Veteran to classic
Postscript: the Bentley riposte
That fine 30/98 run at Montlhery was to cause some fearful Bentley carnage! In 1957 Stanley Sedgwick, President of the Bentley Drivers Club, read of it and decided it was “a performance that could not forever remain unchallenged” by Bentley owners.
An attempt was arranged at Monza in 1958, with a Speed Six, a 41/2-litre modernised with a De Dion back-axle, and a 3-litre. The cavalcade of support vehicles which went with them would no doubt have made old Tom Plowman smile — an Aston Martin DB2/4, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL., a MkVI Bentley and a Commer van.
Alas, the 41/2-litre broke its crankshaft and had to be towed 860 miles home by the van in winter conditions; the Speed Six lasted 12 laps and then broke a valve; and the 3-litre’s first attempt ended after 40 minutes with the same trouble, and a solid clutch. On another bid the latter did a best lap of 98.63 mph and covered 89.19 miles in 50 minutes, before another valve broke.
Undaunted, the Bentley chaps took a Speed Six and a 41/2-litre to Montlhery in 1959. The former caught fire, and after 40 minutes the smaller Bentley broke a piston.
However, success was achieved in 1960, at Montlhery again, when Gordon McDonald’s 41/2-litre Bentley, starting again after having a holed piston replaced after four laps, achieved 111.18 miles for the hour, before two of its exhaust pipes broke. It was then used for a holiday tour. This was of course a later car than the 30/98, as the first 41/2-litre Bentley was made in 1927.
On this occasion the Speed-Six Bentley tried again, but had been going for only 50 minutes before a valve-cap broke, and it later dropped a valve. The 3-litre (on its third attempt) retired after 40 minutes with no oil-pressure, and Barton’s 41/2-litre holed a piston.
In much more recent times, of course, the balance has been adjusted by the splendid run by Stanley Mann’s 8-litre Bentley at the MIRA test-track, completing the hour at 115 mph last year; and, as he says, “the cars are older still, these days!” Nevertheless, I continue to regard the 30/98 Vauxhall as the world’s finest vintage car of its type, an opinion nicely endorsed by old Tom Plowman’s trouble-free 107-in-the-hour in 1953 — with a 1924 car. WB