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A R T I C L E S
 
Index
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
Jan 10, 2016
 
Currently, we have several cars with the same chassis number and cars that were destroyed and have a new chassis using the old number with a new body and new engine. How do we sort all of this out? Stanley Mann, a well known dealer and restorer has sent us this (see below) quoting auto historian Clare Hay's views. We would like to know your thoughts on the matter. Please speak out! — Robert McLellan, VintageBentleys.org

E-mail: robert@vintagebentleys.org

Responses received from: Alan Smith, Andrew Whittaker, Bernard Davies, Chris Jonas, Chris Tutton, David Green, Erik Thomas, Frank Allocca, Hans Hugenholtz, Ian Landy, J. W. 'Pete' Huey, John C Boothman, Kevin Bailey, Michael Harrison, Michael Watson, Rob Wing, Robert Middelmann, Rolf Versen, Roy Cousins, Roy Tilley, Russell Browne, Stephen Blakey, Steve Hamilton
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley?
And when is it a reproduction or fake?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
T O P

 


OUR READERS RESPOND

Very interesting topic. Similar in many ways to the Antique Furniture or Art marketplaces.

When collectible automobiles of value become even more/highly valuable they tend to be differentiated by percentage of original content, previous ownership history, connection to Racing, condition, usability, and their specific make or serial number historical significance. Owners should learn as much as they can about their Bentley(s).

Some Bentley collectors own cars that were fully restored to the absolute top standard were very little connection to the original car remains. An example of this may have been a Period Race Bentley owned by a prominent well known Billionaire that is a perfect replica but very little of the original car remains. It was re-created from very few original bits. Other special Bentleys with one of a kind bodies are also re-created where the "original body" style is built new using like materials and is accurate in every way…but new and not original.

Some entities (Experts in the Bentley Field) have even recently purchased and restored special but obsolete original machines just to reproduce the correct fabric that covered many of the original VDP bodied Bentleys. So these recently restored Bentleys will have very accurate covering but it is new covering.

Back in 2008 Keith Martin's Sports Car Market (SCM) Price Guide posted pricing for Vintage Bentleys that included a line for "(bitsa)" cars. A bitsa is a car with many mismatched (but assumed Original) components created from parts from Original several cars. At that time a 4 1/2 Bentley bitsa had a value range of $$200,000 to $325,000. The Matching Number Original was listed at $500,000 to $1,250,000. So anywhere from a 2.5 to 4 times greater value for the Original matching Numbers car. Some individuals today might consider a car made with mostly new parts (perhaps with a real factory production serial number stamped) a bitsa. I do not have that opinion.

After 2008 Sports Car Market changed their approach. The "bitsa" reference and associated price was removed. Today, and for at least the last five years SCM says: "(For all pre-war chassis types, add up to 100% for original or exceptional coachwork, matching numbers, or racing provenance)"

In the 2016 SCM guide for a 4 1/2 Bentley there is a value range of $1,917,300 to $6,050,000. This range and the run up of Vintage Bentley values can certainly benefit those who hold very original cars. Individual ethics and character dictate how accurately a vehicle is represented by a Seller (providing the Seller truly knows what they own). Buyer activity should always include an appropriate level of pre-purchase research by more than one Bentley "expert". In short Buyer beware!!

In the end, a Vintage Bentley's most satisfying purpose for me, is to be driven. Cars that end up in Museums or at Concours but not driven with vigor are not my interest. The cars drive fabulously…with a little practice. They can keep up and surprise modern traffic with their speed and agility. They also transport their drivers to another time when a well designed Analog Automobile was created by an Engineering Genius (W. O. Bentley). Don't forget the Bentley Drivers Club name. Quite different from the Rolls Royce Owners Club.

