1926 Bentley 3 Litre Super Sport Pilots: J. D. Benjafield, S. Davis Team: Bentley Motors Ltd Race: 1st GC (S3.0 class) at Le Mans in 1927 Ixo - LM 1927 (diecast)
The 3 Litre was Bentley’s first chassis. Developed in 1919, it became available to customers in 1921, and production finished in 1929. Bentley produced a total of 1622 cars, in various configurations. Back then, the customer bought the engine, drivetrain, suspension and chassis, and then had a coachbuilder build the body. Therefore, it was almost impossible to find two cars that looked alike. The engine was an inline-4 with SOHC and 16 valves, displacing 2996 cm³. It also counted on twin spark plugs per cylinder and twin magnetos. The 3 Litre was a huge car, much bigger than its competition. To the point that Ettore Bugatti reportedly called it “the fastest lorry in the world.”
After the win at Le Mans in 1924, Bentley’s cars were totally out of luck in 1925 and 1926. Even though having a factory team, on both years no Bentley finished the race. One of the 1926 cars was a 3 Litre Sport, with coachwork by Vander Plas Tourer. This car, chassis #LM1344, sported #7 during the race. While in third place, it crashed just 20 minutes before the finish line. After the crash it was repaired and upgraded to Super Sport specs, and received the nickname of “Old Number 7”.
The following year Old Number 7 was back to La Sarthe. Piloted by Joseph Dudley Benjafield and Sammy Davis, this time it sported #3. It was part of Bentley’s factory team, together with a 4.5 Litre and another 3 Litre Super Sport. Moreover, to complicate things, for the 1927 race regulations got even tighter. According to the rules, repairs could only be done by the pilots with spares that were in the car. Only 22 cars started the race, and from the start it was a Bentley parade. However, in the beginning of the night, a huge crash occurs at Maison Blanche.
The crash took out two of the Bentleys, and the Super Sport #3 barely escaped. However, the damage was extensive – cracked chassis, bent steering and bent suspension. Benjafield and Davis themselves fixed what they could, and soldiered on. By noon on Sunday they were four laps behind the lead car, but a cracked distributor took out the leader. With that they inherited the lead and limped to victory.
This was Bentley’s most dramatic win at La Sarthe, the stuff of motorsports legend. Therefore, to have this model in a Le Mans collection is a privilege. Basically, “a clunker by Ixo”, and like other Ixo models of the era, a fairly nice one. But my Super Sport #3 has a little extra – it has a bent chassis. No, honestly, I kid you not. If you look closely at the photos you will see that the left front wheel floats above the pavement. So either Ixo is really committed to making a very accurate model in scale or my model is defective. Either way, I l-o-v-e it 🙂