Introduced in 1924, the Bentley Speed 3-Litre Model (also occasionally called the ‘red label’, due to the badge colour on the radiator) was built around the 9’91⁄2” wheelbase ‘Standard Short’ chassis. Building on the success of the earlier TT-model, it had higher compression pistons and twin “Sloper” carburettors, the shorter wheel-base providing a lighter car with better handling than its long wheelbase brother.
Service records for chassis no. LM 1339 show that the car was supplied with an open 4-seat body, seemingly in the style of Vanden Plas. The chassis was first supplied to Hillstead Ltd on the 1st September 1926, but then re-supplied to Henlys Ltd, with reference to it being on test, with the transfer of guarantee. The Bentley was eventually supplied by Henlys to the first owner, Major Hotchkin of Lincolnshire, and registered ‘YF 7602’ on the 25th April 1927. It is unlikely that Henlys built the coachwork themselves, but subcontracted it out to a local London coachbuilder. It’s been suggested by Clare Hay that the body could well have been built by Carbodies, in the style of Vanden Plas, as the wings are almost identical to those found on a Carbodies Saloon supplied to Henlys Ltd. The service records indicate that chassis no. LM 1139 was originally fitted with engine no. LM 1346 and an A-Type gearbox.
From Major Hotchkin, ‘YF 6702’ went to Mr. McLaughlan of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1930 and then a F. Peate of Oswestry, Shropshire later on that year. Mr Peate appears to have retained ownership of the Bentley, at least until 1935 when the official Bentley service records end. Although ‘YF 7602’ had travelled some distance around the United Kingdom with just three owners, it is noted as only having covered 13,106 miles when the works service records cease in 1935, a relatively low milage.
‘YF 7602’ re-appeared with the Bentley Drivers’ Club in the early 1960s, when it was apparently “found by Dames – Lumsdaines in 1963.” According to the continuation log-book, it was purchased by Clifford Ernest Baker on the 26th August 1966. The history file contains invoices for work carried out for Baker dating back to the late 1960s, including works by Elmdown Engineering. Frank Dale & Stepsons purchased the 3-Litre in 1977 and an advert for the car is contained within the history file. ‘YF 7602’ was purchased by noted Bentley collector, Jack Henley of Kent on the 13th March 1980. Jack Henley kept the Speed Model for some twenty-five years and during his ownership ‘YF’ was treated to a huge schedule of maintenance and restoration works. Contained within the file are a large quantity of invoices from nearly all of the vintage Bentley luminaries of the time including R.C. Moss, Elmdown Engineering, Blackmore Engineering (Tony Fabian) and Sargeants of Goudhurst, pertaining to works carried out on the Bentley. During the early 1990s a 41⁄2-Litre engine was fitted to enhance the performance of the Bentley.
The previous owner purchased ‘YF 7602’, re-painting it green and fitting a new, Vanden Plas style three-piece nickel-plated windscreen. The leather upholstery and carpets were replaced by Julian Taylor. As well as the cosmetic enhancements, the Kingsbury Racing Shop fitted a new 4.5 Litre power unit with all new internals including crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, camshaft and valve gear. In order to withstand the increased power output a new “4-star” differential was fitted.
Over the past few years, the current owner of ‘YF 7602’ has enjoyed thousands of miles of trouble free motoring in the Bentley, and it has continued to be maintained by The Kingsbury Racing Shop with invoices on file detailing the works carried out. The Car has been recently re-wired and coil ignition fitted for ease of use with the high compression engine.
Mechanically ‘on the button’, this original bodied 3-4.5-Litre Bentley, with the desirable and original “Short Chassis” Speed Model wheelbase, is the ideal car for endurance rallying, racing or simply fast road touring.