I look after and drive several Bentleys. These are all original cars that have received care and rebuilding over the nearly 80 years since they were first built. One has a new manufacture Water Pump. Another a discreet electric fan to keep things happy under the bonnet. I buy new speed rated tires that make the cars handle even better. The bodies of wood and soft materials have been updated. No other Vintage Car can do what a Bentley does and carry 4 people while doing it. Fortunately an industry exists where we can still get spares we may need to keep these great cars on the Roads and Tracks of the World.

In my work today I'm successful but not to the level where I could afford to acquire a Vintage Bentley today, at these valuations. Fortunately with a very Bentley passionate, insightful, and generous Family, I'm able to truly cherish, enjoy, and oversee these very special cars.

Name withheld on request, August 7, 2016

~~

Hello Robert:

It has been interesting to see the recent crop of Bentley postings on a daily basis. Nice work.

Made me think of that old Clint Eastwood movie, "The good, the bad and the ugly" from the '60s.

I like your new idea of contrasting the "As original", with "As it is currently," as this is a good summary. I have used your web site when researching just about any Bentley, and it is unique and very valuable.

Certainly interesting to see cars revealed where it is known and identified as chassis XXX but really is is Chassis XXXX with engine YYYYY and the usual Le Mans Rep body. (there is no original content what so ever, and someone else is using the frame from it)

The real magic is going to be found in how to sort all of this now that it is revealed.

I agree with your classifications:

Original - All matching including coach work that it came with as new Modified - One good original car and identity but new coach work or different engine Bitsa- All original parts with real chassis number ( or 2 or 3 of them as I have observed) a built up car Replica - All Bentley but with some sketchy identity based on a few genuine parts, on a new frame Fake - RR or later Bentley chassis and other less than authentic creations.

The good, the bad and the ugly.. so to speak.

Best in Spanners,
Erik Thomas, March 18, 2016

~~

Hi Robert,

I read your newsletters with increasing horror and trepidation now that you have joined in the originality debate. This seems to have become a cause with which Bentley owners can attack those they regard as having cars less original than their own and hence feel good about themselves. You don't need to go back very far to find a more enlightened period of vintage Bentley ownership where few people gave a monkey's and the fleet of cars was used as a big meccano set. The obsession with originality is a new phenomenon and I don't think it is a coincidence that it has arrived soon after the sudden hike in the value of the cars.

There are dark forces at work in Europe trying, sometimes successfully, to restrict the use of old cars. Those who can only afford non-original cars face hostility from the registration authorities, again a relatively recent phenomenon. We have the dark cloud of the EU Roadworthiness Directive 2018 hanging over us in which all old cars will be classified as either completely standard (including the original coachwork) or non-standard. Having classified the cars thus, it is not in the nature of bureaucracies to leave well alone. As few vintage Bentleys are precisely as they left the factory (and remember the young people at the registration authority don't understand the difference between the body and the chassis), the Bentley movement is particularly vulnerable to unwelcome attention.

I urge you to please abandon the whole originality thing and find something else to write about on your excellent website. To do otherwise will simply encourage the dark forces to do their worst.

I attach a couple of pictures of John Cobbing's magnificent 8L which I took at the Chateau d'O in Northern France in 2014. You are most welcome to use them in the appropriate section of the site, however I would like to retain the rights to them.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Blakey, March 4, 2016

Hello Stephen,

A brief response to your comments. To track the history of a car, the BDC and we use chassis numbers. Just the chassis has to be original. The car can have a Austin body and Ford engine and it is still an original Vintage Bentley. If it has a Bentley body and Bentley engine but is not on an original chassis it can still be a Vintage Bentley but it is not an original Vintage Bentley. We are not out to attack anyone or devalue some cars, just track the history of the cars.

Best wishes
Robert McLellan

~~

Dear Robert,
I have significant knowledge and experience in the UK steam preservation world that might help in clarifying the dilemma faced in the Bentley world of original or bitsas.

Continuous history is considered to be the mark of an original steam engine. As an engine has no chassis but rather a boiler and firebox, there is no one component within its makeup that can be labelled as its primary part. Having said that an engine is built up from its boiler and firebox but, both these items are 'service parts' being replaceable, as an engine or gearbox might be in a Bentley.

