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1928 Bentley 4½ Litre    
Original 1928 Numbers
Chassis No. KM3088
Engine No. MF3175
Registration No. YW 2557

  This car - updated
Chassis No. KM3088
Engine No. MF3175
Registration No. YW 2557

(Updated with information from Gooding & Company. - July 2012)
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"I am currently researching the Bentley 10 registration YW 2557 having read the fascinating story on your site I was wondering if you could shed some light as to whether the vehicle was used in an OXO advert. I am currently in receipt of an oil painting (above) featuring this vechile advertising an OXO promotion."

  Source: Ally Pearce
Posted: Dec 30, 2016
July 2012
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Aug 30, 2012: Sold at auction for $6,050,000.

Factory Le Mans Team Car

1928 Bentley 4 Litre Le Mans Sports "Bobtail"
Coachwork by Vanden Plas

CHASSIS NO. KM3088; ENGINE NO. MF3175 (see text); Registration No. YW 2557
$5,500,000 - $7,500,000

- A Two-Time Factory Le Mans Entry
- 2nd Overall at the 1929 Brooklands Double Twelve
- 3rd Overall at the 1929 24 Hours of Le Mans
- The Only Remaining “Bobtail” 4½ Litre
- Exceptional Provenance and Limited Ownership
- Recent and Exacting Preservative Restoration
- Ideal International Driving and Concours Event Entrant
- One of the Greatest Bentleys in Existence

- 4,398 CC SOHC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
- Twin SU Sloper Carburetors
- Estimated 150 HP
- 4-Speed Manual “D” Gearbox
- 4-Wheel Mechanical Drum Brakes
- Semi-Elliptical Leaf-Spring Suspension
- with Friction-Plate Shock Absorbers

In 1928 Chassis KM3088 was fitted with engine MF3175 in preparation for the fast approaching racing season, and received registration YW 2557. The 4½ Litre “Bobtail,” commonly referred to by its registration number YW 2557, was completed by Vanden Plas in June 1928 with body no. 1480 and was invoiced to Sir Ronald Gunter. The work conducted by Vanden Plas was carried out in the strictest confidence, handled directly by W.O. himself.

The first two cars produced, YV 7263 and YW 2557, were works specialized production chassis sent to Vanden Plas for lightweight Le Mans coachwork per design 1477. The body consisted of an ash frame with fabric covering. A tall, rear D-shape fuel tank was mounted with a vertical spare. The package was covered by a rounded aluminum shroud, the resultant appearance of which gained the cars their “Bobtail” nickname. Additionally, the team cars received the “eyebrow”-type cycle fenders. Both cars were finished in the team’s standard Napier Green.

Further specification included quick-release caps for water, fuel and oil replenishment, a leather hood strap, a fold-flat front screen, Aeroscreens, large-diameter gauges, bucket-style seats and cycle fenders. The differences between the works cars and the production cars amounted to innumerable modifications, either for weight savings, reliability or performance. Specifically for the 1928 Le Mans, the team cars sported a third, centrally mounted headlamp.

With the fast new four cylinders at their disposal, the team entered the 1928 24 Hours of Le Mans. For YW 2557, W.O. selected two of his best drivers – the 1924 Le Mans winner Frank Clement and the 1927 Le Mans winner Dudley Benjafield. The race proved a significant trial for the new 4½ Litre “Bobtail,” with strong competition from Stutz and Chrysler. Almost immediately, YW 2557 was setting a blistering pace, recording a new lap record at 72.7 mph. The first pit stop was made after three hours, and by the time darkness fell upon the Circuit de la Sarthe, YW 2557 was running in 4th in the hands of Clement and Benjafield.

Unfortunately, well into the race, YW 2557 suffered a broken frame. The quick pace in combination with a significant ridge just near Maison Blanche caused the fracture and a broken radiator hose resulted some laps later. Per regulation, water could only be replenished every 20 laps, and YW 2557 was forced to retire on the 71st lap. Old Mother Gun similarly broke its frame shy of the finish, but limped to victory, driven by Barnato. Birkin managed to bring the no. 3 car into 5th overall. On the return trip from Le Mans the third 4½ Litre broke its frame.

The race was a success, but Bentley knew there was room for improvement. Upon return to Cricklewood, each of the team cars received new frames with significant chassis strengthening. Of note is the modification of Birkin’s “Bobtail” to be fitted with a different style of fuel tank, a small trunk and a side-mounted spare, making YW 2557 the sole remaining “Bobtail.” The 4½-litre cars were continually campaigned throughout the remainder of the 1928 season.

