1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Sports ‘Bluebell’

Coachwork by Corsica Registration no. KW 5669 Chassis no. RL3439 Engine no. NT3127

The ex-Lewis ‘Mac’ McKenzie
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Sports ‘Bluebell’
Coachwork by Corsica

Registration no. KW 5669
Chassis no. RL3439
Engine no. NT3127

This historical 4½-Litre ‘Bluebell’ – chassis number ‘RL3439’ – has one of the longest competition histories of any car known to Bentley. Completed in March 1929, ‘RL3439’ was originally fitted with engine number ‘RL3443’ and bodied as a Weymann-type saloon by Gurney Nutting. The car was registered ‘KW 5669′ and sold new to one Edgar Heap of Ilkley, West Yorkshire. In 1932 Mr Heap sold the Bentley to the second owner, Major A N Braithwaite of Leeds. Bentley Motors’ service log shows that McKenzie’s Garages serviced Major Braithwaite’s car for two years prior to ‘Mac’ acquiring it in 1936.

  • A renowned tuner specialising in the preparation of the Cricklewood cars, Lewis Charles ‘Mac’ McKenzie was a prominent figure in Bentley circles during the 1930s. He is best known for preparing the cars owned by ‘gentleman racer’ Forrest Lycett, at that time one of the Bentley world’s biggest names. Like all successful sportsmen, Lycett was always seeking to gain an advantage over his rivals and constantly exploring ways of making his cars faster, to which end he turned to ‘Mac’ McKenzie, proprietor of McKenzie’s Garages Ltd of London SW1, whose premises were located to the rear of Victoria Station.
  • Known as the ‘High Priest’ of Vintage Bentleys, it was ‘Mac’ who built Lycett’s famous racing 8-Litre, ‘YX 5121’, shortening the chassis and tuning the engine to produce well in excess of 300 horsepower. The result was one of the fastest road cars of its day, which Lycett used to set class records at venues such as Brooklands, Lewes and Shelsley Walsh.
    ‘Mac’ followed principals proven on the 8-Litre when he was given Lycett’s new 4½-Litre to play with, shortening the chassis, lowering the suspension and tuning the engine. Bodied by Corsica as a two-seater in a style similar to that of the 8-Litre, this new car was named ‘The Hooligan’. Delighted with way his new creation had turned out, ‘Mac’ decided to build another for himself. That car was started in 1936 and on completion was painted in Riviera Blue, earning itself the nickname ‘Bluebell’ by which it has been known ever since. ‘Mac’ and ‘Bluebell’ had taken two wins at Crystal Palace (in 1939) plus 1st- and 2nd-in-class awards at the Lewes Speed Trials before the outbreak of war brought such activities to a halt. After his death in August 1956, the Bentley Drivers Club, of which he was a founder member, named the newly erected scrutineering bay at Silverstone in his honour.
  • In 1942 ‘Mac’ had sold ‘Bluebell’ to Jack Evan-Cook, who intended to race the Bentley after the war but ended up selling it to friend and fellow Bentley enthusiast Gordon Alexander. ‘Bluebell’ resumed its competition career with Gordon Alexander, winning at Gransden Lodge in 1946 before passing to its next owner, BDC stalwart W A L Cook, in 1948. ‘Bill’ Cook had a number of competitive outings with ‘Bluebell’ in 1948 and ’49 at venues including Hendon, Silverstone, Brighton Speed Trials and Firle Hill Climb, securing a class win in the latter.Early in 1950 ‘Bluebell’ was acquired by Horace Wilmshurst and over the next two years continued to be energetically campaigned, winning at Feresfield, Goodwood, Hendon and Silverstone. Demonstrating that the Bentley had lost none of its roadability in the process of conversion for racing, Horace and his wife Joan took Bluebell on a 3,000-mile continental touring holiday in 1951. In July 1952 Wilmshurst sold the car to J A ‘Joe’ Walker, who continued to race it regularly until April 1957 when he crashed at Silverstone.