Where replacement parts on a 'like for like' basis are fitted, they are considered part of the 'original' structure. Where a steam roller is 'converted' to a steam tractor, there has been an irreversible change, its structure and its originality has changed. If this 'conversion' were carried out in its 'working days' it is deemed to be an acceptable change but, not so if in its 'preservation' life.

Where parts of a scrapped single steam engine are accumulated and a steam engine is built from them, this is considered to be, in Bentley terms a 'bitsa' or replica. There are grey areas in deciding how many original parts are needed to restore an original engine, as there is in the car world.

Where a 'barn find' is restored and, in most cases the majority of its parts are replaced, that steam engine is considered to be original and is treated as such by DVLA.

My witterings might be irrelevant and if so, you are most welcome to file them in your deleted box.

Many thanks,
Rob Wing, February 21, 2016

Hello Rob, thank you for your comments. The parameters for originality in the case of steam engine cars and Bentleys are quite different, though they both make sense. But still, one is a 'duck' and the other a 'chicken'.

Best wishes,
Robert McLellan

~~

Hello Robert,
The real v. not-real made for some interesting thoughts.

Many years ago I had a Sunbeam Tiger. At the same time, my friend Roger had one ofhe special bodied Le Mans Tigers. He wanted to put new heads on it & gave me the old ones which went on my car. Reading some of your stories I wonder if some clever person could claim that my Tiger is an Ex Le Mans car! Thanks for your newsletters, I really enjoy them.
Robert Grounds, February 7, 2016

~~

Dear Robert,
Thank you for your newsletter and coverage of the real Vintage Bentley issue. With the responses to HT1650, YM57, and 110, I can only say that the problems is more serious than I had thought. The three responses illustrate almost every facet of the problem I alluded to: shortening chassis, duplicating chassis, claiming fictitious chassis numbers, switching engine numbers from 3 litre blocks to new 4.5 litre blocks, changing the bodywork, and passing off by the trade. Someone needs to start clearing up this mess. I hope you get a response from Fisken's and Mann.

First, the chassis number. As I pointed out in my previous letter, this is the corner stone of the car's identity. It may just be acceptable, if a chassis has been destroyed in an accident, to substitute. However, this should always be openly acknowledged. After all, the owner should have already received recompense for the damage through their insurance, and to pass off a replica as if it were original is just that, passing off. It is fraudulent. So is the deliberate replication of a chassis with a view to passing it off as original.

I also dealt, overly delicately, with the issue of the 'special' and the 'bitsa'. Any vintage car where the chassis is retained but an alternative engine/gearbox/power train is put in place, should be regarded as a 'special'. There is currently a discussion on PreWarCar.com about a rare Mercedes that was destroyed many years ago ago but which had received a Dodge engine while it was still alive. It is regarded, quite rightly in my view, as a Mercedes 'special'. Similarly for a nice Riley 9 racing car currently for sale, fitted with a tuned Ford Model A engine that has been much changed in its rebuilding. Again, this should, in my view, be regarded as a Riley 'special', as it is in the advertisements.

But this creates a serious problem for the Bentley conversion trade. Because every 3/4.5 conversion makes the recipient Bentley a 'special'. Bentley owners would have no difficulty in being discriminating if a Jaguar XK 120, say, were moved sharply away from its original specs, but seem blind to the dangers of forging new Bentleys.

The trouble starts with the passing off of a major modification onto an unsuspecting public. What would it do to prices if every 3 to 4.5 litre conversion was listed as a Bentley 'special', or, even worse, a Bentley 'bitsa'? To make my point, there is actually a very nice 3-litre Bentley 'bitsa' for auction at the moment, and it is original spec in every important detail. The expected price is considerably lower than that for an original non-'bitsa'. I, personally, would recommend it over a more modified car with a new engine to anyone looking for the original experience at a reasonable price. Indeed, once the original Bentley engine and bodywork have been thrown away from a previously original car, the car is little more than a 'bitsa' anyway.