For the first major outing in the 1929 season, Bentley once again turned to YW 2557 for the inaugural Double Twelve Race at Brooklands on May 10th and 11th. The 1927 Le Mans winner, Sammy Davis, and Gunter were given YW 2557, wearing no. 6, and were joined by Clement and Cook in YV 7263 and Barnato and Benjafield in the new Speed Six.

On the first day of the race, Bentley lost the Speed Six entry to retirement, although the car had been leading, averaging well in excess of 92 mph. On the second day, Bentley retired the Clement and Cook 4½ Litre, leaving only YW 2557 to battle with the remaining Alfa Romeos. YW 2557 proved quite capable, with Davis noting comfort at speeds of 104 and 105 mph, even reaching 107 mph when needed. Davis went on to recount that it was “the finest battle [he had] ever had bar none. Worthily did No. 6 respond.” In a very close finish, Alfa Romeo took the victory, having been given a substantial handicap advantage. The 4½ Litre “Bobtail” took an admirable 2nd.

Just four weeks after the endurance-racing season opener, Bentley was headed to Le Mans. After the necessary fettling and preparation, a fivecar team was assembled with a singular Speed Six, Old Mother Gun, and the three other 4½-litre team cars, including the “Bobtail” YW 2557. Interestingly, three of the five cars had just been used in 24-hour events; in fact, the Birkin 41/2 Litre had run two 24-hour events leading up to Le Mans. Birkin had pulled the two supercharged entries at the last moment, and YV 7263 and YW 2557 were entered with little to no preparation.

Regardless, the 1929 Le Mans race proved Bentley’s dominance. Of the five entries, only YV 7263 failed to finish. By the closing hours of the race, W.O. had ordered the team into a slow pace. At one point, Dunfee had pulled off Old Mother Gun to have a drink! When the checkered flag dropped, it was Bentley in positions 1, 2, 3 and 4. Benjafield and Baron d’Erlanger piloted YW 2557 to an easy 3rd place overall.

The 1929 season was a sensational success, but it brought change. W.O. soon favored the Speed Sixes, of which he eventually had three for competition, and Birkin favored his personal project, the “Blower” Bentley.

YW 2557 remained with the team, well used for fast practice at Brooklands by Sammy Davis and Clive Gallop. The 4½ Litre “Bobtail” was retained by Gunter until 1930 when the team car was sold to Lauchlan Rose. Factory service records indicate some minor refurbishment that year at a noted 47,080 miles. Recounting much of his ownership in the BDC Review article “Fun and Games with YW 2557,” Mr. Rose proved to be the owner the car deserved. “[It was] the best motorcar deal I have ever had in my life. Everything on the car was just as she finished the race, except that a compression plate had been fitted. The front mudguards were about a foot long, perched on top of the wheels, so we decided to have a somewhat longer pair fitted. Otherwise everything was left exactly as it was. Taking delivery of that car has always been a great thrill to me.”

Mr. Rose retained the car for three years and during his ownership factory service continued including the installation of a new D gearbox, which he desired in contrast to the straight-cut racing type. A minor accident in June 1932 led to additional service work conducted by Birkin and Couper, who replaced the front axle bed and a handful of other components. Mr. Rose frequently used the “Bobtail,” driving it quite often to work and taking time after lunch to run several laps at the Brooklands circuit. “We would often go down on non-race days and commit lappery and generally fool about. Sometimes we’d do five laps or more, and perhaps a few people would gather to watch and wonder who the poor sap might be who obviously determined to break up his motorcar. But the old car reveled in it, and the longer we kept on the better she seemed to go.”

In 1933, Mr. Rose sold YW 2557 to his dear friend Rivers Oldmeadow, a decision that would haunt him for years to come, although Mr. Oldmeadow proved to be a fantastic steward of YW 2557. In the September 1944 Motor Sport, Oldmeadow recounts “Cars I Have Owned,” stating, “The heyday of my motoring career was reached when I bought KM3088 [the “Bobtail”], a genuine 4½ Litre Le Mans team Bentley. I never want any other car; alas, the war and finance forced me to sell her. This car carried me for some years all over Great Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria and was, to my way of thinking, perfect. I covered 84 miles in an hour on the Wurzburg-Munich autobahn, and that was taking things quite gently.”

