THAT 8-LITRE AGAIN ANOTHER RUN IN FORREST LYCETT’S FAMOUS BENTLEY. 125 m.p.h. ON THE ROAD AND A CRUISING SPEED OF 100 m.p.h.
THE inviiiititpli to go out in Forrest 1,yeet Fs 8-litre Bentley last month, before the famous car is stored for an indefinite period in some warm, safe garage, was accepted with as much keen anticipation as if we had never been in the car before, for motoring of this calibre is quite unique, zind particularly so in these disturbed tinics. The 8-litre is accepted in most circles as the highestperformance road car in existence, and even those who should know it better iim heard to express the opinion that it is a very considerably hotted-up version of the Bentley marque. Before writing in terms of performance, it may be as well to dispel this illusion. In sober fact, Lyeett evolved, and McKenzie created, this astonishing motor-car by taking an __ 8-litre Bentley engine, installing it in the ? I rt. chassis frame which used to house the push-rod o.h.v. 4-litre RicardoBentley engine, and then reducing the wcight of the complete car as thoroughly as iaissible, by the use of aeroplane alloys and pared-down Riendicrs, 1111th. in all, 487 lbs. had come off the original figure. The engine alterations virtually stop short at McKenzie-design pistons weighing 8 ozs. less than standard, triple S.U. carburetters. the raising of the aimpression-ralio to nd her more than 7 to 1, and mild port polishing. The weight reduction was assisted by the removal of the old brake vaeuune-servo mechanism, the utilisation of new, steel-lined R.R. alloy brake drums, and the fitting of a two-seater body weighing only about: one hundredweight. There are some especially interesting technicalities, but repeated requests have at last worn down Mr. Lyeet Cs modesty to the point of promising es an article from his own pen on this subject, so we can dismiss these for the present, merely mentioning that a very light exhaust system. a new gearbox placed farther back and taking as its rear mounting the cri)ss-inctriber on which the rear springs pivot, and a selection of rear axle iatios, comprise the recipe for performance which enables the Bentley not only to out-run every other road car, but to take international sprint records and to perform brilliantly in sprint, events, while being in every sense of the word a road-worthy, every day car. In ease a it description of its abilities is inadequate proof of its manner of going, the list of records proudly carried on its bonnet is worth quoting the Class 13 standing kilo. and mile records at 81.5 m.p.h. and 92.9 m.p.h. respectively. and the Bright on, Lewes, and Shelsley Walsh class records, that of the Sussex venue in the remarkable time of 20.17 secs. These records gain much when you reflect that the 8-litre, has always arrived by road at I he venue and even at Brooklands was only stripped of the road evtipment. She keeps to the same K.L.G. plugs always, even across London, and her owner is warm in his praise of ” Mr. Guinness,” which was found good. in the brand used, for the HassanSpecial and forthwith adopted for the 8-litre. If a further tribute were needed to the ” everyday ” aspect of this car. what more appropriate than that our war-time acquaintance with it should coin en le with the first really cold day of winter, so that the Editorial hands early lost contact with the Gwynnc’s steering ‘Wheel and quite appreciable waterways along the route to Henley were noted to be frozen up ? Certainly, Lyeett’s man-servant and the standard Bosch starter (which, however, takes 10 volts front the two 12 volt batteries for just such an emergency as this) together, had to work hard for some time, hut ()nee started—when she fired :t rag round the central carburetter as evidence of her spirit—the Bentley pulled at once without protest. and thereafter started on the button every time. For a while the oil pressure sat off the seale, but it was notable that the engine can be opened up ere it drops to the to urinal reading of 40 lbs. per square inch idling. or over 60 lbs. at speed. Lycett never opens up in towns or does anything to draw attention to the car, which still gets ample acknowledgment from the world outside–his method of driving makes a noisy exhaust and dashing driving in built-up areas appear as prett y as, in fact, they are. Once past t fit de-restriction sign it is quite another story ! To say the speedometer indicates high speeds almost at once is but half the truth. Almost everywhere you arc above 90 m.p.h„ and on the shortest clear stretches of secondary road op to 100-110 m.p.h. is usual. You sit spellbound for a while enjoying every moment of it. until suddenly the nature of the thing comes home to you. Here you are, doing racing speeds, with left hand in your lap, right arm just draped over the tail, hatless, without goggles, yet never once have you left the seat and the square aero-screen offers most reasonable pro tection. The Bentley is, in fact, unexpectedly comfortable ; a pity, that the human nose alone proves ill-designed
for this kind of thing and must needs protest . . . .