The next four recorded owners are E G Hefford (1965), Mrs D Russell (1967), Paul Harris (1972) and J E Meadows (1973). The last named commenced a rebuild but in 1974 the car was sold on to Major J H ‘Jack’ Bailey. In 1977 ‘Bluebell’ passed to well known Bentley aficionado and racer Tim Llewellyn, who rebuilt the car and raced it successfully in BDC and VSCC events, as did his wife and father. In 1986 Tim won the Class 2 category in the VSCC’s Lakeland Trial, an event for which the Bentley was not considered ideal, further underlining the car’s all-round capability. In 2000 the Llewellyns reluctantly parted with ‘Bluebell’, which found a new home with George Sandy. In 2010 ‘Bluebell’ returned to Goodwood to take part in the Revival Meeting and is currently part of the Bert Degenaar Collection.

The car underwent a comprehensive rebuild in 2017, has now been returned to the original McKenzie specifications. It has a new counter-balanced crankshaft running on shell bearings and incorporates a fully-baffled wet sump with double size oil pump and pressure reservoir, new connecting rods and special Cosworth-designed pistons, 9.5:1 compression ratio, fully gas-flowed cylinder head, standard camshaft and ‘Sid Lawrence’ style solid steel rockers. Ignition has been returned to Scintilla magneto operation and the engine breathes via twin SU HD8 carburettors. The gearbox is standard D-Type and the 3.53:1 rear axle incorporates a special racing differential cage. The chassis is still the shortened and reinforced 9’ 9½” created by McKenzie and the brakes are still hydraulically operated. The body has been sympathetically rebuilt and the chassis straightened to correct the ravages of such an illustrious competition history.

The project was basically executed by Kingsbury racing at Bicester Heritage and fine tuned in detail by NDR ltd, Neil Davis. The last one made the car track and road worthy, thanks to their over 30 years expertise and experience.

This Bentley’s provenance is fully documented by press cuttings and factory records and ‘Bluebell’ now with FIA Historic Vehicle Identity Form (1990), Dutch registration papers and old German Fahrzeugbrief (issued 2006). Retaining its beautifully proportioned Corsica body and boasting a competition history equalled by few of its peers, ‘Bluebell’ represents one of the Bentley racing ‘specials’ with probably the longest and most exciting race history, created by one of the marque’s legendary practitioners, ‘Mac’ McKenzie.

Her competition history continues. After the rebuild she immediately won the 2018 Benjafield’s Sprint at Goodwood and continues to be used for race, rally and touring events worldwide

Mid 1980’s.
Silverstone.
Becketts hairpin.
Tim in the 3/8 in front of Cindy in Bluebell.

TIM LLEWELLYN & CINDY

MAC & HIS CARS

Other Bentleys

1930 Bentley 4.5 Litre | FISKENS

Courtesy of FISKENS

1930 Bentley 4½ Litre Short-Chassis Two-Seater Reg. No. GF 1541 Coachwork By Corsica, London
Chassis No. PB 3543 Engine No. RB. 3542

Engine, four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft, monobloc, bore 100mm., stroke 140mm., capacity 4,398c.c.: dual magneto ignition: four-speed gearbox, right-hand change: spiral bevel final drive: footbrake on four wheels, handbrake on rear wheels: suspension semi-elliptic front and rear: wheelbase 10ft. 0in.: tyre size 5.50/6.00 x 19: price new in England (standard tourer), £1,295.

769 4 1/2 litre Bentleys of all types were made, but the short-chassis model was always a special-order item, and must be distinguished from ‘cut-and-shut’ versions modified late in life. This car was commissioned by the late Forrest Lycett (renowned for his subsequent exploits on an 8-litre) and delivered to him on 18 March, 1930. It carries two-seater sports bodywork with cycle-type wings. The vehicle was raced pre-War at Shelsley Walsh and Brooklands, attaining 112 m.p.h. on the Outer Circuit at the latter venue in 1939. It was laid up in 1941, but was again raced successfully at Silverstone and other venues after World War II. The car passed from Mr. Lycett to his godson, its present owner, in 1959, and has not been raced since 1965.

Condition is commensurate with careful maintenance and a total mileage in the region of 45,000. In 1971 the engine was completely overhauled, and a top overhaul with new pistons was undertaken in 1975/6. Some bills for recent work are available. The chassis was stripped in 1973, the transmission was overhauled two years ago, and the car repainted (in its original colours of black with maroon wings) in 1976. Equipment includes two side-mounted spare wheels, and two extra wheels without tyres.

