saloon body on their chassis and thus eliminating the sporting element the chassis had to offer. The Speed Six brought Bentley the most racing successes and Le Mans victories. In the year 1929 the Speed Six came home first with Bentley 4.5 Litres second, third and fourth! In 1930 the same Bentley Speed Six 'Old Number one' came home a victor followed by another Speed six in second position!

4.5 Litre

Next came the upgraded four cylinder Bentley 4.5 Litre in the year 1927. The 4.5 Litre featured four valves per cylinder and two spark plugs per cylinder engine. Most of these cars were given open tourer and saloon bodywork and only nine short chassis were built.

4.5 Litre Supercharged (Blower)

The 4.5 Litre Blower was built in the ‘Barnato’ period. Financed by the Hon. Dorothy Paget Tim Birkin successfully experimented at Brooklands with his blower Bentley and even achieved the Brooklands lap record with his Blower Bentley. As Woolf Barnato was now in charge of the Bentley firm, and W.O. now only responsible for the development of the Bentley cars, Birkin convinced Barnato to enter a separate team of Blower Bentleys for the 1930 Le Mans race. This was against W.O. Bentley’s ideas for he was of the opinion that the supercharger would only add trouble to a perfectly good and reliable machine. The 1930 Le Mans race proved W.O. right as none of the blown cars finished and Barnato and Kidston won on a Speed Six model.
The supercharged 4.5 Litre engines were real "gas-guzzlers", the naturally aspirated 4.5 Litre engine used one litre of petrol every 5.6 kilometres, the supercharged engine used one litre for just 3.5 kilometres, a very large petrol tank was fitted additionally.
Another problem was that spark plugs in the supercharged engine wore out very quickly resulting in loss of power. Bentley engineer Nobby Clarke stated one day: "The blower eats spark plugs like a donkey eats hay". Only 55 Bentley 4.5 Litre ‘blower’ cars have been built by the firm of which 26 carried the Van den Plas open tourer bodywork.


In 1931 the most impressive Bentley model ever saw the light of day; the 8-Litre. This car can be regarded as a real ‘super car’. Only 100 of these big cars have been built.

4- Litre

Also in 1931 a down scaled 8-Litre was introduced, the 4-Litre. The car was designed to sell more cars to improve the cumbersome financial situation at Bentley’s. The 1929 Wall Street crash affecting the firm immensely. The 4-Litre featured the chassis, transmission and brakes of the 8-litre. The newly constructed 120 bhp ‘Ricardo’ engine proved underpowered for the chassis and as a result the 4-litre never became the success Bentley hoped for. Only 50 chassis were built.

1931 Rolls Royce take over

In 1931 business prospects looked very black and the firm went into receivership. Napier & Son were negotiating with Bentley's receiver to take over the company. Then another interested party arrived at the scene named British Central Equitable Trust. They outbid Napiers in a sealed bid auction. The Trust later was found to be a front for Rolls-Royce Limited. Rolls Royce had cleverly defeated the threat of a firm that could become a very unwelcome competitor.

From 1933 all Bentley cars were based upon their Rolls Royce counterparts and production was then moved from Cricklewood to Derby. Purists tend to name the Rolls Royce produced cars – Rolls Royce Bentley’s. Rolls Royce took good care of the Bentley ‘marque’. Many magnificent automobiles were built with a distinctively different character than the Rolls Royce models.

© Marc Vorgers 

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