Keep up the good work.
- David Green, February 4, 2016

~~

Dear Robert,
It never ceases to amaze me the lengths some people will go to deceive or "pull a fast one". Often these ploys will involve extraordinary imagination and inventiveness, which if directed to proper, above board business activities, might produce dazzling results.

I was lucky enough to have lots of fun with vintage Bentleys, when this sort of stuff was still in its infancy. That said, I can recall some early "recreations", which invariably had silly names. The people responsible, invariably ended up believing that what they had created was real. But the habitual liar usually ends up believing in his own lies.

When I bought my first vintage Bentley, my father responded by saying "All very nice old lad, but surely reflected glory?" I bridled at this, not accepting that that I deserved this condemnation, but he had probably "hit the nail on the head". Now, a lucrative "industry" appears to thrive on the remnants of a wonderful example of British engineering, which was nevertheless a spectacular financial failure.

It is not necessary to "buy a pup". Do your homework properly, and it you feel that the vendor is seedy, a rogue, or a charlatan, buy a car from someone you like and trust, if you can find one! Keep the money in your pocket until a proper car comes along.

Keep up the good work,
- Christopher, February 4, 2016

~~

Dear Robert,
You ask: When is a Vintage Bentley a real Vintage Bentley? One might turn the question round. When is a Vintage Bentley not a real Vintage Bentley?

A useful place to start is the famous judgement about the Bentley "Old Number One" in Hubbard vs. Middlebridge Scimitar Ltd, (Queen's Bench Division, #90/MJ/2474). The learned Judge decided that Mr Hubbard was selling a Bentley that was legitimately "Old Number One" despite having almost no parts in common with the original "Old Number One". Important changes to the car that had occurred included new sideframes, new engine and new body. Physically, it was a different car, but the soubriquet "Old Number One" legitimately applied to all the various incarnations.

At first sight, it would appear that the judgement supports the view that almost any amount of change can be accommodated whilst maintaining the identity of a car. However, careful reading of the judgement points to a number of important points for consideration. First, the learned Judge noted that there were no rival claimants to the title of "Old Number One"; there was a single historic lineage from first to last. Second, all the changes were made at the behest of Woolf Barnato, through the agency of Bentley Motors initially, or Wally Hassan subsequently. The judge found that Barnato's intentions were part of an unbroken line of development for racing purposes, with the identity of the car as "Old Number One" remaining throughout as Barnato's objective. The argument by Middlebridge Scimitar, that were not buying "Old Number One", because it was not physically the 1929 car, was dismissed.

However, the issue facing us as owners and dealers is one of legal ownership of title to claim a car has a specific identity, where the historic record is much less complete than that of "Old Number One". Many registration authorities, including DVLA, use VINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers) to prevent fraud, and the VIN for a vintage Bentley, as recorded on the V5C form, is its chassis number. The positions of this number are in the Technical Facts. As long as there is only one chassis in existence at any one time with a specific number, there is no way a second car can arise except by way of deliberate duplication. If a chassis number is duplicated, we need to ask why, but if it is for passing off as the original, then I suggest fraud is in play. That leaves us with a very open definition of what else constitutes a "real" vintage Bentley. To take one example: a few vintage Bentleys were fitted subsequently with Perkins diesels. As long as they sit in a genuine vintage chassis with a unique chassis number, they are vintage Bentleys. Indeed, apart from the engine, everything else may be pretty much original. What is the difference between, say, a Perkins diesel and a 5.3 litre petrol engine that looks moderately like a Bentley 4.5 litre petrol engine but is entirely new? Performance, yes, but originality? Not in the sense of an historic artefact. It makes the Bentley a bit like a Model T hot-rod.

