I was pleased to know that the Forrest Lycett 8-litre Bentley was among the many cars at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. Before the war I had some wonderful rides in it: Lycett took me round Brooklands for 130mph laps and there we recorded impressive acceleration times. This great Bentley enthusiast would invite me over to breakfast at his Kensington address, giving me the problem of whether to offend my landlady by refusing hers or eat two. But it was all in the spirit of gentlemanly behaviour in an older regime.
Lycett drove wonderfully, at up to 110mph on the open road, always braking for every 30mph speed limit sign, going through at 29mph, then accelerating rapidly. So fast was this Bentley that he would sometimes be braking when taking advantage of a traffic gap ahead to overtake, when you or I would still be accelerating hard.
On one occasion we were caught in torrential rain. In Henley-on-Thames Lycett stopped at the Bell Hotel, demanding immediate hot baths. As non-residents we were refused. He was not amused. He was apt to tip garage hands, who would fill up the 8-litre with fuel and check its tyre pressures while others would have to wait, sometimes to calls of, “Hey, I was first!”
Lycett enjoyed long runs, such as London to Scotland and back in a day; if he heard anyone bragging of lesser achievements the luckless man would be invited to a drive in one of the Bentleys, being told to bring an overnight case, which Forrest’s manservant would remove secretly. Tired and possibly slightly alarmed, the victim would be told over dinner to hurry up as he was about to be driven back from Edinburgh to London… Or taken fast — and non-stop — from London to Land’s End. “Silly,” admitted Lycett, “but I was younger then [in his middle-40s].”
He very frequently held 100mph and over on the road, before speed limits, as from the 4.5-litre model onwards this was so easily possible.
His 8-litre was a car apart and in my view fully deserving of the slogan on a tiny dashboard plaque ‘Still the World’s Finest Sporting Car’, if you add ‘vintage’. (An amusing episode with the 8-litre is told in the very interesting VSCC Harrogate Rally programme, available from Gill Bukin at the Club’s offices, The Old Post Office, Chipping Norton, Oxon 0X7 5EL, for £7.28 inc p&p.)