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Car of the Month

More on Bentley in these books:

Bentley - 50 Years of the Marque





Car of the Month - June 2022
Bentley 3 Litre, 1922, #94
2-Seater by Ewart
Indianapolis-500-Miles-Race 30th May 1922

Bentley 3 Liter

The Bentley brand is inextricably linked with a glorious history of sporting success. These reach a century into the past and in the motor car manufacturer's 'Racing History' a great man of glorious victories shine out. The beginning though roots in such bizarre circumstances, with almost unbelievable naive action, that one is reminded of the saying "Mad Dogs and Englishmen". Fact is the company was more or less strangled by very scarce financial resources in the first year after starting car production, a result of high initial investments having been necessary. It might be considered justifiable nonetheless that vital money was spent on the completion of several Bentley 3 Litre entirely trimmed for racing. To send the car with chassis number #94 to the USA for participation in the Indianapolis 500 mile race could hardly be explained by reason. From a commercial point of view it made no sense at all, because Bentley had neither a sales office in the United States nor any garage or trained staff  should a car need service or repair anywhere on the other side of the pond.

Bentley 3 Liter

Basically, everything tended to expect but 'grandiose failure' from the outset when the Bentley 3 Litre was entered for the race in the USA. But the driver Hawkes managed to get into the field as 19th starter with a speed of 81.9 miles per hour in the qualifying round. In the race, with mechanic Browning on board, he made it to the finish line in 13th, i.e. the last place (6 competitors had dropped out). The only positive aspect of the immensely expensive adventure was that the car with chassis number #94 at least had lasted the entire Indianapolis 500 miles Race.

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Bentley 3 Liter

Having immediately afterwards returned to England, the car became subject of an update; with a new chassis number #42 stamped into the frame. The registration was changed, too, instead of the former registration number ME4976 the car with chassis-number #42 (re-numbered from former #94) now got the registration number ME1884. In such form it was entered in the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man in June 1922, teamed with two other Bentley 3 Litre (chassis number #74 with registration ME3494 and chassis number #72 with registration ME3115). The cars finished the race in 2nd, 4th and 5th place. The committee organizing the race promptly decided to award them a 'Team Prize'. In the regulations this originally was not planned for; hence a cup was hastily provided with a new plaque (which concealed the fact that it was actually intended as an award at a local agricultural show).

It requires a certain amount of imagination to consider a solution why Bentley Motors believed they could suck nectar from participation in the race - with sports cars with no recognition value. None of their racing cars showed the 'Gothic radiator grille' typical of the brand; out of false economy, Bentley had relied on an incognito flat radiator design with a semicircle as top.

Bentley 3 Liter

With a significantly modified body, as a single-seater racing car with a large-sized tapering tail, the TT car, which had started life as an Indianapolis car, was then sold. It featured wheel discs at the rear wheels plus an enclosure of the radiator grille - and conformed to what rudimentary knowledge there was regarding 'streamlining'. At least the car survived and found its way, via various stops, to the Indianapolis Auto Museum. From the 1960s onwards, another Bentley 3 Litre appeared with registration number ME4976. This one had no relation to the original Indianapolis participant except for the said registration number.

Bentley 3 Liter

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