So, if we ignore the position where individuals have deliberately set out to confuse by creating duplicate chassis, we have a spectrum of cars from the hypothetical, wholly unaltered barnfind from 1928 through to a car that has been progressively modified. They all have, in some degree. We all know that open tourer bodies were quite rare originally, but now the same is true of the saloon bodied cars. In the case of the 3 litres, we are going through a wave of conversion of 3 litre engines to 4.5 litres. This follows other changes, such as: changing steering boxes, back axle ratios, and flywheels, coils for magnetos, alternators for generators,carburettors, inserting plate clutches and electric cooling fans, and throwing away beaded edge wheels. At least one 3 litre being sold in the past year had a shortened long wheelbase, with no notification in the advertisement. Every one of these is technically a vintage Bentley, in some degree, based on its chassis number. But one should be under no illusion that, as an historic artefact, its provenance may have been severely degraded. We are not in a world where Bentley Motors is still in business, and repairs are undertaken innocently to keep a car going. We are in a world where it is commercially lucrative to erode the genuineness of the historic artefact, not by simple replacement, but by extensive introduction of major developments.

So, if you want to pay ritzy money for a car that is largely a bitsa on an original chassis, then it's a free market, and a lucrative one for those involved. But don't knock those who choose to own and promote the historic virtues of the increasingly rare Bentleys that have original bodywork and matching numbers. They are much closer to being original Bentleys, and much closer in performance and behaviour to the cars that WO built and drove. Of course, the conversion trade doesn't like prospective purchasers being reminded that converted cars are much less original. Hence, the pooh-poohing of original numbers that goes on.
- David Green, January 31, 2016

~~

I am all for keeping Bentley cars running and if it means using parts from similar cars then that's fine, but the problem of chassis numbers in particular duplicate chassis numbers, does need some attention.

Providing the Year of build or registration can be confirmed for a chassis number, then the earliest car that looks like the original car but was rebuilt from similar parts, should be suffixed with the letter 'A', then a replica of this car should suffixed with the letter 'B'.

Common sense says:
HB 3403 (used only as an example here), is the original car.

HB 3403 'A' will be a rebuilt car.
HB 3403 'B' will be a replica car.
...and so on.
- Kevin Bailey, January 31, 2016

~~

Many thanks for raising this subject. I think Stanley Mann and Clare Hay are correct in that the continuous history of a car is the most important thing.

Every car evolves over the years, changing in ways required by each owner. Buyers should be aware of cars appearing from nowhere with no history, and a variety of old and new parts.
- Chris Jonas, January 31, 2016

~~

Dear Robert,
Yes there is a hype about matching numbers which I think started in the USA but is important in verifying manufacturing date and originality.

What is important is the continuous history of a vehicle as far as it known, be it factory service records or owners records/invoices etc. Obviously parts have been repaired/replaced over a period of time and as long as they were replaced with the correct replacement the authenticity remains.

Many vehicles have been built up from parts, some done very authentically and others not and this is where values must differentiate.
Robert Middelmann, January 31, 2016

~~

Thanks Robert - an excellent topic for (endless) debate!

I am absolutely with Claire Hay and Stanley Mann on this one. Continuous history is what counts. There is no such thing as a completely original useable vintage Bentley. At the very least, tyres, battery, brake and clutch linings etc. will have been replaced several times if the car has had anything like normal use. Deterioration and replacement of some moving parts and refurbishment of others (as well as coachwork) is also inevitable.

If it was bought new and driven straight into a garage and left there, it would be undriveable today unless perishable materials were replaced and extensive recommissioning took place, but in any case this is a fanciful proposition.

Even in the art world restoration is a given. There is little or no difference in value between two paintings, one of which has been expertly restored and the other not. The identity of the original artist, and the artistic merit of the painting, are what count. And a Bentley is not a work of art but a complex engineering masterpiece, which like all mechanical products will eventually cease to work if not periodically serviced, repaired and restored. Since the old Bentley Motors went out of business in 1931, this almost inevitably involves fitting new non-Bentley parts.

