At Pebble Beach auction this coming August, Gooding & Company of Santa Monica, Calif., announced that it would sell a 1921 3-liter Bentley, which it claimed to be the first Bentley ever to be delivered to a customer. The car has participated in various rallies and is perfectly usable to this day as well.
The first production chassis no longer exists, while the second was retained by the factory. Chassis No. 3 was sold with little fanfare to the Welshman Ivor Llewelyn, who was the father of Desmond Llewelyn, the actor who played the long-suffering gadget maker Q in numerous James Bond films.
The Chassis 3 line was considered large (4,000 pounds) compared to the lighter Bugatti roadsters that dominated the road those days, but it proved its worth by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924 and 1927. There were three main variants: The Blue Label (standard), the Red Label (high compression), and the Green Label (high performance).
The car went through several owners in the UK, none of whom actually realized its value. In fact, the car was even raced until the late 1940s when it was rediscovered and noted by the Bentley Drivers Club to be the first production model to bear the Bentley name. It eventually made its way to the U.S. in the 1960s when it was partially restored. Surprisingly, it remains one of the few early-model Bentleys to retain its original body, engine and gearbox–an attribute the EX2 retained by Bentley can’t even claim.
The first and last issued models of anything always spark considerable interest among car collectors. Such cars often remain in the manufacturer’s museum or in the hands of wily, secretive collectors, and they seldom come on the market. Regular Bentley 3-Liters from the same era sell for around $250,000 so we suspect this one should gather considerably more.
World’s First Production Bentley will share the spotlight with the 1931 Brough Superior SS80, owned by Steve McQueen and left to the eccentric Los Angeles pinstriper Kenny Howard, best known by his nom de custom, Von Dutch, after McQueen’s death. It will be sold without reserve at Pebble Beach and is estimated to go for $100,000 to $200,000. A letter of authenticity from Steve’s son, Chad McQueen, comes with the purchase. A 1925 prototype Brough Superior SS100, without the McQueen provenance, failed to sell last December; its owner had hoped to fetch as much as $700,000. [Gooding & Company]