1928 Bentley 4½ Litre Le Mans Sports “Bobtail”

• A two-time factory Le Mans entry

• 2nd Overall at the 1929 Brooklands Double Twelve

• 3rd Overall at the 1929 24 Hours of Le Mans

• The Only Remaining “Bobtail” 4½ Litre

For the 1928 season, Bentley was intent on having new Works cars, all based on the 4½-liter production chassis in addition to Old Mother Gun. The first two cars produced, YV7263 and YW2557, were Works specialized production chassis sent to Vanden Plas for lightweight Le Mans coachwork per design 1477. The body consisted of an ash frame with fabric covering. A tall, rear D-shape fuel tank was mounted with a vertical spare. The package was covered by a rounded aluminum shroud, the resultant appearance of which gained the cars their “Bobtail” nickname. Additionally, the team cars received the “eyebrow”-type cycle fenders. Both cars were finished in the team’s standard Napier Green.

For YW2557 at Le Mans, W.O. selected two of his best drivers — the 1924 Le Mans winner Frank Clement and the 1927 Le Mans winner Dudley Benjafield. The race proved a significant trial for the new 4½ Litre “Bobtail,” with strong competition from Stutz and Chrysler. Almost immediately, YW2557 was setting a blistering pace, recording a new lap record at 72.7 mph. The first pit stop was made after three hours, and by the time darkness fell upon the Circuit de la Sarthe, YW2557 was running in 4th in the hands of Clement and Benjafield. Unfortunately, well into the race, YW2557 suffered a broken frame.

Upon return to Cricklewood, each of the team cars received new frames with significant chassis strengthening. Of note is the modification of Birkin’s “Bobtail” to be fitted with a different style of fuel tank, a small trunk and a side-mounted spare, making YW2557 the sole remaining “Bobtail.”

For the first major outing in the 1929 season, Bentley once again turned to YW2557 for the inaugural Double Twelve Race at Brooklands on May 10 and 11. The 1927 Le Mans winner, Sammy Davis, and Gunter were given YW2557, wearing number 6, and were joined by Clement and Cook in YV 7263 and Barnato and Benjafield in the new Speed Six. YW2557 proved quite capable, with Davis noting comfort at speeds of 104 and 105 mph, even reaching 107 mph when needed. Davis went on to recount that it was “the finest battle [he had] ever had bar none. Worthily did No. 6 respond.”

Of the Le Mans Works Team Cars, originally comprising four 3 Litres, four 4½ Litres, three Speed Sixes and four Birkin “Blowers,” few remain in such a pure state. Inarguably some of the most important motorcars on the planet, the Bentley factory team cars rarely come to market. The majority of the surviving examples reside in some of the world’s greatest car collections. This 4½ Litre “Bobtail” is one of just two team cars to hold podium results at the period’s two major endurance races, and, as one of the finest Bentleys in existence, without question presents an opportunity not to be missed.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

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