1924 Bentley 3 Liter Red Label

Any slowdown in Vintage Bentley values due to the current economic climate is likely to push owners toward a cup of tea rather than Valium


Chassis 356 was the first “Red Label” Bentley produced, and it was this model that was to lay the foundations of Bentley’s financial success. The final specification of the first Red Label, short chassis, Speed Model (generally known in the works as “Speed One”) was signed off by WO himself in July 1923, and the running chassis no. 356, engine no. 357, was completed in August of that year and displayed in Bentley’s London showrooms.

Apparently, the future ownership of this 1924 3 Liter Red Label was hotly contested. However, it was Dr. A.H. Rabagliati, an eminent surgeon and close friend of both WO and Woolf Barnato, who was privileged to buy the car and shipped it off to South Africa to campaign it for the forthcoming season.

Cadogan panelled touring coachwork was chosen with offset doors. The brightwork was nickel plated, with the exception of the instrument bezels and radiator, which were ordered in brass. The steering shaft, track rod, and viable brake components were also nickel plated.

The Bentley 3 Liter was finished in Masons Black over a red chassis. It was upholstered and trimmed in black hide with matching hood, tonneau, and hood bag, as it is today. It returned to London in 1924 and was registered YM 1796.

“Speed One” is one of the few Bentleys to have a full record of its previous owners. The car today looks largely as it did when it first went on show to the public in 1923, and as such, its originality still shines through. Consequently, it ranks amongst the very best of the WO Bentleys.

During its restoration, the body was removed and the chassis was stripped, sand-blasted and dimensionally checked. It was then painted to show finish in its original red, as were all the ancillary components. The bodywork, bonnet, and wings were all stripped to bare metal and the body frame was strengthened and repaired by Rod Jolley coachbuilding.

The engine was rebuilt by McKenzie Guppy and the SU G.5 slopers were overhauled. The ‘A’ Type gearbox was rebuilt with new gears, shafts and bearings, and the back axle was overhauled. The steering, brakes, suspension, and electrical system have all received the same detailed attention, with long-term trouble-free motoring in mind.

Simon Kidston

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Simon is from an old British motor-racing family. He started his career at Coys, leaving to co-found Bonhams Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he staged high-profile auctions around the world, branching out on his own in 2006 to found Kidston SA, a consultancy responsible for some of the larger deals you rarely hear about. Simon also judges at Pebble Beach and is “the voice” of the Villa d’Este Concours and the Mille Miglia.

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