1955 BENSPORT LA SARTHE Registration Number: PXL 965 Chassi...



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Registration Number: PXL 965
Chassis Number: B44ZY
Recorded Mileage: 400 test miles

- The Bensport factory demonstrator
- The last of four production chassis
- A tantalising expression of Bentley’s 1950s racing aspirations
- Original engine uprated 4.9 litre specification

Following Bentley’s domination at Le Mans in the late 1920s, after Rolls-Royce’s takeover in 1931 the firm instead focused on developing its reputation for producing fine “Silent Sports Cars”. Later in the decade its art-deco inspired coachwork gave way to cutting edge aerodynamic design with the Georges Paulin-designed, Vanvooren-built Corniche prototype of 1939.

In parallel there was the Embiricos Special, a famous coachbuilt Bentley named after businessman and racer Andreas Embiricos. Commissioned in 1938 and based on the Bentley 4¼-litre chassis, the Special was fitted with a streamlined aluminium coupe body designed again by Paulin and built by Pourtout of Paris. The Embiricos was both beautiful, and surprisingly competitive at Le Mans in the early post-war years.

Although the original Corniche was lost during the outbreak of World War II, when peace broke out thoughts returned to developing a high-speed continental touring car. The Corniche II of 1951 was an internal proposal for a high-speed development of the previous pre-war Corniche prototype. The intention would be a new high performance Bentley road car built by coachbuilders H.J. Mulliner, which in reality became the new Bentley R-Type Continental of 1952. The R-Type Continental was “a car which would not only look beautiful but possess a high maximum speed,coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling and roadability.” Designed as a car combining high-speed touring capability with well-spaced gear changes for city driving, the Continental was arguably the world’s first true “GT” car.

However a return to racing was never considered by the factory. Yet the post war Crewe product was far stronger than the pre-war Derby cars, which themselves had put up spirited performances at Le Mans. So “what if” the senior management at Crewe had considered the possibility of continuing the Bentley heritage, and built a racer? The tantalising prospect of a post-war racing Bentley inspired Bensport to consider how such a car would appear in the metal. The founder of Bensport, Bob Perry, took the “what if” and for the fun of the project came up with La Sarthe. After a great amount of development work the prototype car was launched to acclaim in 2014 at the Techno Classica show in Essen.

Each La Sarthe is a genuine period Bentley R-Type, retaining its original chassis, engine and drivetrain, mated to a lightweight, hand-formed aluminium two-seat fastback body. Every mechanical component of the original car, to its last bolt, is stripped and then rebuilt. The leaf springs are retempered, and front springs specifically designed and produced to give the correct height, with a firmer yet comfortable ride to match the sporting concept.

A special stainless-steel exhaust system is fitted, and cooling is assisted by a more efficient, aluminium radiator with a thermostatically controlled electric cooling fan. A completely new bespoke wiring loom is fitted with all circuits individually fused and relay operated, all hidden out of sight. The rear axle ratio is altered (via a “Continental” 3.07:1 differential) to deliver steady motorway cruising speeds all day long. All major mechanical components on this car are either standard or potentially available period modifications, with subtle nods to modern requirements in terms of comfort and usability.

The original engine is fully crack and pressure tested prior to a total rebuild to 4.9 litre specification, replacing all parts liable to wear with new high quality components. A full specification of the engine rebuild is available upon request. Driving comfort is greatly enhanced by the addition of EZ power steering, coupled with lightweight aluminium coachwork and uprated suspension. The original, fully specialist rebuilt, four speed automatic gearbox also adds to the ease of driving under modern road conditions, and all combine to provide a fine driving experience for a near sixty year old motor car. Alternator charging is fitted to satisfy the demands of the modern electrical system, which includes power steering, modern air-conditioning (by compressor driven from the engine), electric windows, electronic instruments, and a heated rear window.

The external appearance of the fast back coupe body is a matter of personal taste but has received much admiration wherever presented for its curvaceous flowing lines. The interior is a delight; bespoke reclining sports seats trimmed in supple hides, matched to leather door cards, quarter panels and dash top, and the finest wood veneer dash and door cappings.

This car, the final of four La Sarthe produced, has been retained since its completion as a factory demonstrator and test car. A highly exclusive, thoughtfully designed motor car built to the highest standards, La Sarthe represents a vision of what Bentley at Le Mans could have been, and the world is a much better place for it.


Auction Date: 11th Mar 2023 at 2pm

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Sale Dates:
11th Mar 2023 2pm (Lots 1 to 42)