Bill Boddy



A loyal aficionado of Bentleys

In view of Motor Sport‘s forthcoming eightieth anniversary it maybe of interest to consider the cars of T G Moore, one-time owner of this title. He came from a wealthy family with property in the Isle of Man and New Zealand, and acquired the magazine in the late 1920s. He owned Bentleys from the vintage days, probably while still at Oxford. His first, acquired in 1927, was a 3-litre with 9ft 9-1/4in wheelbase and Vanden Plas four-seater body which had been fitted by Bentley and exhibited at the Olympia Show the previous year. It had an A-type gearbox and 14/53 back axle, and was registered YE 812 (chassis LT 1593).

His first run in it was from London to Liverpool, no doubt to catch a boat to the IoM. He admitted to having used the gearbox roughly, which resulted in a drive to Cricklewood in third to have a new ‘box fitted in a day. It was back there again in February to have the chassis straightened after an accident. In March, a close-ratio C-type gearbox was fitted. In May, the Bentley was at the factory again, for a new back spring after another accident. That June, new valve springs, con-rods and piston rings were fitted. There was another accident in November, and the chassis had to be “reconditioned”. It may have been due to this that the 3-litre was part-exchanged at Jack Withers for a 4 1/2-litre Bentley.

Earlier in ’27, TGM drove the 3-litre in the Ewelme Down Inter-Varsity hillclimb when it clocked a mere 60sec, against 46.1sec by the class winning 30/98, excused by unsuitable gearing, which may be why the C-type box was ordered.

There were other problems early on, including broken valve springs, due to the car having duralumin valve rockers. Moore’s were replaced with the steel rockers, causing him to remark that when you buy a Bentley you buy the works for five years (the extent of the guarantee).

Up to WWII, YE 812 had four owners after Moore disposed of it. During those years, apart from accident damage, the car had required new pistons, and another A-type gearbox was installed. By 1928 a decoke, eight new valves and a new starter were required. Bentley Motors then chromed the radiator, fitted reconditioned SUs, put in a C-type gearbox and relined the brakes. Later the radiator was re-nickelled, and a clutch liner and four new valves were needed.

Moore’s 4 1/2-litre, YU 3243, was much like the 3-litre. It had a similar VdP body with rather more room for back-seat occupants and was on semi-balloon tyres, so had lower-geared steering. TGM had had a trial run before buying the car. At first he was afraid he had exchanged a sportscar for a tourer, but he soon got accustomed to the greater flexibility of the big engine, and the good top-gear performance.

Very soon the magneto cross-shaft seized up, and Bosch magnetos replaced the older ones. Cricklewood did the job between a Saturday evening and Sunday morning, free of charge. Just run-in, the 4 1/2 was entered for the 1928 Inter-Varsity hill-climb, again at Ewelme Down, over a 1krn course. Moore won the touring-car class and was third in the unlimited class, beaten by two supercharged Amilcars. He had a busy day, also riding his 500cc Rudge sidecar outfit to second place.

The Bentley was then shipped to New Zealand. It cruised at 85mph on the gravel roads and did 100mph on Tarmac, but the stony tracks twice holed the petrol tank and once flattened the exhaust pipe. After 5,000 miles of colonial motoring the car was brought back to England and sent to the works for its first decoke in 18,000 miles. Down a long hill, by exceeding the engine speed by 600rpm, 108mph was achieved, but a valve touched a piston, doing “a little internal bother”. Satisfied with this Bentley, on which the only extra was a £10 thermostat, Tom Moore heard rumours of a blower 4 1/2. He took delivery of one in April 1931.

Apart from his Bentleys, Tom Moore raced a Frazer Nash at Brooklands and took part in the Monte Carlo Rally in an AC, a Talbot 90 and a 4 1/2-litre Lagonda. He also had a much-liked 2 1/2-litre Riley RM coupe. In later years, he and his son kept their interest alive with a GP Bugatti, a Type 44 saloon, a Brescia and a 319 Type 55 BMW. TGM died in 1975.

Another side of W Bentley

Over Christmas I read Malcolm Bobbitt’s W Bentley, The Man Behind The Marque. For those who do not have any of the many Bentley books, or W O’s autobiography, Bobbitt’s nicely produced book is the answer, because it very comprehensively records it all, from W O’s birth to the R-R takeover of his company, and his work for Lagonda, etc.

There is some new information covering finance, personalities, the racing and the hotels where W stayed for races, etc. Details of W O’s divorce cases are divulged, which may come as a shock to those who thought of W as such a quiet, shy, gentlemanly man.

The book has good, but mostly ‘previous’, photos, but a nice touch is that two show premises with Bentley associations as they are now.

But all this is marred by some errors. The first 100-miles-in-the-hour was by a pre-STD Talbot, not a Sunbeam, and Zborowski is spelt incorrectly. Also I find it hard to believe that wartime Tangmere aerodrome “had a track on a par with Brooklands” or that Dr Benjafield, after a demonstration by Kensington Moir in Bentley EX-2, which he bought and soon won a race with, lapping at over 97mph, got out “trembling like a leaf and utterly frightened” — but I admit I wasn’t there. The 3 1/2-litre Derby Bentley was followed by the 4 1/4-litre, not a 4 1/2-litre, a picture of a blower 4 1/2 is misleadingly captioned, the BDC is practically ignored, Kidston was killed flying a Puss Moth, not a Tiger Moth, Royce got a 1914 GP Mercedes to inspect in 1914, not 1915, and so on.

Bugatti queen: car smuggler

In The Bugatti Queen, which I reviewed last month, its author Miranda Seymour gives a compelling description of life in Europe before and during the war. She also mentions that in 1936 some of the well-known drivers, including Miss Hellé Nice, were accused of smuggling cars out of Italy into France to avoid import duty. One wonders if some of these were Monza Alfa Romeos, from the Ferrari factory, and whether Alfa historians would care to speculate about which amateur drivers, aware or otherwise, may have benefitted?

Apparently those taken to court and heavily fined included Etancelin, Sommer, Brunet, Falchetto and Hellé Nice. Lehoux was on the list but was killed in the Deauville GP before the case was heard. The authorities based their evidence on the exceptional number of journeys between France and Italy that had been made, with Hellé Nice making at least 20.