YW 2557 was well used and by 1939, service records indicated that the car had turned 100,000 miles and started anew with an entry at 1,300 miles. The only serious notation on record is a change of the steering wheel. In late 1939 or 1940, Mr. Oldmeadow parted ways with the team car and it passed into an unknown ownership during the war, as is the case with many Vintage Bentleys.

It is during the war years that we believe YW 2557 suffered a rather serious engine blow-up, at which time the sump and crankcase were replaced with standard 4½-litre bits. Thankfully, the original engine block was retained. The engine block in fact carries the RAC scrutineer’s stamp found only on the original four-cylinder team car engines.

Shortly after the war Mr. Rose, who still regretted selling YW 2557, found the “Bobtail” for sale in Autocar and purchased it once again from the owner. Mr. Rose would not make the same mistake again, and the car remained in the Rose family, eventually passing to Lauchlan’s son Tom. Disappointed by its wartime stewardship, Mr. Lauchlan Rose set out to return YW 2557 to a more correct state. In 1964, the car received a restoration by Elmdown Engineering Ltd to correct many details to team car specification.

The Rose family’s roughly 25-year stewardship lasted until 1971, at which time YW 2557 was bought by noted English collector Bill Lake. Mr. Lake, who additionally owned GF 8507, the “Number 2” Speed Six factory team car, stabled the “Bobtail” amongst his fantastic collection of pre-war sports cars. It was not until 2004 that the 4½ Litre Le Mans would leave its 33-year home. After Mr. Lake’s passing, his son David eventually chose to sell both cars.

In the hands of its current owner, YW 2557 was entrusted to Bentley specialist Richard Cresswell of VBE Restorations for a complete preservative restoration. During the restoration, certain key components were obtained for the car, including the factory racing sump off of Le Mans winner Old Mother Gun and a set of SU Slopers stamped “KM spare,” the racing team’s extra set of carburetors for YV 7263 or YW 2557.

Highlighting the success of the restoration is the surviving patina of the car. The 4½ Litre “Bobtail” retains its period-correct fabric covering. Bentley works-specific hardware, components and modifications are found throughout the entire car. For example, mounting brackets for the 1928 Le Mans third center headlamp remain on the front cross member.

Further inspection of the coachwork reveals the VDP number stamped in the original body. This Bentley is an absolute delight for those fascinated by industrial archeology.

A silver plate affixed to the bonnet recalls YW 2557’s phenomenal racing record. Accompanying the Bentley is a proper tool kit and handbook, the original radiator, original bellypans, and other bits from the most recent restoration work. Also of note is YW 2557’s presence in many highly regarded Vintage Bentley publications as well as numerous periodicals and BDC Review. It has even graced the cover of Hay’s Bentley Factory Cars 1919–1931.

Those fortunate enough to have driven a factory-works Bentley will note that the visceral experience is unlike any other pre-war sporting car. In comparison to a standard production chassis, the team cars have a momentous energy and lightness about them. It is widely known that a Vintage Bentley is exceptionally powerful, but the team cars further prove to be sensationally fast.

Of the Le Mans Works Team Cars, originally comprised of four 3 Litres, four 4½ Litres, three Speed Sixes and four Birkin “Blowers,” few remain in such a pure state. Inarguably some of the most important motorcars on the planet, the Bentley factory team cars rarely come to market. The majority of the surviving examples reside in some of the world’s greatest car collections. This 4½ Litre “Bobtail” is one of just two team cars to hold podium results at the period’s two major endurance races and, as one of the finest Bentleys in existence, without question presents an opportunity not to be missed.

This car is for sale as of July 9, 2012.

  Source: Gooding & Company
Updated: Jul 30, 2012
Posted: Jul 09, 2012
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Dorddogne, 2009

  Source: Flickr, photos posted by user 'Mic V'
Posted: Oct 13, 2010
June 2007
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These photographs were taken at the Brooklands 100th Anniversary in June 2007.

  Source: Jeremy Rippon
Posted: Mar 05, 2008
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BDC Concours, 2006

  Source: Russell Browne
Posted: Jul 05, 2013
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  Source: Passionnemans
Posted: Jan 19, 2009
In Wales in 2006 / Owned by a BDC member
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Christies auction, 2004.

Registration No. YW 2557 (U.K.)
Chassis No. KM 3088
Engine No. MF 3175

Engine: four cylinder, overhead valve, non-detachable cylinder head, 4,398cc, 110bhp at 3,500rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: front and rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs, with friction shock absorbers; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.