On the philosophical question of what constitutes a car's identity, a non-car example may help. The USS Constitution is the oldest floating commissioned warship in the world. Over the past 220 years or so she has had many refits, repairs and restorations. It is estimated that no more than 15% of her timbers today were in the ship at its launch in 1797. Yet this has been an incremental process occurring over two centuries. Would anyone really suggest that the ship is a replica? Much the same is true of the extensively restored HMS Victory which is even older than Constitution (though no longer afloat).

Closer to home, we have the famous 1990 court case over Old Number One, which had been extensively modified and developed over the course of its racing career (and later). The judge in upholding the identity of the car ruled that "the new parts that were incorporated in this car were part of its development" and drew the crucial distinction between a replica and a car with continuous history.

Of course, there will always be a special place for old cars that are perceived to have high degrees of originality and authenticity, as against those tricked up to attract modern tastes. The current value attached to four-cylinder Bentleys with original closed bodies, perhaps shut away for decades, is a sign that collectors are increasingly appreciative of these qualities. But those of us whose cars have led harder lives, and consequently contain fewer surviving 1920s parts, have nothing to be ashamed of.
- John C Boothman, January 30, 2016

~~

My thoughts,
I have been a fanatic for originality. And while there have been situations where the factory did things like changing chassis, then if it is in the service records I would accept that along the lines of the input from Clare Haye. However that is a far cry from the bitsa Bentleys that are out there. So many original bodies changed for a Lemans rep body is really disgusting, but not if the original body is kept. I have an original and matching numbers Speed Six and I now have its original body to replace the Lemans Rep body that was recently put on to it. I do not believe in an anything goes mentality. We are all keepers of history and we should not be playing with what it is we would like to own verses the history of a wonderful old motorcar.
Steve Hamilton, January 30, 2016

~~

Robert,
Are you really so naïve that you can't answer your own question? Really...
Andrew Whittaker, January 30, 2016

Hello Andrew,
You would not ask that question if you were a regular reader of this web site.

As I have continually stated since this web site was created:

- An original Vintage Bentley has the original chassis, body and engine.
- A modified Vintage Bentley has the original chassis but not the original body and/or engine.
- A reproduction or fake Vintage Bentley may look like a Vintage Bentley but it does not have the original chassis. These cars go under Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys.

You did not state what you think, only that I am too stupid to figure it out myself. Care to give your opinion of this subject?

Best wishes,
Robert McLellan

~~

Like Dogs,
- Pedigree - Crufts Champion
- Pedigree
- Mixed Breed
- Mutt
We love them all equally.
- Ian Landy, January 30, 2016

~~

Hi Robert
I have just published ‘Rolls-Royce and Bentley in the Land of the Silver Fern, the first Seventy Years in New Zealand’ which includes nearly 700 pages of information on RR’s and B’s that were made before 1980 and that have been or are registered in NZ, including 49 WO’s.

Information has been gathered from sources within NZ and from overseas and includes some vintage Bentleys of impeccable provenance, along with at least one that started life as a set of second-hand pistons from an autojumble.

I voice no personal opinions on their owners’ claims; I only record these claims for others to assess.
Roy Tilley, January 30, 2016

~~

Dear Mr. McLellan,
A good friend and fellow BDC member in Scotland has a 3 litre Bentley he calls his 'Bitsa-Bentley' . It was assembled over a span of some forty years from a chassis found here, part of an engine found there, a wheel here, a gearbox there, etc. It`s as far from a 'matching numbers' car as is possible to get.

It doesn`t meet Dr. Hay`s description in that it has not operated as a single car all along but it is clearly a genuine 'Vintage Bentley' .

What say you?
J. W. 'Pete' Huey, January 30, 2016

~~

Back in the early 50s my late father acquired a '24' Park Ward Bodied 3 litre.

