Bentley 3 litre


Rare original saloon, a Weymann by Gurney Nutting 1926Few saloon bodies have not been replaced by new touring bodies

The 3 Litre was delivered as a running chassis to the coachbuilder of the buyer’s choice. Bentley referred many customers to their near neighbour Vanden Plas for bodies. Dealers might order a short cost-saving run of identical bodies to their own distinctive design. Most bodies took the simplest and cheapest form, tourers, but as it was all «custom» coachwork there was plenty of variation. Customers included Prince George, Duke of Kent, Gertrude Lawrence, and Beatrice Lillie.


Red label Speed open 2-seater by H J Mulliner 1926

The 3 Litre chassis was shown at the 1919 London Motor Show, but the engine had not yet been finished. It took two years to get the engine right, with the first customer delivery in September 1921. Production lasted through 1929, by which time the car had been surpassed by Bentley’s own 4½ Litre car.

  • Experimental: 3
  • 3 Litre: 1088
  • Speed Model: 513
  • Super Sports: 18
Car later rebuilt and supercharged

In the winter of 1926/7 the factory’s service department created the first supercharged Bentley when chassis number 220 FR5189 had a Roots type blower fitted to its 3-litre engine. This pre-dated the Birkin supercharged Bentleys by two years. Like the later 4½ litre supercharged cars its blower was crankshaft-driven and mounted in front of the radiator between the dumb irons. Unlike them its carburettor was mounted on the left side of the engine block. A rather circuitous intake tract carries the fuel-air mixture forward from there to the blower. On 4½ litre cars the carburettor is mounted on the blower, as commonly done on other supercharged British cars with front-mounted blowers.

First supercharged Bentley, FR5189

FR5189’s Engine

FR5189 at Lime Rock Park


Red label Speed high compression twin SU Engine PH1468 delivered March 1926 in a tourer with licence plate KM 2321

The 3.0 L (2,996 cc or 183 cu in) straight-4 engine was designed by ex-Royal Flying Corps engineer Clive Gallop and was technically very advanced for its time. It was one of the first production car engines with 4 valves per cylinder, dry-sump lubrication and an overhead camshaft. The four valve SOHC Hemi design, with a bevel-geared shaft drive for the camshaft, was based on the pre-war 1914 Mercedes Daimler M93654 racing engine. Just before the outbreak of the war Mercedes had placed one of the winning Grand Prix cars in their London showroom in Long Acre. At the suggestion of W.O. Bentley, then being commissioned in the Royal Naval Air Service, the vehicle was confiscated in 1915 by the British army, dismantled at Rolls-Royce and subjected to scrutiny. A notable difference to both the Mercedes and the aero engines was the cast-iron monobloc design, and the fully Aluminium enclosed camshaft, which greatly contributed to its durability. But having the valve-head and block in one-piece made for a complicated and labour-intensive casting and machining. This was a feature shared during that time by the Bugattis which the car was later to compete with. The engine was also among the first with two spark plugs per cylinder, pent-roof combustion chambers, and twin carburettors. It was extremely undersquare, optimized for low-end torque, with a bore of 80 mm (3.1 in) and a stroke of 149 mm (5.9 in).

Untuned power output was around 70 hp (52 kW), allowing the 3 Litre to reach 80 mph (129 km/h). The Speed Model could reach 90 mph (145 km/h); the Super Sports could exceed 100 mph (161 km/h).

A four-speed gearbox was fitted.

The chassis from a Humber was designed by Frederick Tasker Burgess (1879-1929) previously chief designer at Humber who had worked with W.O. during the war producing the aero engines BR1 and BR2.

Bentley did not deliver complete vehicles, but—as was customary—provided only a rolling chassis.

Only the rear wheels had brakes until 1924, when four-wheel brakes were introduced.


1939 Bentley 4¼ Litre с кузовом закрытый седан производства Park Ward

Овладение Bently компанией Rolls-Royce в 1931 году лишило первую независимости, но, её имя, по крайне мере, сохранилось. Представленный в августе 1933 года первый из Derby Bentley, как позже по месту производства стали называть эти автомобили, сохранил спортивный дух марки и даже улучшил его.

Созданный на основе автомобиль имел немного укороченную колёсную базу и форсированный до 115 л.с. шестицилиндровый двигатель. Эту комбинацию дополняла четырёхступенчатая коробка с синхронизаторами на третьей и четвёртой передачах и тормозная система с механическим приводом с усилителем. В результате получился спортивный автомобиль бесшумный и лёгкий в управлении. Получивший вскоре прозвище «тихий спорткар», он не имел себе равных в виде неутомимого путешественника, сочетая в себе качество и надёжность Rolls-Royce с ходовыми и скоростными свойствами Bentley.

