The first time I saw a 3 1/2-litre Bentley, the sensation of 1933, was when I was associated with an aviation and motor-racing monthly magazine produced from Brooklands Aerodrome. It was a tourer (ALU 622), which came to us for appraisal, delivered by a uniformed chauffeur. When we were ready to commence the road-test we asked the man if he would like to wait in our office or take refreshment at the Aero Club. “I am sorry, sir”, he replied, “but I have to remain with the car at all times”. “But we are about to take it round the Track,” we told him. It made no difference. He accompanied us, sitting in the back, holding on to his chauffeur’s hat, as we drove along the bankings at around 90mph.
Test times were brief in those days but the piece I wrote must have appealed to the PR chap at R-R owned Bentley Motors, because they ordered reprints and we got E G M Wilks to do a big drawing for it. He included the chauffeur. I had assumed that the reason this man had to remain with the Bentley was because we were small-fly compared to The Autocar or The Motor. So I was surprised to come upon a photograph the other day of the great Geoffrey Smith, Managing Editor of The Autocar, testing another 3 1/2-litre Bentley tourer (RC 1351) a week prior to the 1933 Olympia Motor Show, with the chauffeur beside him! It seems that he too was only allowed to drive the car for a short time because after collecting it in London he wrote of trying it up Aston Hill (which he described as a “once famous trials ground” in fact, it had been a famous speed-venue). Mr Smith also drove up other gradients around Ivinghoe and along by-lanes in Hertfordshire.
We were all very impressed by the new Bentley, although at Brooklands, after we had tested the straight-eight Railton, which was nearly as fast, accelerated a little better, and cost only £499 against the Bentley’s £1390, we did have muted reservations. And at the time of the new ‘Silent Sports Car’ the Rolls-Royce PII Continental saloon was quicker.