90 years after Bentley’s very first customer, Noel Van Raalte, took delivery of chassis number 3 (registered AX 3827 in the UK) for the princely sum of £1,150, that same 3-Liter graced the Gooding & Co. auction at Pebble Beach, commanding a price of $962,500*.
Chassis number 3 is an extraordinary, ‘matching-numbers’ car with original aluminum coachwork and brass brightwork. The marquee's signature craftsmanship and engineering capabilities, introduced by company founder W.O. Bentley, are evident even in this oldest surviving production 3 Liter.
The true test of the engineering of the 3 Liter came with wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1924 and 1927, the start of an epic run of five Bentley victories in eight years. The legend had been born in a successful albeit short period since the founding of Bentley in 1919 and this sporting heritage remains at the heart of all Bentley models today.
“Pebble Beach is the ideal venue to showcase Bentleys old and new,”said Chairman & Chief Executive, Wolfgang Dürheimer. “On the same day that Gooding & Co. auctioned the world’s oldest surviving production Bentley, we hosted a private preview of a brand new model. During Monterey week, the enthusiasm for the evolution of the automobile is palpable.”
Modern-day Bentleys at Pebble Beach
Displayed prominently on this year’s concept lawn was the limited-edition 631hp Supersports Convertible ISR (Ice Speed Record), inspired by world rally champion, Juha Kankkunen’s epic drive in February this year on the perilous frozen Baltic Sea, off the coast of Finland. In his hands, the all-wheel drive, biofuel-powered 6-litre, 12-cylinder Continental Supersports convertible set a speed of 205.48 mph (330.695 km/h) eclipsing Kankkunen’s own ice speed record of 199.83 mph (321.6 km/h) set in 2007 in the Continental GT.
In 2009, Bentley’s flagship Mulsanne made its world debut on the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance stage in front of the world’s most ardent automotive enthusiasts.
* Note to editors: Gooding & Co’s final auction price includes 10% buyer’s premium.