Classic of the Month
Bentley 3 Litre
When Anthony Methley ordered his Bentley 3-Litre Speed model in 1923, he could hardly have imagined that the car would one day be part of this collection, or that a bronze seahorse mascot would grace its bonnet in later life. Methley placed his order for the motorised chassis and commissioned a coachbuilder of his choosing with the design of the bodywork – as was usual at the time. He was one of only 32 customers to order the 3-Litre and opted for the coachbuilder James Young & Co. – a Bromley-based bodywork specialist for exclusive customised designs established in 1863. Methley then collected his 3-Litre 4-seater tourer with James Young bodywork and the chassis number 506 from the Bentley works in Cricklewood on 24 February 1924.
The entries in the Bentley service history book #506 are evidence of exemplary servicing over the next few years: the brakes were readjusted for the first time on 10 January 1925. In November – with 9,746 miles on the clock – the valve clearance was adjusted, and a steering wobble was sorted out. The first engine overhaul took place in 1927; the pistons, water pump and the crankshaft bearing were replaced later on. The meticulously handwritten entries in the #506 service history book also include accident repairs. The history ends in 1938 with a note stating that "various bushings and a propshaft bearing" had been ordered. The 3-Litre Bentley then disappeared from sight and did not resurface until 1940, when the boatbuilder Austin Packard Farrar visited a scrapyard near Lancing, Sussex, where he happened to find a 3-Litre Bentley – which was #506. Farrar purchased the car destined for the scrapheap for £20. He had the Bentley transported by train to his home in Portsmouth, where he breathed new life into the vehicle – and henceforth called it "Bumble" due to the sounds of its engine, which reminded him of the hum of a bumblebee.
Farrar planned to use the vehicle as a "workhorse" to take the boats he had built to his customers by road. He replaced the Bentley "Flying B" mascot with a beautifully fashioned bronze seahorse – a symbol of the boatbuilder's close relationship with the sea. Austin Packard Farrar died in 2004 at the age of 91. The Autostadt in Wolfsburg acquired the #506 in 2006. "Bumble's" story – the story of the last surviving 3-Litre Bentley bodied by coachbuilder James Young and the seahorse mascot on the bonnet – will continue to be told at the ZeitHaus museum.
Background information Bentley 3-Litre
The 3-Litre prototype was first shown to the public at the 1919 London Motor Show – and went into production in Cricklewood with a 70bhp engine in 1921. The 3-Litre Speed was sold from 1924 onwards as a more sporty version – with almost 80bhp produced by a 2,996cc engine, four wheel brakes and a top speed of 90mph. The high-performance version "Super Sports" with almost 90bhp that was launched in 1925 was designed for motor racing – and won Le Mans in 1924 and 1927. A total of 1,619 "3-Litres" were manufactured between 1921 and 1929 – including 513 Speed models. The first Bentley Motors Ltd. model therefore also marked the beginning of a tradition of outstanding high-quality motorcars that lasts to this day.