1929 Bentley 4 1/2 Litre Dual Cowl
Bentley 1929 4 1/2 Litre Dual Cowl Phaeton by Vanden Plas
4,398 CC SOHC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
Twin SU Carburetors
110 BHP 4-Speed Non-Synchromesh"C" Gearbox
4-Wheel Mechanical Drum Brakes
Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs with Friction-Plate Shock Absorbers
By 1926, Bentley saw a need for a new four-cylinder model. Although a Le Mans winner, the 3 Litre was wanting in international competition and the standard road cars suffered from increasingly heavy bodies. With the 6 1/2 Litre in production, Bentley sought to combine the light chassis of the 3 Litre with the added power of a larger motor. The result was essentially a chassis from a 3 Litre with a cut-down four-cylinder version of the 6-1/2-litre engine. As one would expect, the new 4 1/2 was immediately put to use in competition. With a handful of 4 1/2 Litre Team Cars at their disposal, the Bentley Boys quickly amassed Le Mans and Grand Prix finishes and victories. Although the Speed Six was the true victor at Le Mans for Bentley, it was Birkin's respect for the 4 1/2 Litre that led to the development of the Blower Bentley.
The 4 1/2 was W.O.'s racing workhorse, but the production 4 1/2 Litre was to be, in most cases, a luxury car fitted with saloon coachwork. For Bentley enthusiasts, the 4 1/2 Litre was a racing car. Campaigned privately throughout Europe, the 4 1/2 quickly gained a reputation for being the best-handling Vintage Bentley with an exceptional power-to-weight ratio. It was only fitting, albeit sad, that many 4 1/2 Litre models were stripped of their original coachwork and rebuilt as Vanden Plas Le Mans Tourers.
As Bentley's preferred coachbuilder, Vanden Plas produced a standard Sports Tourer for the 4 1/2 Litre. The fabric-bodied tourer with long wings was a handsome, sporting automobile and, with its lightweight construction, the 4 1/2 proved a fast car.
In addition to the standard coachwork, Vanden Plas built bodies to order, as is the case with KL3584. Commissioned September 16,1929, KL3584 was specified to order as a special four-seat Sports Tourer. As with previous design 464, the body was to include a second cowling and screen, a body style used on a small number of Speed Six chassis. The result was proportional perfection ? a 4 1/2 Litre with the aesthetics of a six-cylinder car, the genius of which lay in the details. The cowl was extended, leading to a raked windshield with quarter glass, and the front doors were fitted with roll-up windows, a rare and luxurious appointment in 1929. The body remained closed- coupled, enclosing the brake lever, with the coachwork ending directly over the rear axle. The second cowl and second windscreen provided comfort for the rear passengers and the back end was finished with a very tidy and purposeful trunk. Iconic Vanden Plas long wings accentuated the low length of the car.
Originally finished in black with painted lamps, the as-delivered photo of the KL3584 portrays the powerfully elegant specifications. Ordered through Kensington Moir and Straker Ltd., KL3584 was delivered new to Captain P.R. Astley of Portland Place, London, in late 1929. Capt. Astley kept the 4 1/2 for approximately two years. Throughout his ownership, the car saw regular maintenance with Bentley Motors, accruing nearly 20,000 miles. In 1931, Capt. Astley wed stage actress Madeleine Carroll and, in that same year, the 4 1/2 was sold. The second owner was Mr. A.M. Jones of North Kensington, London, and the Bentley remained in the London area and continued to receive factory servicing. With approximately 25,000 miles on the odometer, the 4 1/2 was sold to J.B. Stennett of The Laurels, near Winchmore Hill in England. Mr. Stennett was known to have owned at least one other significant Vintage Bentley, a 1925 3 Litre Super Sports. The car remained in his care and the factory service records continue to note maintenance into 1938, without any major work or replacement of parts.
During WWII, the whereabouts of KL3584 remain unknown, although early post-war photographs show that the 4 1/2 fortunately survived in London undamaged. Acquired by avid Bentley enthusiast, BDC member and highly regarded and authoritative restorer of the marque H.J.K. Tony Townsend, KL3584 saw spirited use in his care. Photographs from the 1950s attest to the total originality and completeness of the car during the post-war period. Seen with Mr. Townsend at the wheel, the 4 1/2 appears as-new with a few minor exceptions. A series of false chrome louvers were fixed to the radiator, an unusual attempt to give the car the appearance of an 8 Litre or 4 Litre model. Additionally, the headlamps were changed to the more desirable Lucas P100 type fitted to a Barker dipping system. That ownership lasted for 13 years, at which point KL3584 passed to Per Thorvaldson in Norway.
Six years later, Philip Wichard of Glen Cove, Long Island, visited Norway while travelling through Europe. At first sight, Mr. Wichard recognized the greatness of the car and negotiated a deal. In 1971, KL3584 was bound for America. With lasting restoration work dating from Mr. Townsend?s ownership, KL3584 needed little preparation before Mr. Wichard could show the car. In its first major outing at the RROC National Meet in Newport Beach, California, KL3584 had the honor of being the first Bentley to win Best of Show at an RROC National Meet. With the growing scarcity of matching-numbers, original-bodied Vintage Bentleys, it was a much-deserved win for such a unique car. Mr. Wichard retained the 4 1/2 Litre for 24 years, until his collection was sold in 1995 by Christies. As the highlight of the sale, KL3584 commanded a strong premium, selling for a figure comparable to many Blower Bentleys at the time. The fortunate buyer, Nicholas Springer of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, kept the car for four years before selling it to German collector Mr. B. Fusting. In 1999, KL3584 also received its FIVA Passport and was displayed at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este.
In 2003, the car was briefly sold to Mr. C. Grohe of Switzerland before returning to Germany in 2008 where it found a home with Uwe Kai on the Tegernsee outside Munich. In Mr. Kai's ownership, the 4 1/2 received some needed attention and regular maintenance. Receipts from 2005 to 2010 account for over ?40,000 worth of work that included the installation of an overdrive, a common and sensible upgrade for 4 1/2 Litres. Seen here in a well-patinated and fitting dark green finish, KL3584 remains exceptionally original. The original frame and engine remain, as well as the original and desirable C-type gearbox. The 4 1/2 has a proper appearance, both under the bonnet and in the driver's seat. An original Vanden Plas body tag is mounted just above the dash, as well as a plaque denoting its 1973 Best of Show.
This particular 4 1/2 is an ideal international event entry as a driver?s automobile as well as a notable concours entrant. The body of this remarkable Bentley remains in original form with its special front windscreen and roll-up front windows, a feature just two cars are known to have. The second cowl and collapsible rear screen make this a very adaptable and comfortable touring car. Striking in photographs, KL3584 is truly something to be seen in person. A proportionately handsome 4 1/2 in such sporting form is a rarity, especially considering the extremely limited survival rate of original cars. With the scarcity of matching-numbers, original-bodied 4 1/2 Litres, KL3584 is unquestionably one of the best. In addition to its known ownership history, this 4 1/2 has been held in high regard throughout its 82 years. This is a rare opportunity, and not one to be missed. With the growing status of pedigreed Vintage Bentleys as collectible motorcars, KL3584 is a motorcar of great significance.