Over the life of that car, before selling her in the late 70s, he had changed engine, gearbox and backaxle. Various smaller parts were renewed and so on.

Now that car was genuine in its chassis number and body . The engine however, was changed for a 41/2 and the standard Mags 'changed for Aero-Scintillas... so, you could say 'she' was a mongrel even at that point of sale , although he sold the car with its original 'C' type G/Box and a later 3 litre engine out of a '28' VandenPlas 3 Litre! Now, I could go on about the later 3 litre, and that she had the bored out earlier 24 ParkWard Bodied 3 litre engine when sold!

This is just to illustrate, how difficult it could be, in applying 'THE NUMBERS', as the THE method of true identity.

The Factory listings are the Bentley Bible, but trying to track authenticity further, could and will be a Motor-Car Minefield... especially if we know of fake builders and "parts-makers" impressing stamped numbers to fool the B/Bible lists of factory-fitted parts!

My case rests...
- Chris Tutton, January 30, 2016

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Continuous history is the condition and that excludes all newly built cars immediately. Very simple.
- Rolf Versen, January 30, 2016

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Well, Stanley Mann would say that wouldn't he...
- Michael Harrison, January 30, 2016

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Thank you. Very interesting but confusing, especially for the newcomer to the vintage world. I suppose a nicely documented history going back as far as possible is preferable and much more 'alive' than a few numbers.
- Michael Watson, January 30, 2016

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Robert,
Many vintage Bentleys have been raced at some stage in their lives, so it is not surprising that many parts have been repaired/upgraded/replaced. In modern racing, it is common practice between races to replace every component that can be replaced within the rules of competition.

The problem seems to be that many historic old cars now attract such a premium value that unscrupulous individuals find it very attractive to "enhance" that value by "misrepresenting" what it really is. There was a very recent case in the USA of a supposedly very valuable Jaguar D-type entered in an auction as a genuine factory car, until its provenance was disputed, as the original car was destroyed by the factory, causing it to be withdrawn from sale.

The UK vehicle licensing authority (DVLA) is currently undertaking various investigations into vintage Bugattis: so many parts have been replaced and reused on these cars, that it is very difficult to establish any form of originality. A matching numbers Bugatti is extremely rare. Some cars had their major components divided to produce two or more vehicles. Plus the fact that Pur Sang in Argentina can now produce a brand new "vintage" Bugatti (or parts) for a customer.

This is also now causing problems for owners of genuine vintage cars in the UK, as they fear that replacement of major parts (body, etc.) due to wear-and-tear, rot or other failure may cause their cars to be classed as replicas. Discussions between the relevant clubs and the authorities are ongoing.

Yes, "matching numbers" is a fad and a continuous history is more important, but, in many cases, both these factors are not impossible to misrepresent.
- Roy Cousins, January 30, 2016

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Hi Rob,
What are you trying to achieve by asking for opinions from your readers? You know very well that this subject has been discussed at length many times in the past and the VSCC has laid down rules as to what constitutes an original car! Opinions are just that and there is a different one for every derriere that sits on a chair!
- Alan Smith, January 30, 2016

Hello Alan,
It is great to hear from you. I remember your days in Houston which were very important to me after my getting out of the hospital with a major stoke.

What I am trying to achieve is to establish what I believe as opposed to what Stanley Mann and Clare Hay believe and to establish my definition of a Vintage Bentley in everyone's mind.

I have stated:
- An original Vintage Bentley has the original chassis, body and engine.
- A modified Vintage Bentley has the original chassis but not the original body and/or engine.
- A reproduction or fake Vintage Bentley may look like a Vintage Bentley but it does not have the original chassis. These cars go under Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys on our web site.

I hope we agree and if not, please voice your thoughts.

Best wishes,
Robert McLellan

~~

Dear Robert,
Interesting duscussion about matching numbers.