Coachwork: 'Bobtail' tourer, by Vanden Plas No. 1480, dark, British Racing, green with green leather interior

History of this car
Chassis KM 3088 was built by the Works between February and May 1928. Vanden Plas records confirm the order of a Le Mans Sports Racer body, as per Job 1477 (Birkin's car, Chassis No. KM 3077). By this they refer to the all new lightweight bodywork designed for Le Mans with cowled 25 gallon 'D' shaped tank sitting over the rear axle for improved handling. Behind the tank was an almost vertical rear-mounted spare wheel, which would cause the cars to be known as 'Bobtails'. Records state it was to be finished in Parson's Napier Green, with matching upholstery, though further details, which would have presumably been confidential, are not detailed. The body was invoiced at £215 to Bentley Motors, and completed on 28th May 1928.

Bentley's Factory build sheet confirms the original fitting of Engine No. MF 3175 to this chassis and that the car was sold to Sir Roland Gunter, being registered YW 2557.

For many years, it was thought that the racing debut of the car was in the Essex Six Hours race at Brooklands, a warm up race for Le Mans. Indeed this is even noted on a plate on the bonnet, but it is now known that the car was not ready by then, and that its first race was actually Le Mans 1928.

For the 1929 season at Brooklands, the ambitious Junior Car Club introduced the first ever 24 hour endurance race at the circuit. KM 3088, wearing Race number 6, was piloted by owner Sir Roland Gunter and S.C.H. 'Sammy' Davis. As Davis recounted in an article titled 'The Finest English race' in The Autocar 'No. 6 was in capital condition, just about ripe, that is, good for 4,000 rpm at need, and with heaps of brake adjustment in hand. It had run extraordinarily well….. it was as steady as a rock at 104-105mph, and one cautious experiment showed that it would go up to 107mph and even more, if required by the signals from the pit. For the first few laps of each day the cars were run cautiously until they were warm and then the race began in earnest. It was to be a fabulous duel between Ramponi in a 1750 Alfa Romeo and Davis in KM 3088. Not until they returned to the pits at the end of the race, did they find that the Alfa had won, by 200 yards an hour, or 0.003 on formula. A few weeks later KM 3088 would return to Le Mans to avenge its retirement the former year.

Le Mans 1929 -
This year Bentley fielded a team of no less than 5 Works entries, a fifth of the total accepted for the race. Our car YW 2557, and YV7263 were both conscripted owing to the new 'Blower' Bentleys not being ready, alongside YW 5758 driven by Clement and Chassagne, 'Old Mother Gun' YH 3196 driven by Kidston and Dunfee and they were joined by the new Speed Six, piloted by Barnato and Birkin. As the 24th hour reached its climax, the Bentleys patiently formed a processional 1-2-3-4 line up to finish. The Motor would recount 'Beautiful workmanship, magnificent driving and, above all, the most minute preparation enabled the Bentley team to pull off the double victory. For this year, not content with covering the biggest distance in the 24 hours, a Bentley also won the final of the race on a cylinder-capacity basis. Moreover on the score of distance, three other Bentleys were respectively second, third, fourth, and they finished together, crossing the finishing line like a squadron of battleships in 'line-ahead'. YW 2557's place in the line up, the most successful race ever for Bentley was a distinguished 3rd.

The 'Bobtail' was professionally and accurately restored by Elmdown Engineering in 1964, such that it is today in the exact configuration in which it contested and achieved its race placing at Le Mans. This extends from the seemingly ineffective 'eyebrow' wings to the cowled coachwork by which it earned its nickname. Numerous Le Mans details are evident from the front dumb-iron pillars on which weights could be added in place of the mechanic, to the adjuster in the cockpit, so that the brakes can be tightened on the move.

Today, the cosmetic aspect of the restoration has mellowed such that it is entirely sympathetic to the great 'war chariot' that the car once was, displaying a charming patina of age. Were one oblivious to the presence and competition styling of the car a discreet a silver plaque applied to the bonnet during this rebuild confirms its racing provenance.

In recent times an engine rebuild was entrusted to marque specialist Tony Fabian, and prior to the sale after a brief period of rest, the car has once again been returned to the road by Fabian.

Christie's staff had the benefit of road-testing the car during cataloguing and can confirm that it performs very well, with good brakes, and that its array of instrumentation from Jaeger RPM dial, Smiths MA fuel and oil pressure gauges, to 120 mph Jaeger speedometer, can be relied upon. It should be noted that the engine is presently running with Castrol 'R'.

