VINTAGE BENTLEYS IN AUSTRALIA
Remembering that Bentleys were always very costly (a complete standard saloon was quoted at £1125 in 1924, at a time when a T model Ford could be bought for £200), the number of Bentleys that came new to Australia was significant. This was due to quite a number being imported direct by their owners, some using them while visiting the UK and Europe and then bringing them out, to enterprising individuals who imported a number for sale and to the enthusiastic agents Brodribb Bros., who had premises in St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. Mainly due to their efforts, Victoria had the largest (and still has) Vintage Bentley population in Australia. Rootes Ltd., the Sydney agent, are not thought to have handled many cars.

Brodribb brought in mainly 3 litre cars, including one of only 18 short chassis '100mph' Super Sports built. Floods of Melbourne were commissioned to build a rakish 2-seater body with extravagant flared guards. Brodribb then proceeded to campaign it in sporting events, trumpeting their successes as part of their marketing program. This car now lives on in much the same form in Perth, Western Australia.

Examples of all the 3-litre models came to Australia, including what were termed 'Colonial Models' with larger wheels compensated for by lowering the rear axle ratio. Some came with bodies, although many were bodied here by Martin & King and other local body-builders. A few 4 ½ Litres, Standard 6 ½ Litres and 'Speed Sixes' came too. An 8 Litre and a Supercharged 4 ½ came second-hand in the 1930's. Several 4 litres, as well as a variety of other models have also been imported.

Vintage Bentleys featured prominently in Australian motor sport in the 1920's and 1930's and again in the 1950's and 1960's. In more recent times, several of our members are active in campaigning their cars in historic racing and vintage motor sport events.

Like other expensive makes, a number of cars were re-bodied or mechanically upgraded in the 1930's to keep up with the times. Following a world-wide trend, many have been re-bodied when restored, and usually converted into more sporting open models. Very few closed cars survive in Australia.

However, a remarkable percentage of the cars originally imported into Australia do survive in one form or another. Some did not but parts remained and, as replacement parts become more plentiful, keen enthusiasts re-assembled what had been a collection of parts into complete cars, adding to the Bentley population.

Present numbers include two early 'Works Team' 3 litres, one being the first Bentley entry at Le Mans - in 1923 when it came 4th and recorded the fastest lap. The oldest car here is Chassis No. 67. There are two Supercharged 4 ½ litres, one the earliest surviving examples of the model displaying its early un-ribbed blower housing. There are two 'Speed Sixes' which were imported new by the Western Australian Police Force and in active use until 1947. These were fitted with locally-made saloon bodies and two-way radios and were known as the "Bentley Patrol". Now they carry open sports bodywork. Two H.M. Bentley re-builds came in more recent times with their two-seater bodies and cycle guards in the 1930's style, one 3 / 4 ½ and the other a 4 ½ Litre, both the brainchild of W.O.'s brother Horace (H.M.).

Altogether, the cars in Australia provide a variety of interest for committed Vintage Bentley enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

 

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