Source: From a sales catalog dated Oct. 27, 1977
Made available by Michael J. Immecke

1925 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Sports Two-Seater

1925 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Sports Two-Seater
Coachwork by Park Ward Ltd

Registration no. BW 8619
Chassis no. 1025
Engine no. 451

Footnotes

  • W O Bentley proudly unveiled 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. Bentley’s four-cylinder ‘fixed head’ engine incorporated a single overhead camshaft, four-valves per cylinder and a bore/stroke of 80x149mm. Twin ML magnetos provided the ignition and power was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change. The pressed-steel chassis started off with a wheelbase of 9′ 9½” then adopted dimensions of 10′ 10″ (‘Standard Long’) in 1923, the shorter frame being reserved for the TT Replica and subsequent Speed Model. Rear wheel brakes only were employed up to 1924 when four-wheel Perrot-type brakes were introduced.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.
    Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished second, fourth, and fifth to take the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model) on the existing 9′ 9½” wheelbase, short standard chassis. Identified by the Red Label on its radiator, the Speed Model differed by having twin SU ‘sloper’ carburettors, a higher compression ratio, different camshaft and the close-ratio A-type gearbox, the latter being standard equipment prior to 1927 when the C-type ‘box was adopted. These engine changes increased maximum power from the standard 70 to 80bhp and raised top speed to an impressive 90mph. Other enhancements included the larger (11-gallon) fuel tank and (usually) André Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made approximately 1,600 3-Litre models, the majority of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork.

    Michael Hay’s authoritative work, Bentley, The Vintage Years, records the fact that chassis number ‘1025’ was completed as a Speed Model with two-seater sports coachwork by Park Ward and registered ‘BW 8691’ in March 1925. The car retains its original body and chassis, the number ‘1025’ appearing on the bonnet edges and also on the front dumb iron. Engine number ‘451’ is not original to this chassis, which was completed with ‘1037’, but is an earlier unit (from chassis ‘443’) complete with SU ‘Sloper’ carburettors and the early-type sump. One of only 513 Speed Models built, ‘BW 8619’ was first owned by one H F Rutter followed by The Hon Mountjoy-Fane (1927), Stanley Robinson (1928), four other owners, David Dolton (1966), John Malyan of Billingshurst, Sussex (1997) and Peter Gwynn from June 2003.

    Previous owner John Malyan had acquired the car via Tim Houlding of Court Consultancy. Described by them as having original and unique coachwork, the Bentley had been in single ownership for 31 years and was said to be ‘scruffy’. Malyan restored the car, the engine being completely rebuilt by renowned marque specialist Roger Cook. Invoices on file from Elmdown Engineering of Hungerford, Berkshire, James Pearce of Wisborough Green, Sussex and Bruce Young of Worcestershire detail the work carried out from 1998 to 2001 while ‘BW 8619’ was in Mr Malyan’s ownership. Sensible modifications incorporated include Kenlowe electric cooling fans, Laycock overdrive and large, finned brake drums. Other noteworthy features include a side-mounted spare and a lovely, delicate windscreen. The rear compartment in the tail is lockable and ideal for stowage on longer runs and rallies. Peter Gwynn acquired gears for the close-ratio ‘A’-type ‘box from Brineton Engineering.

    A class winner at the BDC Concours in 1999, the 3-Litre remains in generally very good order but has mellowed a little since its restoration. It started on the button for the recent photo shoot and ‘gave the feeling that you could hop in it and trundle around France for two weeks quite happily’.

    Finished in black with matching hood and Burgundy wheels and interior, the car is offered with a beautifully presented file containing restoration invoices and photographs; Bentley service record sheet (up to 1933); most MoTs dating back to 1997; sundry old tax discs and bills for maintenance; Swansea V5 registration document and MoT to 14th July 2012. Open vintage Bentleys rarely come to market with their original body, and this Speed Model Two-Seater with unique coachwork by Park Ward is a welcome change to the archetypal Four-Seat Venden Plas Tourer.

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