Silverstone Auctions launch a new sale, 'The Dawn of Motoring'
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Silverstone Auctions launch a new sale, 'The Dawn of Motoring'
A 1931 Bentley -litre Tourer delivered new to the Duke of Leinster. Estimate: £600,000 - £800,000.

LONDON.- This fantastic, matching numbers, Bentley 8-litre was delivered new to the Duke of Leinster and was extensively rallied by the late owner. Its guide price is: £600,000 - £800,000. It comes to sale from a family that has owned it for 35 years to a new sale The Dawn Of Motoring Sale on 5th August.

Rob Hubbard, Sales Director of Silverstone Auctions, comments: “We are delighted to present an entirely new auction to our sales calendar. The Dawn of Motoring Auction will feature select items of memorabilia along with pre-war motor cars and motorcycles celebrating the earliest years of engineering development through to stunning Art Deco styling of the 1930s and 40s. Timed to coincide with the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Prescott Hillclimb weekend, the largest gathering of Vintage and Post Vintage Thoroughbred cars in the world. Entries for the auction are limited, so please do get in touch with the specialist team and be part of this exciting new auction.”

Introduced at the London Motor Show in 1930, the Bentley 8-Litre made an immediate impact, as the supercar of its day. While the engine was an extension of the successful 6.5-litre Speed Six that powered Bentleys to numerous race victories, the 8-Litre was intended to knock Rolls-Royce from its pedestal.

Capable of 100 mph plus it impressed the automotive press of the era, with the Sphere of 1931 describing the new 8-Litre as ‘one of the finest examples of British automobile engineering that has ever been produced’.

Regardless of expense and engineered to the highest standards, no detail was overlooked. For example, the exhaust pipe was asbestos-lagged, encased in aluminium to reduce resonance, then coupled with a 20-gallon silencer. The resulting exhaust note is pure joy to the Bentley faithful. The starter was designed to engage with surgical precision via a unique solenoid design, meshing with the flywheel before rotation begins.

After Bentley had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and retired from racing, they released their largest model called simply the 8-Litre. Around 100 examples were made and they all featured custom coachwork, mainly from the firms in England.

A 1930 edition of Autocar described how smooth the 8-Litre was: “this car can be driven really softly on its high top gear, as slowly as a man walks, and can accelerate from that without snatch and without difficulty, and the whole time the engine, being well within its power, is silent and smooth. In fact, it is only rarely apparent that there is a big engine working under the bonnet at all, and that so high a top ratio is used, when the machine is accelerated from a crawl. For all practical purposes, therefore, the machine does its work on the one gear…”

All the great English coachbuilders got a chance to body the 8-Litre including Corsica, Vanden Plas, Barker and Gurney Nutting. Of the 100 or so chassis that were built less than 20 were convertibles.

Unfortunately the released of the 8-Litre at the 1930 London Motor Show was bad timing. The Great Depression was taking its toll on luxury cars and Bentley was in a very tight financial situation. Remarkably they managed to produce 100 example of the 8-Litre before reality sunk in. Verging on bankruptcy and were bought out by rival Rolls-Royce. Afterward, the new owners had Bentley focus on entry level luxury.

The car’s first owner was the seventh Duke of Leinster, Edward FitzGerald, of Ireland's premier aristocratic family.

In the space of just 70 years, the Dukes of Leinster fell from being Ireland's leading aristocratic family, close friends of the British monarchy, secure within the world's most powerful empire, to relative obscurity in an independent Ireland that did not recognise titles.

Edward FitzGerald, the seventh Duke, lost the family seat, Carton House and ended up in a one-room Westminster flat where he died in 1976.

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