Team Bentleys

The following notes regarding some of the Le Mans Bentleys—taken from a letter written by Capt. J. R. A. Green, who is serving in the Middle East— will be assured of a welcome from those of our readers (and they are many) who are staunch supporters of that marque.

Although he is now in the Middle East, we have had another interesting news-letter from Capt. J. R. A. Green, owner of the ex-Stuart Wilton 3-litre Bentley. As a confirmed old-school Bentley enthusiast Green was delighted to come upon a “Le Mans” 3-litre in Cairo, right on the edge of the desert. This car had a big-sump engine and must be a 1925-6 team car. Apart from cloth upholstery to combat the sun, a cooling fan, a single downdraught Zenith carburetter, some fearful snubbers in place of Hartfords, and black finish, she appeared to be in original trim. Green has records of the whereabouts, or fate, of seven Le Mans 3-litre Bentleys. “Old No. 7,” which had bad luck in 1926 and won the epic 1927 race at 61.86 m.p.h., driven by Davis and Benjafield, was wrapped round a telegraph pole and written off, after a yellow 2-seater body had taken the place of the Le Mans carriage work.

No. 6 of the 1926 race, which was, we believe, driven by Thistiethwayte and Clive Gallop, is owned by a gentleman living at Maida Vale, but Grant put a 4.5-litre engine in some years ago. Bartlett sold a 1925-26 team car in absolutely original condition in 1939, for £50, and a 1926 team car, fitted with a coach-built body, was seen in Edmonton last year. The ex-Thistlewayte fully-streamlined 1926-27 2/4-seater with one of the rare bulbous radiators still exists and Shortt is said to have a team car built in 1926 for Capt. Duff, but never raced. Then there is the car seen in Cairo, making seven team cars in all. A correspondent has also mentioned in Motor Sport the presence of a genuine Le Mans 3-litre in Australia. Green goes on to say that Lt. Winstanley has acquired a blower 4.5-litre ex-Birkin team car formerly cared. for by John Marx. He believes that at least six unblown 4.5-litre team cars exist, as follows: Emons’s ex-500 Mile Race winner; L. E. Dalton’s ex-Scott “Double Twelve” and 500 Mile Race car; John Lander’s sister car, now stored at Hartley Wintney ; a round-tailed 500 Mile Race car owned by Rivers-Oldmeadow; the 1928 ex-Birkin 4-seater (with the ex-Rubin engine) for sale at Jimmie Ward’s of Colindale; and the car owned by the late Roddy Seys.

Other cars of note seen in Cairo and district included a “Competition” Delahaye drophead coupe, a 1929 2-litre Lagonda 4-seater with 1931 modifications, a Lancia “Lambda ” limousine and a very nice 7th Series Lancia “Lambda” tourer. Green also saw a number of Rolls-Royce cars, including a Phantom III Thrupp and Maberley saloon, a Rolls-Bentley Van den Plas coupe, a streamline Buick and a 1942 Cadillac saloon. He reports that Cairo’s taxis are mostly “20/70” Fiats and older models of this marque, a few D.I.S. and D.I.S.S. Delage, an early Isotta-Fraschini, the rest American. French and American cars predominate, but vintage cars are in evidence, and included an Excelsior tourer, several 7.5-h.p. cloverleaf Citroens and numerous early 12-h.p. Fiats. The latest Yanks are much less conspicuous than they are in Durban. Capt. Green concludes by saying that his faith in vintage cars was upheld when a 1941 Dodge which he hired in the latter city refused a hill in the Zulu reserves in bottom gear, whereupon it was discovered that the “trigger-on-a-piece-of-string” type handbrake did not function. We can well understand our correspondent’s desire to return to his own 3-litre Bentley, which achieved nearly 90 m.p.h. on its last run, in disposing of a challenge from a Humber Super Snipe.

[Other ex-racing Bentleys the whereabouts of which are known include Mavrogordato’s and Peter Robertson-Rodger’s blown 4.5 litres, the former being the car which finished second in the 1930 “500” driven by Hall and Benjafield and the latter that with which Birkin had his epic drive at Pau; Robertson-Rodger’s blower single-seater 4.5-litre, now less engine, and what is possibly a spare car of the Hon. Dorothy Paget’s Le Mans team, owned by Cdr. MacGregor. A Le Mans Speed Six Bentley is owned by Ivan Carr, of Carlisle, and the 3-litre which gained the first Bentley victory at Le Mans in 1924— XT 1608—was recently discovered on a Herefordshire farm and is now being carefully restored by D. H. Taylor. We believe it was Bentley Motors service lorry for many years, and, as such, was kept in perfect condition.—Ed.]