Study of the dials—the neat facia is not crowded, carrying only the speedometer, rev.-counter, water thermometer, air gauge, fuel gauge and oil gauge— reveals that to achieve and kill such speeds along narrow, winding roads, Lyeett must be making quite good use of the gearbox. Yet only the subdued gear noise and the movement of his clutch foot show that a change has been effected, for the right-hand outside gearlever is invisible to the passenger and the changes go through very rapidly indeed. The engine note changes, but not appreciably, and the rev, counter needle does not chase madly round the dial; indeed, changes of ratio go largely unnoticed, which, on what is not by any means a simple box at speeds over 80 M.p.h., is something to remark on. Do so to the driver and he passes it Off by saying the engine makes it easy because it responds so nicely . . . . Since we last went out on the road in this car over two years ago it has been lightened and appreciably lowered. Very soon it was evident that not only has this materially improved the road-clinging qualities, but that speeds of over 100 m.p.h. are reached more frequently than before. It can be said that where the car would before have been going up from 80 to 05 or so before shutting off, it is now cruising at 90 and getting 105 or more under the same conditions. Indeed, 100 m.p.h. can be said to be the cruising speed on all but very twisting roads, albeit speed varies more, and much more frequently, than is the case when cruising at lower ” fast” speeds. In all truth, the number of times the Bentley gets up to 110 m.p.h. before the open road is reached is quite as unique as its ultimate maximum. The roadholding is another surpiise. Not only is the car as a whole very stiff, but tail sliding is entirely absent, even when it is placed quickly into the gutter at upwards of 90 m.p.h., because an approaching fug-box wallah is too pig-headed or too ill-acquainted with fast cars to see the need to provide those valuable extra inches. Appreciable open bends can be taken at near 100 m.p.h. and the above holds true. Power slides are, of course, a different story, and up a certain Berkshire imitation of Shelsley Walsh this was exhilaratingly evident, and, incidentally, up that long bill between Oxford and High Wycombe, when it was necessary to brake heavily from 80 or so before each corner I But in cornering, as such, the 8-litre is entirely stable, although it likes as much room as can be given it on long, really fast bends, and the steering is heavy. At low speeds up-and-down motion is evident, and the writer sees no reason why a modern sponginess. should be preferable. Couple
such road-holding with really powerful brakes and there is nothing startling about this purely exceptional mode of motoring, especially as Lycett invariably cuts out before, and not after, his passenger has subconsciously done so. No one appreciates more than he does the immense job the brakes are called upon to do, but he also shows a complete understanding and confidence in his car in the manner in which he uses the accelerative qualities to pass slower vehicles. One piece of passing in second gear in the close proximity of oncoming traffic was especially joyous ! This acceleration of the 8-litre is something about which it is not easy to write, there being no standards of comparison, so we will say that it is in the order of 0-100 m.p.h. in 23 secs. and leave it at that. The special sliding throttles in the S.U. carburetters which permit of up to 70 m.p.h. on what is virtually the pilot feed, undoubtedly assist, and up to about 80 the Bentley is, as someone has said, just a “gentleman’s car.” After that the slightly deeper exhaust note, the chatter of third, and the just noticeable tendency of the lazily heaving chassis to at last exhibit a little more concern, bring the Bentley alive. When the spring steering-wheel really begins to dance in Lyeett’a grip—column movement is relatively small—and the wind-howl rises to a roar, then do you know that 100 m.p.h. has been reached— another writer said so quickly that ordinary ears appear to be stationary ; they could be said to seem to go backwards and still you wouldn’t be guilty of journalese. On the run in question the 2.6 to 1 top gear ratio, with which the Brooklands records were taken, was in use, in conjunction with 7.00″ x 17″ rear covers; the tyres are Dunlop “Racing.” A maximum of 3,000 r.p.m. was not