1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sports Coupe Cabriolet

A one-off, bespoke “boattail” design by Barker

Only 100 examples of the 8-Litre Bentley were produced before the original Bentley company went bankrupt. If the company had been in better financial health, the story might have been different. Priced at £1,850, the 8-Litre Bentley directly competed with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II and boasted superior performance.

The contemporary motoring press praised the model, which debuted at the 1930 London Motor Show as the largest-engined and arguably fastest car in the UK. Bentley’s advertisements claimed it could reach 100 mph silently, a claim substantiated by tests even with heavy coachwork. W. O. Bentley himself declared his ambition to create a silent 100 mph car was realized with this model.

The 8-Litre represented an evolutionary step for Bentley, combining features of the 6½-Litre model with new engineering advancements. Instead of extracting more power from the 6½-Litre engine, W. O. Bentley preferred enlarging it, increasing the bore size from 100 to 110mm.

The engine followed Bentley’s usual practices, but the F-type gearbox was a radical departure, designed to handle the increased power and ensure silence. The new double-drop chassis frame, available in 12 or 13ft wheelbases, lowered the center of gravity and increased rigidity. Enhanced suspension, steering, and braking systems contributed to the smoothness, stability, and safety of the 8-Litre, a car capable of reaching three-figure speeds

Photos by Simon Clay courtesy of RM Sotheby’s