The debut of W.O.Bentley's 3 Litre was at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition. Nobody at the time could have predicted that W.O. Bentley's "very fast trucks" would go on to become one of the great racing marques. Fast, rugged, and with great handling, the 3 Litre, 4.5 Litre, and the Speed Six, were victorious at Le Mans and many other international events throughout the 1920's. Not only were the cars supremely successful in their day, but they have also been used and enjoyed by generations since. They regularly appear and win rallies and racing events around the world. Their wide eligibility combined with the support of an extensive network of dedicated specialist engineers and parts suppliers make them the first choice for many enthusiasts and collectors.
RL3431 represents the ultimate combination for the serious collector. It is a "matching numbers" car (all its major mechanical components are correctly stamped with the original manufacturer's numbers), and it carries the original open touring coachwork by Vanden Plas. It is also a rare and very desirable "long bonnet" car, a very attractive version of the Vanden Plas design.
The car is a very original example with the factory service record available to check all the component numbers. In addition it has recently been the subject of a very comprehensive rebuild undertaken by John Ambler, one of the most highly respected specialists in the field. The file with the car has all the invoices and a wonderful photographic record of the rebuild. The work included a total engine rebuild incorporating a new crank and rods with shell bearings, full flow lubrication and all the latest engineering modifications to ensure "bullet proof" mechanics. It is also fitted with overdrive making it ideal for long distance touring and rallies.
RL3431 has a fascinating history. It was supplied in April 1929 to its first owner, Geoffrey Joel who interestingly was Wolf Barnato's cousin. Barnato was one of the "Bentley Boys" and a factory Le Mans driver. He also financed Bentley Motors. It passed to the second owner C.E.A. Flewitt and there is a nice photograph of him racing at Shelsley Walsh hillclimb. The third owner was Lt. Col. Mir Haider Khan who took the car to India.
The car was discovered in Rawalpindi Afghanistan in 1971 by Fl./Lt. T.N. Allan. R.A.F. It was then owned by Hassan Hamid who had purchased it from a retired colonel. The car had had some restoration work carried out in Hamid's factory. Some highly skilled engineers worked on the car and prepared it to drive back to England. It is a testament to both the integrity of the car and the preparation work that the car made it back over a period of 4 weeks in which it covered 5700 miles with no serious problems. The whole trip has been written up in an article published in the BDC Review.
Since then, of course, as mentioned above, the car has had a full restoration with John Ambler.