exceeded, either in top or in the gears. Along the Oxford By-Pass the speedometer needle left the scale, which ends at 130 m.p.h., quite appreciably and, as it reads 5 per cent. fast with the tyres now in use, that was something like 125 m.p.h. On more than one occasion 120 m.p.h. was reached. In spite of the fact that it was virtually without a silencing system, the big engine is not at all noisy, although the occasional explosions, due to the effect of the change to slow-running mixture at what are quite high road speeds, are now more accentuated than formerly. The gear noise l also qi ite moderate, although third is more evident than with the standard Bentley box. The temperature was apt to rise above 90° C. until some of the radiator blanking was cut down, and went up to this figure after a spell of really fierce handling, but the normal figure is 81° C. The ammeter shows a steady charge and air pressure is kept at 2:4 lbs. per square inch by the small hand pump below and to the left of the steering wheel. In town the engine ran happily at less than 900 r.p.m. in top gear, helped out only occasionally by a little clutch slipping, and the lower gears go in as rapidly at low speeds as at high. It is interesting how much protection the light two-seater body gives ; the cockpit keeps quite cool, the bucket seats are rigid and Com
fortable, and there is a rail-type step on the passenger’s side. Both wings are visible. There is lots of storage space behind in the tail, beneath a tonneau Over, and the huge fuel tank, actually a very light aeroplane oil tank, lives below the tail fairing. The wings are entirely in keeping with the Car, as is the single badge—that of the B.A.R.C. For prolonged motoring a full width screen, with wipers, is fitted. Even where the 8-litre is concerned we cannot forget the war. Lyeett was very kindly giving us the benefit of almost the last of his pre-war stock of Discol. This is combined wi th ” Pool ” from a separate tank as on ” Pot)). ” the engine ” pinks ” and falls off noticeably in performance. The plot up to the present is to go over to ” Pool ” on level and downhill going, bringing Discol in in ample time for the three big float-chamhers to refill before real performance i s turned on. The consumption is really very good-13-14 m.p.g. To immobilize the car the gearlever is padlocked in reverse. The fuel filler also bears a padlock these (lays. Every good thing must end some time. so we came hcme, again getting up to about 125 m.p.h. along the liy-Pass, the exhaust rising to a fierce thunder On the overrun w, this 8-mile stretch became so quickly the conchnling roundabout ; passing groups of slow to my vehicles with fantastic pick-up, going up in the most matter-of-fart way to over 100 m.p.h. between times, even on up-gradients. A glance backwards and you see the huge rear wheel close to your left elbow, seeming by an oil ical illusion to be running at an ale,h• to the frame—all praise to the DIM who used to motor at two-miles -a-minute on liii y on beaded edge covers ; also to Dunlops, for finding racing tyres for the 8-litre, for she once shed a cover at speed on an autobahn with unpleasant results. The run terminated with a quiet drive along country lanes amid seine very English scenery, when the Bentley seemed as appropriate in the scheme of things as the brown, newly-cultivated soil and the serene white-washed cottages—and to he crawl
ing, at 70 in p h If it seems a thought fantastic to orerate such a car in war time we would suggest that I .ycctt is almost doing work of national importance in taking the 8-litre out, by way of maintaining the morale of evacuated children and exiled R.A.F. men, hoth of which sections of the ccmmunity exhibit untold joy on seeing the car. If it had not been for McKenzie this astonishing and great. motor-car would never have come into being. Its owner. whom Gordon Wilkins has so happily described as ” that modest young man who is older than my father,” never talks of the car without mentioning that, and I think when he put that small tuckedaway plate on the facia reading ” Ntill the World’s Finest Si.olting Car,” he was thinking appreciatively of the oldschool Bentley as a marque and not of his own 1931 car in particular.
For our part, it applies in full strength. to this car, although by way of fair criticism, lowering it has, we think, rather changed the former dignified lines and emphasised the car’s width.