Как эксклюзивный автомобиль «тихий спорткар» комплектовался заказными кузовами, чаще всего производства Park Ward. Но и другие Британские и не только кузовные фирмы делали для него свои работы, иногда уникальные.

В 1936 году автомобиль, названный 4¼ Litre, получил двигатель увеличенного рабочего объёма. В отличие от аналогичного мотора Rolls-Royce, этот двигатель оборудовался двумя карбюраторами, имел более высокую степень сжатия и распредвал с кулачками особого профиля.

В 1938 году греческий корабельный магнат и большой любитель автоспорта Андре Эмбирикос (André Embiricos) заказал себе специальный автомобиль. Он попросил переделать имевшееся у него открытое купе 4¼ Litre во что-то более быстрое и оригинальное. Французский дизайнер Жорж Полен (англ. Georges Paulin) создал, а на фирме Pourtout изготовили для него, лёгкий обтекаемый кузов из алюминиевого сплава. Получился идеальный автомобиль класса Гран Туризмо, который развивал высокую максимальную скорость и позволял долго удерживать её. Так, на тестах в Brooklands он смог больше часа непрерывно двигаться со скорость выше 180 км/ч.


The 3.0 L (2996 cc/182 in³) straight-4 engine was large for its day, but it was its technical innovations that were most noticed. It was one of the first production engines with 4 valves per cylinder, and these were driven by an overhead camshaft. It was also among the first with two spark plugs per cylinder, pent-roof combustion chambers, and twin carburetors. It was extremely undersquare, optimized for low-end torque, with a bore of 80 mm (3.1 in) and a stroke of 149 mm (5.9 in). To increase durability, the iron engine block and cylinder head were cast as a single unit.

Power output was roughly 70 hp (52 kW), allowing the 3 Litre to hit 80 mph (129 km/h). The Speed Model could reach 90 mph (145 km/h), while the Super Sports passed 100 mph (161 km/h).


Blue label #19 delivered December 1921

The oldest surviving production Bentley is 3 Litre chassis number 3. The first Bentley sold, it was delivered to its original owner in 1921. Bodied by UK coachbuilder R. Harrison & Son, chassis number 3 has engine number 4 and UK registration AX 3827. In 2011 it sold at auction for $962,500 including buyer’s premium.

An original, unrestored 1927 3 Litre Speed Model (Red Label), chassis #1209 DE, is a part of the permanent collection at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, PA, USA. The car retains all of its original components and is the only Bentley to compete in pre-war road racing competition in the USA.

A 1924 3 Litre has been on display at the Shepparton Motor Museum in Shepparton, Victoria, Australia, since July 2019.


1924 Bentley 3litre Brewster Sports Tourer

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W.O. Bentley A subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group
Preceded byMercedes 60hp Fastest street-legal production car160 km/h Succeeded byBentley 4½ Litre

Bentley timeline, 1920s–present

Type 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
Ownership Bentley Motors Limited(1919–1931) Rolls-RoyceBentley Motors (1931) Limited(1931–1980) Vickers plcRolls-RoyceBentley Motors (1931) Limited(1980–1998) Volkswagen Group(1998–)
Coachbuilder’sopen2/4 seater 3 L 4½ L6½ LSpeed Six
Coachbuilder’slarge salooncoupé orconvertible 6½ LSpeed Six8 L 4L3½ 4¼LMark V Mark VI R S1S2S3 T
Cont Continental S1Continental S2Continental S3
Cars with Bentley own-factory coachwork
Largesaloon Mark VI R S1S2S3 T1 T2 Mulsanne Brooklands Arnage Mulsanne
Turbo R
Coupé Corniche Continental R/S/T Br.
Convertible Corniche Continental Azure
Bentleys on the Volkswagen platform
Largesaloon ContinentalFlying Spur
Coupé Continental GT
Convertible Continental GTC
SUV Bentayga
  • Walter Owen Bentley (founder)
  • A marque of the Volkswagen Group
  • Bentley Boys

Bentley timeline, 1921–1931

type /class 1921 1922 1923 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931
Sports car 3 L
4½ L & Blower
Grand tourer 6½ L & Speed Six 4L
Luxury vehicle 8 L
  • founder: Walter Owen Bentley
  • A marque of the Volkswagen Group
  • Bentley Boys


Red label Speed 4-seater tourer 1927

There were three main variants of the 3-litre and they became known by the colours commonly used on the radiator badge. There was a definite rule controlling badge colours but astonishingly it has since been established that given «special circumstances» the factory would indeed supply a «wrong» colour.

Blue label

This was the standard model with 117.5 in (2,984 mm) wheelbase from 1921 to 1929 or long 130.0 in (3,302 mm) wheelbase from 1923 to 1929.

Green label

Made between 1924 and 1929 this was the high performance model with 6.3:1 compression ratio and short 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase chassis. 100 mph (160 km/h) performance was guaranteed.

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