1931 Bentley 8 Litre Coupé by Freestone & Webb
The supercar of its day, this concours-winning 8 Litre Bentley is arrestingly gorgeous and outstandingly original – retaining her sporting coupé coachwork by Freestone & Webb and offered in impeccable condition, she is the ultimate example of the ultimate in Bentley engineering.
First delivered to G.J. Smart in June 1931 and registered JN1333, chassis YF5021 was built on the shorter 12’ wheelbase, featuring striking Freestone & Webb coupé coachwork with menacingly low roofline that was likely a custom order. Reputedly acquired with winnings from the Calcutta Sweepstakes, this was the 21st of only 100 8 Litre Bentleys constructed. Capable of a genuine and remarkably silent 100 m.p.h., Autocar’s verdict was that the 8 Litre represented “motoring in its very highest form,” and W.O. simply said that it was “the best car we ever made.”
Second owner F. Wilcock, a director of the Century Insurance Company acquired YF5021 in 1933 beginning a family Bentley tradition. Remarkable period photos show the family touring with the car, and in true Insurance Broker form, there are more photos of the transport of the car (on a crane being loaded onto a boat and on the runway with an open- nosed plane) than the family! An incident with Wilcock’s chauffeur necessitated factory repairs in 1936, but after completion a further incident apparently at 100 mph when on-test with Bentley’s Tom Williams (Chief of Test) necessitated yet another factory rebuild – an apologetic Bentley arranged the loan of a Phantom II as an act of contrition, and Wilcock on being informed apparently remarked that his insurance employer would be calling for his resignation.
Sold on pre-war, after other recorded ownerships she was repurchased in 1966 by Michael Wilcock, son of her second owner, entering a 36-year ownership. Wilcock had acquired Supermarine Spitfire SL721 from the Air Ministry in 1955, and to win back his father’s Bentley traded the aircraft displayed at Beaulieu to the 8 Litre’s then-owner Monty Thackray. Active in the Bentley Driver’s Club, photos show competition at Brighton Speed Trials and records show Wilcock set a flying kilometre of 108.2 mph aboard YF5021 at the 1968 Ghent Speed Trials. Admired even at this early date, she was present at a gathering to celebrate W.O. Bentley’s 80th birthday, and won Best Vintage Saloon at the BDC Kensington Gardens Concours in 1968. Later Wilcock moved to Jersey, establishing a motor museum featuring the 8 Litre
In 2002 YF5021 was acquired from Wilcock by the renowned collector Hubert Fabri, who enjoyed her with great passion. Kept near Fiskens in Queen’s Gate Place Mews, Fabri made long-distance sorties to racing engagements across England, and further afield to Spa and France. Among works in this period, she was repainted from green to black, the alluring helmet-type wings originally specified were painstakingly recreated, and the drivetrain prepared with a view to regular use. In a letter on file Fabri expresses delight and great reluctance to part with her, saying the profile reminded him of Cruella De Vil’s chariot in 101 Dalmations – long, low and mean!
Acquired in 2014 by another world-class collector, under current ownership this 8 Litre has won pre-war Best of Show Concours d’Etat at the 2019 Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille, the clear favourite in an outstanding field in the shadow of the fabulous Château just north of Paris. She was also a nominee for the following year’s prestigious Peninsula Classic Best of the Best, an honour only open to world class best of show winners from major concours.
With its dramatic original coachwork, original leather interior, and offered in outstanding concours condition, this is the last word in 8 Litre Bentleys – the ultimate example of W.O. Bentley’s ultimate creation, his locomotive for the road. Suitable for effortless fast touring as originally intended, and for the world’s greatest concours events.