A local Wessex Area customer can claim to have been the first in a long line to order a Bentley motor car 100 years ago.
A 3-litre model with lightweight closed coupe coachwork and registered KS 1661 was the first Bentley model ordered by a customer in 1921. The happy recipient was wealthy racer Noel van Raalte whose family owned Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour.
Yet weirdly the car was not the first Bentley to be delivered to a customer. That honour goes to serial Bentley purchaser Ivor Llewellyn who bought chassis number three – which happily survives today – and it is the oldest surviving non-experimental Bentley in the world.
In a review of the 3-litre Bentley in the January 1920 issue of The Autocar the writer gushed – “ For the man who wants a true sporting type of light-bodied car for use on a Continental tour the three-litre Bentley is undoubtedly the car par excellence.” Lyrically adding, “Cars undoubtedly have a personality to the real enthusiast, to whom they are not mere collections of steel and aluminium, but, animal like, show their spirit just so soon as the clutch bites home and feeling comes to the driver through the narrow steering wheel rim.”
On collecting his Bentley van Raalte added his own radiant appraisal. “The reason I bought a Bentley was because of its exceptional performance in all respects of the road. Such features as steering, suspension, holding the road, brakes, change speed, and engine efficiency, leave nothing to be desired, and are, in my opinion, to be found to a higher degree in this make of car than any other of the many makes I have owned or used.”
One can only speculate about what those pioneering Bentley customers might have said about the current range of bespoke Bentley models and the outstanding worldwide sales success of the marque.
Right – Noel van Raalte looking suitably dashing, and below his brand new Bentley car