W.O. Bentley proudly showed the new 3 Litre car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. In only mildly developed form, this was the model that was to become a legend in motor racing history and which, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery has become the archetypal vintage sports car.
For the demanding motorist who demanded something extra, Bentley offered the sensational 100 mph Supersports model from 1925 to 1927. Only 18 examples were built, of which 17 were on the short, 9-foot wheelbase, the other on the Standard Speed model 9-foot, 9½-inch wheelbase. The Supersports model was instantly recognized by the distinctive green-label tapered radiator. Bentley unashamedly claimed the Supersports to be capable of the magic 100 mph.
Chassis 1161, on the short 9-foot wheelbase, was first registered in July 1925 with London County Council, its recorded first owner being one J.B. Stennett of The Laurels, Winchmore Hill. The original body style is not recorded, although there can be little doubt that it would have been of a sporting nature in view of the high-speed chassis specification. The guarantee period for the Supersports model was just one year, (all others had five years), and the service records for this car quote an expiration date of July 31, 1926. Curiously, the first entry for any service work is for 1929. Lt. Col. Peter Gillett owned the car in 1949 before selling it that year to Lt. Col. Hugh Widdington-Moor. D J Haley owned the car in 1950, W. Main of Fitton was the recorded owner in 1951 and Jim Howarth of Burnley acquired it in 1966.
Interestingly, BDC records state that when in Haley’s ownership, the car was fitted with engine number 72, which further research shows came from chassis number 68, the first owner of which was the aforementioned J.B. Stennett. Michael Hay’s standard work Bentley – The Vintage Years records that at some stage, 1161 was fitted with a 4½ Litre engine, and the engine now fitted, number 546, comes from chassis number 540. The original engine from 1161, engine number 1145, is recorded by Hay as surviving and in chassis number 609.
It was Jim Howarth who constructed the present coachwork in 1987, creating a car in true Brooklands style, following photographic research of similar competition model Bentleys and other cars.
The coachwork is superbly liveried in dark British Racing Green, and the interior is trimmed in black leather with matching black carpets. Driving equipment includes Lucas King of the Road head and side lamps, CAV rear lamps — including flashing indicators and brake lights as a concession to road safety — André Hartford shock absorbers, the luxury of front-wheel brakes, quick-fill-and-release petrol cap and gloriously resounding fishtail exhaust.
Surviving examples of the Supersports model are rare indeed and are highly prized in Bentley circles, where their performance potential is seriously respected.