In the words of Ray Roberts writing in Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys 'this is a very special car', having been cherished through almost all of its life. It is also a car which is very well-known and has been the subject of various features, from the Hay's excellent reference work The Factory Cars - 1919-1931, where it is illustrated on the cover, to probably the most famous painting of Vintage Le Mans, by Terence Cuneo.

The only 'Bobtail' Bentley to survive in its original form, YW 2557 contested Le Mans not once, but twice, and is one of only two Works Bentleys that also placed in both major endurance races of its day, the Double Twelve and Le Mans.

  Source: MotorSnippets
Posted: Feb 14, 2009
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Photograph was taken during the 2001 Brooklands Society Reunion.

  Source: The Brooklands Society
Posted: Aug 21, 2007
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The 1928 4½ Litre had raced in the 1928 event (Clement/Benjafield - retired), and in 1929 (d’Erlanger/Benjafield - 3rd overall) as a Works Car.

  Source: Classic Driver
Posted: Apr 30, 2007
October 1945
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Scan of the 1945 letter from Ian Metcalfe with regards to YW 2557

"I found a letter from Ian Metcalfe to my father John Hugenholtz (Holland) from October 1945. My father had seen the advertisement in Autocar and Metcalfe wrote to him saying the car was no longer available and with a new owner who was keen to keep the car. So Metcalfe was the seller or acting on behalf of the seller."

  Source: Hans Hugenholtz
Updated: Dec 15, 2017
Posted: Dec 07, 2017
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  Source: "Thoroughbred & Classic Cars" magazine, June 1982
Posted: Sep 13, 2008
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Photograph was taken for program for The Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute Show in Windsor Park.

  Source: The Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute program, May 7-8, 1977.
Posted: Dec 29, 2006
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W.D.S. Lake's 1928 Le mans 4½ team car

  Source: "Classic Car" magazine, August 1974
Posted: Jul 21, 2008
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  Source: "Motor Sport" magazine, February 1948 issue
Posted: Feb 08, 2007
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1929 J. C. C. Double Twelve Hour, Brooklands, 10-11 May. The Davis/Gunter Bentley followed by a Frazer Nash and a Riley on the turn on to the Outer Circuit.

  Source: From Article 'The 4½-litre Bentley', 1973
Posted: Jul 09, 2008
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  Source: From Article 'The 4½-litre Bentley', 1973
Posted: Jul 09, 2008
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1929: In the first 24 hours race at Brooklands the 4 Litre Bentley of S.C.H. Davis and Sir Ronald Gunter finished second. The race was run on two consecutive days to avoid night racing and was known as the Double Twelve.

  Source: "Queste" magazine, Bentley Special Issue, 1984
Posted: Feb 01, 2007
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Clement and W. O. Bentley in YW 2557 (No. 2).

  Source: Unknown
Posted: Dec 21, 2006
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Toujours au Mans en 1928, la seconde 4,5-litres d'usine (qui ne finira pas la course) passe devant la Lagonda de Samuelson.

  Source: Passionnemans
Posted: Jan 22, 2009

The car in above photograph has been identified as Chassis No. KM3088 by our reader Ernst Jan Krudop. Ernst's comment: "The Bobtail 4½" — May 13, 2009

Chassis No. KM3088
Engine No. MF3175
Registration No. YW 2557
Date of Delivery: Jun 1928
Type of Body: Le Mans Sports
Coachbuilder: Vanden Plas
Type of Car: No info
First Owner: Sir Ronald Gunter, Bt.
  More Info: According to original Vanden Plas Coachbuilder records, this car was originally fitted with Body No. 1480 with a Le Mans Sports/Racer; Napier Green; finished as per W. O. Bentley's instructions; 5/1928.

Team car driven by “Bobtail” Gunter.

Michael Hay, in his book Bentley: The Vintage Years, 1997, states: "Vanden Plas body no. 1480. 9/30 D box 7262 fitted. Accident 10/32 - new f/axle bed fitted. Rebuilt on new frame after 1928 season."
  Updated: Jul 05, 2007
Posted: Mar 01, 2007
Submit more information on this car
Jan 19, 2018 - Info and photograph added for Registration No. GU 858
Jan 18, 2018 - Info and photographs added for Registration No. GP 42
Jan 17, 2018 - Info and photograph added for Registration No. UV 3070

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