1933 Bentley 3 1/2 Litre
The Bentley 3 1/5 Litre was an important vehicle in the marque’s growth between during the 1930’s. As the first vehicle model produced following Rolls-Royce’s acquisition in 1931, it marked the beginning of a new era. The 3 ½ (and later 4 ¼) Litre Bentleys were unique in that they were not sold with completed bodies. Instead, they were sold as a rolling chassis equipped with the engine, gearbox, scuttle, and radiator so that buyers could have the body built by the coachbuilder of their choosing, though many distributors ordered their preferred bodies as showroom stock to allow for faster sales. The 3 ½ Litre was also a deviation from Bentley’s previous focus on sporting and racing cars. The new focus was now on quality, luxury, and comfort. Bentley, not ready to fully relinquish its sporting heritage, advertised the new the 3 ½ Litres as “The Silent Sports Cars” this proved to be no misnomer. The quiet and comfortable luxury cars still had adequate power and the new rolling-chassis method of sales allowed some coachbuilders to create sporting models.
This extremely unique Bentley 3 ½ Litre, chassis number B-155-BL, began its life as a standard four-seater 3 1/2 Litre like most others. Using the original method of sales as inspiration, the current owner enlisted the help of the master craftsmen at D.L. George Coachwork to create a 3 ½ Litre unlike any other. By using both classic coachbuilding techniques and modern technological advancements, the car was stretched to accommodate the new third row of seating. The rear portion of the vehicle is constructed on a correct wooden frame with a hand-formed aluminum body. Custom fenders were crafted to fit the new rounder body style, quite reminiscent of the early Bentley 6 ½ Litre Tourer. The result is striking, beautiful, and unique while still remaining recognizably Bentley. But customization was not limited to the extensive coachworking, and attention was then turned to the engine. Taking inspiration to the world-famous “Blower Bentleys” from the final years leading up to the Rolls-Royce merger, this 3 ½ Litre has been equipped with a Roots-type Supercharger flowing through a custom intake manifold. Perhaps now more in-tuned with Bentley’s racing roots than most other 3 ½ Litres, there is no want for performance as the forced induction breathes new life into the classic in-line 6. So robust are these engines that even with such a radical modification, reliability has not been negatively impacted in the slightest. In fact, it has resulted in a pre-war Bentley that is far more drivable than any of its peers.
A photo gallery of the coachworking process can be found here on D.L. George’s website.