Bentley owners are not the only people trying to find a solution for this with so many cars being modified, restored or replicated. Having a replacement chassis fitted by the factory is totally different from having one made outside the factory; any factory period replacement for me is an original and gives the car much more value than a new chassis. The chassis is the base of originality, nothing else.

For engines it is somewhat different; a proper racing car with history most likely lost one or more engines during its racing career, so having the engine replaced by a period built engine on a competition car is acceptable. Again with bodies it's better to have an original, but after 90 years an ash-frame built body most likely has not survived.

So in the end, for me, the chassis is the most important part of a car's identity.
- Hans Hugenholtz, January 30, 2016

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Robert, It is very difficult to debate with Clare Hay on the history of Vintage Bentleys, or to argue with Stanly Mann over values when he has marketed more WOs than any other person on the planet! That said, the continuation of history is paramount, more so when the vehicle retains all its original bits! All Bentleys are equal, but matching number Bentleys are more equal!
- Frank Allocca, January 29, 2016

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This is a fascinatiing issue. I agree with Clare Hay's comments.

The VSCC in the UK used to apply (and probably still does) the three fifths rule to identify a real car rather than a new build. The fifths are engine block, transmission, chassis and the two axles. This is also a reasonable approach, I think.

I understand from the TV programme "Chasing Classic Cars" that USA authorities are looking closely at restored cars with re-riveted VIN plates. It is possible that matching numbers can be faked to enhance the car's value, so further evidence is needed.

Regarding Bentleys, I am more concerned about the number of modified cars. As with all vintage cars it is fine to create a special from a wreck but sad to rebuild a good original car. I wonder how many 3 litre cars now have 4.5 or even 8 litre engines. Three or 4.5 litre cars now have Le Mans Replica bodies And how many saloons remain.

Also I note when attending vintage race meetings in the UK that 6.5 litre cars are rarely raced as the 8 litre special is preferred. Historically the 8 litre was never raced when built but the Speed Six won Le Mans twice.

Apologies for rambling thoughts!
- Bernard Davies, January 29, 2016

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Dear Robert
Did you see this story?
http://news.sky.com/story/1631105/back-to-the-future-new-deloreans-to-be-made

The US government has changed its laws and approved DeLorean making "New" cars from 30-year old parts. I do wonder whether they will be registered as 1980 models or 2017 models, as I think it could potentially lead to an interesting debacle with RC chassis/ bitsas. I would think 1980s, otherwise they would have to crash test a few dozen, fit air bags and all the rest...

Re "Continuous history" - I think one needs to go further. I think it is 'VISIBLE Continuous History' as I know of someone who had several components which seemed to have the right numbers from a point in time, and again have those numbers, (with no evidence that said components existed together or apart in the interim. With what the wider world might consider as 'faking' a vintage Bentley, and it could perhaps have been done where reporoduced parts have the right numbers stamped into them, I think it is paramount that there is some sense of visibility - i.e. to use a hypothetical example, "Joe Blogs car was taken off the road and has not been seen at classic car events for years, but whenever Billy went up to his farm, he always asked Joe if he could look at the car in the barn, and there it always was..."

The "continuous history" of the surpise barn find chassis with the right numbers, but little to support its whereabouts for a few decades does tend to unnerve me! Contrast that with the complete car barn finds with tax discs still attached, in the hands of the family of the first or second owner reaching soaring auction prices in the last year, and one will appreciate the dilemma.

In my opinion, where a duplicate chassis is in fact a chassis that was scrapped, the scrapped car lost its identity and became stock/ scrap. The resurrected 'car', cannot claim to be the car, as it ceased to exist, despite being an original component in every respect. So what about the poor wanting £180k for his car with duplicate chassis...? Will the one we are watching and thinking of, sell next week, and for how much...?

I was going to write an opinion on "visible provenance" for the newsletter based on my researching and navigating the VB minefield , but alas, until time permits further, I trust this will do....

See you at the Concours or Silverstone this year?
- Russell Browne, January 29, 2016

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