To find a vintage Bentley with its original engine and original body is rare indeed-and it’s the second-to-last built

 

Introduced at the London Motor Show in 1930, the Bentley 8-liter made an immediate impact. While the engine was an extension of the successful 6.5-liter engine that powered Bentleys to numerous race victories, the 8-liter was intended to knock Rolls-Royce from its pedestal.

The 8-liter was capable of 100 mph fitted with formal coachwork, while the Rolls-Royce had difficulty attaining 90 mph. It also impressed the automotive scribes of the era, with the Sphere of 1931 describing the new 8-liter as “one of the finest examples of British Automobile Engineering that has ever been produced,” while Autocar recounted a 1930 road test in glowing terms.

Unfortunately, the 8-liter was launched in the teeth of the Great Depression and Bentley’s chief financier, the great Woolf Barnato, cut his losses and withdrew. After only 100 8-liters were built, Bentley ceased production.

The majority of 8-liters were fitted with formal, heavy, four-door saloon or limousine coachwork, so it is rare to find one built to the very sporting specification exhibited by YX5124. This short-chassis Bentley 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe is a very handsome two-door fixed-head coupe by the Mayfair Carriage Company, which was an important coachbuilder in the 1930s.

Chronicled as the second-to-last 8-liter built, YX5124 has complete history from new. One of only three 8-liter short-chassis fixed-head coupes, its value is enhanced by the fact that one of the three is still locked away in India. YX5124 was first delivered to C.G. Hayward. Its next owner was H.J. Thomas, who was director of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. While in his ownership, the 21-inch wheels were replaced with 19-inch wheels and the fenders and running boards altered to incorporate tool boxes. The Bentley was mothballed during WWII, then found its way to Royal Navy war hero Captain G.C. Blundell in 1957.

Blundell had bought his first Bentley as a junior officer in the 1930s and remained true to the marque until his death at age 93 in 1997. Most impressively, the 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe remained in his ownership until 1983, when it was purchased by a collector. He immediately commissioned a complete rebuild by a W.O. Bentley specialist restorer in the U.K.

The Bentley was painstakingly restored to its original configuration, the bodywork preserved and all mechanical components overhauled. The fenders, running boards, and wheels were all returned to their correct form and a photographic record of the work is included.

The Mayfair Coupe retains its original engine and body and is equipped with a full tool kit and log books dating from 1945. The 8-liter has been expertly maintained and extensively exercised, covering in excess of 250,000 miles during its lifetime.

While no longer a 100-point restoration, it remains in outstanding condition. The green leather interior shows minimal wear. Woodwork remains in excellent shape, as do the gauges and headliner. The engine and bay are indicative of a well-maintained car.

The Bentley’s exterior brightwork is impressive and shows only minor flaws, while the paintwork is striking, in British Racing Green and black. When fully opened, the sliding sunroof offers both driver and passenger the benefits of open air motoring with convenient closed comfort. It is a feature unique to this Bentley.

With its exceptional provenance, wonderful condition, and rare production, this 8-liter short-chassis fixed-head coupe is a handsome representative of Bentley’s most masterful creations.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1930 Bentley 8 Litre Mayfair coupe
Number Produced:100 (35 in 12-foot wheelbase, 65 in 13-foot wheelbase)
SCM Valuation:$400k to $1.5m
Tune Up Cost:$1,500 to $2,000
Chassis Number Location:Front cross member, right knuckle of front dumb-iron and firewall
Engine Number Location:Lower left side of engine block
Club Info:Bentley Drivers Club, 16 Chearsley Road, Long Crendon, Aylesbury, Bucks HP18 9AW
Website:http://www.bdcl.org
Investment Grade:A

This 1930 Bentley 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe sold for $962,500 at the RM auction at Amelia Island, Florida, on March 10, 2007.

The final bid may have been a disappointment to the seller, but it’s close to RM’s estimate, and SCM Senior Auction Analyst Dave Kinney thought it was (like Goldilocks’s third bowl of porridge) “just right.”

This 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe shows honest, normal wear, correct maintenance, and best of all, a soulful patina. I would rate it a solid #2, and in my opinion, this car represented strong value for the amount it cost. To find a vintage Bentley with its original engine and original body still in place is very rare indeed. and it’s an 8-liter Bentley-the last and greatest Bentley of them all.

This particular 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe appears to be a one-off, and it was the second-to-last produced by W. O. Bentley’s motor car company. Shortly after this car was built, Rolls-Royce bought Bentley out of receivership (foiling W.O.’s plan to sell to Napier and keep going) and Bentley himself joined Lagonda. Though respectable Bentley-badged cars continued to be produced by Rolls-Royce in Derby, as “The Silent Sports Car,” there would never be another W. O. Bentley.

Speeds in excess of 100 mph

Mayfair bodied two 8-liter Bentleys. This 8-Liter Mayfair Coupe would have been lighter than most, and therefore much faster, able to sustain speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Regardless of expense, no detail was overlooked in these cars. For example, the exhaust pipe was asbestos lagged, encased in aluminum to reduce resonance, then coupled with a 20-gallon trash can-sized silencer. The resulting exhaust note is bliss to the Bentley faithful.

The starter was designed to engage with surgical precision via a unique solenoid design. It meshes with the flywheel before rotation begins. The above are just two of dozens of examples that distinguish a Bentley from its contemporaries. The cars were engineered to the highest standards.

Some car collectors have ignored vintage Bentleys, dismissing them as too agricultural or too bulky. But except for 1931’s quirky 4-liter Bentley, they are nimble and responsive. With the growing popularity of new Bentleys like the Continental GT, accompanied by advertising campaigns reminding us of Bentley’s rich racing heritage, a wider circle of collectors are starting to become aware of these rolling pieces of automotive history.

However, few pre-war marques suffered as many coachwork and engine swaps as the W. O. Bentley cars. The majority of 8-liter Bentleys were originally fitted with formal closed bodies that were eventually tossed aside and replaced with more sporting, open tourers. Sadly, many of these replacement bodies are hideous hulks.

The practice of replacing “Aunt Emily” saloon and limousine bodies started in the 1930s, when car owners began to move from the back seat to the front. They no longer wanted to be chauffeur-driven; they wanted to feel the wind in their faces. So a vintage Bentley that has retained its original body-especially an elegant closed design like this one-will always merit a premium price over one with an ungainly replacement.

Records available from new

Complete records of these cars from new are available, and it’s relatively easy to determine which cars are authentic. As values increase, genuine examples will lead the way. That includes this well-maintained car with its original body and original engine.

You may have missed this one, but another is sure to appear. So during the interim, do your homework. For example, is the original engine still in the car? With very few exceptions, the engine number is the same as the chassis number. With this car, the engine number is one number up from the chassis number, but we know it’s the original, thanks to the late Stanley Sedgwick’s booklet All the Pre-War Bentleys-As New. It lists all of these cars by chassis number, engine number, British registration number (license number), delivery date, coachbuilder and body type, and the original owner’s name.

Once you learn a bit more about vintage Bentleys, you’ll want to talk to other Bentley owners. You’ll find them to be very opinionated. One will swear that his 3-liter Speed Model is the one to have. Another will argue that only the 6 1/2- and 8-liter are worth owning.

Meet as many owners as you can and beg for rides in cars in your price range. Maybe, someone may even allow you to drive his. In the end, buy the one that makes you smile the most.

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