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1913 DFP 10/12hp Special Sports Coachwork by R Harrison & Son Registration no. LT 6625 Chassis no. M2217 Engine no. 299

Sold for £46,000 inc. premium
Lot 30
1913 DFP 10/12hp Special Sports
Coachwork by R Harrison & Son Registration no. LT 6625 Chassis no. M2217 Engine no. 299

1913 DFP 10/12hp Special Sports
Coachwork by R Harrison & Son

Registration no. LT 6625
Chassis no. M2217
Engine no. 299

*Oldest car in the world carrying a 'Bentley' name plate
*Only 'Brass Age' car with a Bentley plate
*Bentley Motors' runabout in the 1920s
*Attended Bentley Motors' first entry at Le Mans in 1923
*Purchased and restored by the Montagu Motor Museum in the 1950s


Walter Owen (WO) Bentley began his automotive career in 1912 when he and 
his brother Horace (HM) bought the concession to finish and sell DFP cars. As 
WO says in his autobiography, he was sure they could do a better job of selling 
DFPs than the existing concessionaires.'I was completely confident that this sporty little well made French car could be 
sold in good numbers if it was only given a chance. The DFPs were excellent , 
reliable vehicles possessing that indefinable quality that makes certain cars 
a pleasure to drive and always feel just right. The steering and road 
holding were first class and they were ruggedly built to stand up to the harsh 
treatment Frenchmen give their cars.'

The DFP chassis, complete with engines, were imported from Doriot, Flandrin 
et Parant of Courbevoie, Paris; bodies were then fitted by Harrison's of 
London and the cars trimmed by JH Easter and Co. WO and HM named their 
company 'Bentley and Bentley', and while Horace ran the sales side of the 
business, WO quickly set about modifying and tuning the cars with a view to 
entering competitive events as the best way of generating publicity.
Wherever WO competed with the DFP, he was remarkably successful: in hill 
climbs, setting speed records, (89.97mph in February 1914 at Brooklands) or racing, 
achieving 6th place in the 1914 Isle of Man TT out of 23 starters, all the rest of which 
had engines of over 3 litres.

One of WO's key modifications to gain more power was the innovative use of aluminium alloy pistons (88% aluminium and 12% copper). WO got the inspiration from a decorative aluminium paperweight piston he saw on Monsieur Doriot's desk, which Doriot said would never work in an engine. Nevertheless, Bentley and Bentley 'became the first firm to use successfully aluminium pistons as standard equipment, the performance from which puzzled many of our competitors and gave us a tremendous advantage. I never understood why our secret never leaked out.'

By the summer of 1914, Bentley and Bentley were reaping the rewards of their 
hard work and competition success. Demand for the DFPs was soaring, but it 
all became meaningless with the outbreak of war in August, as WO now 
immersed himself in war work on aero engines, with aluminium pistons of 
course. The success of Bentley and Bentley in modifying and selling DFPs had been sadly interrupted, but the three years experience was an important introduction 
to the motor industry for WO. After the war, DFPs were sold again by Bentley 
and Bentley, but this time as an important source of revenue for launching WO's 
own-design Bentley 3-Litre.

The 10/12hp Special two-seater was the smaller of the cars that Bentley and Bentley sold. The example offered here - 'LT 6625' - was never used competitively as far as is known but has its own remarkable history. From an interview with Joby Bowles, a mechanic at Bentley Motors in the 1920s, conducted in 1985 by David Burgess-Wise, we know that this car was owned and used by Bentley Motors as a runabout. Joby commented that apart from having a note of the DFP's registration in his notebook, 'the car is easy to recognise as the badge on the radiator is chipped where it was driven into a vice on a workbench at Bentley Motors.' He goes on to tell the story 
of how he and a mechanic friend used the car to attend the first Le Mans event for Bentley in 1923 when John Duff, a former DFP owner, finished in 4th place. He went on to win the following year.

'LT 6625' next surfaces in the early 1950s when it was purchased by the Montagu 
Motor Museum and restored by them in a contemporary '50s colour of peppermint green. Not surprisingly, it featured in many books on Veteran and Vintage cars photographed at Beaulieu at the time. In 1968, Lord Montagu held a party for WO on his 80th birthday and photographed him at the wheel of 'LT 6625'. This would seem to support the conclusion that no other DFPs were available. As AFC Hillstead, Bentley and Bentley's sales manager, said in an article in 'Veteran and Vintage': 'Where have all the DFPs gone?'

Sensibly and sympathetically maintained, this DFP was used throughout the 
intervening years while in the ownership of Alys and Jack Woolley (President of the VCC), during which was campaigned on lengthy tours through France each summer. In more recent times the engine was rebuilt by the well respected South Cerney Engineering, while the provision of a Dynostart ensures first-time starting at the touch of a button. Reflecting W O's original comments on DFPs, the car is said to be a delight to drive, with an easy three-speed gearbox, precise light steering, effective brakes and an excellent turn of speed. A very pretty 'Brass Age' car in lovely original condition, 'LT 6625' was displayed at the BDC Concours in 2014 to celebrate its 100th birthday and WO Bentley's achievements of 1914.

Used recently for VCC events, this unique DFP would make a wonderful addition to any collection of Bentleys, being the only known surviving 'Brass Age' ancestor of this famous marque.

Saleroom notices

Please note Jack Woolley was not a past president of the VCC. This is just one of six listed DFPs in the VCC list of cars.

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  • 19 March 2016, 09:00 - 17:30 GMT

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