Rumblings, October 1970



The BDC Museum.—We don’t know what made us think about the private museum of the Bentley DC unless it was driving a Ford Escort RS, which, like a vintage Bentley, has a four-cylinder sixteen-valve engine. Anyway, the Editor realised that he had never visited it, although he passes through the pleasant village of Long Crendon, above Thame, where the Club’s offices are situated, on his back route from Hampshire to Silverstone. A telephone call to Sir Anthony Starner, Bt., the BDC Executive Director, and the visit was on, with Lt.-Col. C. H. D. Berthon as our mentor.

The exhibits all have a Bentley association and are proudly preserved by a Club which favours this make of motor-car. In a show-case are the big racing number’s, 38 and 32, respectively from the blower 4-1/2 of Sir Henry Birkin’s 1930 500-Mile Race car and the first blower 4-1/2 to be raced. One of these numbers, on the fabric of the car’s racing body, came to light when a later owner, Alec Pitts, cleaned off the layers of subsequent paint. They are accompanied by the Union flag from Birkin’s 1930 TT Bentley.

Rows of hour-glass pistons and various crown wheels and pinions catch the eye. There is a 3-to-1 straight-cut c.w. & p. from the Birkin No. 9 Le Mans team-car, standard ones for 3, 4-1/2 and 6-1/2-litre Bentleys, and a 2.87-to-I diff, case and crown wheel thought to have been made for the Montlhery record-breaker 3-litre, and perhaps used also at Brooklands.

There are experimental steel and dural blower 4-1/2 con-rods, and a rod broken when Bradley put his c.r. up to 11 to 1, the KLG plug which oiled-up on the starting line, losing Clement his first Brooklands race, and a selection of standard con-rods, for 3, 4-1/2, 6-1/2, Speed Six and 8-litre engines, to off-set those literally “out” of unfortunate competition engines. The aforesaid pistons include a lightened one from Harry Bowler’s 3-litre, weighing 10-3/4 oz. An early fishtail emphasises that the “proper” exhaust pipe diameter for a 3-litre is 1-3/4 in. Rather special exhibits are “Old No. 7’s” log book and a notice from the Welwyn Garden City racing shops, from which the Reg. Nos. and other data can be correctly attributed to various famous blower 4-1/2s.

Then you come upon the ex-aircraft propeller-driven pump which used to reside within the radiator cowl of the Barnato Hassan in 1935 to maintain pressure in its fuel tank, and brake shoes from Le Mans-winning 4-1/2 and the first Speed Six Bentleys. The wooden dashboard block of pit signals from the 1922 TT car, workshop tools, the late Frank Clement’s crash-hat and stop-watch, switchgear from old NO. 7, and that Bentley’s hand pressure pump (along with an unused Enots pump of the same sort), a Smith-Bentley 5-jet Type 45BVS carburetter for the first 6-1/2 litre, a wheel-locking ring for the brakeless front axle, the No. 10 racing number disc from a 1929 Le Mans car, and a tool used to impress the winged-B and “S” for service on sealed parts of vintage Bentleys, are other fascinating items.

Two unusual exhibits are a pack of Jack Withers’ Bentley playing cards, given to his favoured customers, and a badge of the obscure Bentley Mechanics’ Motor Club, the formation of which “WO” was unaware! Much prized are the registration plates from the historic Bentleys—XT 1606 from the 1924 Le Mans victor, MT 3464 from a Speed Six team car and GF 8511 from a 1930 Speed Six team car. A separate case contains the different Bentley radiator badges, for all models, the black 4-1/2-litre, green Speed Six, blue 8-litre, etc. George Daniels has contributed a fully-equipped 3-litre dashboard and there is a captivating model of a 1922 3-litre chassis made by Mayo, who was at the works from 1924 to 1926. Most of the parts of this little model function, including the steering, brakes, etc., the wheel rims having been made from exhaust-pipe tubing and the wheel spokes from domestic pins.

Apart from the foregoing and a number of other small parts, the Club holds the Bentley Company’s written records for every Bentley made up to the 4-litre and also the Press-cuttings books of the late Woolf Barnato, the latter presented by his daughter. There are also catalogues for various models, lubrication charts, the Le Mans presentation books given to Barnato, Rubin, etc., and some fine framed paintings. We liked particularly a framed photograph of a 4-1/2 litre Bentley sideways-on on the Members’ banking at Brooklands, apparently without a driver. The occasion was Jack Barclay’s furious skid during the first 500 Mile Race, which he won with Bernard Rubin, the driver being invisible because Barclay had ducked down under the scuttle expecting the car to dive off the track. When it didn’t he sat up, straightened it out, and continued with the race . . .

It is nice to record that the BDC has been given these souvenirs and so appreciatively preserves them. A museum need not embrace full-size cars to be of absorbing interest, as the Editor of Motor Sport well knows. If any other Bentley items of this nature are available the BDC would be glad to hear about them, as we would interesting relics of other makes. We need hardly add that this is a private Club museum, not open to the public. If you feel you must see it, the correct procedure is to acquire a Bentley, join the Club, and make an appointment by telephone. . .

The other half—Noticing an advertisement for the Opel Kadett XE which referred to a petrol economy of up to 40 m.p.g. of two-star fuel and a speed of 80 m.p.h. we decided to continue our researches into how the other half motors. Soon, we reflected, with the ever-rising price of petrol, this might be the very sort of car we shall all be forced to use.

But we hope not! For this two-door Opel saloon, while roomy, nicely finished, and well-equipped, handles oddly, has heavy and weak brakes which make the steering kick ferociously when you tread hard on them, and it refuses to much exceed an indicated 65 m.p.h. unless given its head on a very lengthy stretch of road. Moreover, we never did see this 40 m.p.g.; only 32.5, and the engine was apt to pink on 91-octane fuel. It is difficult to read the fuel gauge, the two facia fresh-air vents blow powerful jets of cold air but only onto the passenger, both being directed to the n/s, the ride, on transverse leaf-spring front and coil-spring rear suspension, is vivacious on bad roads, with the back axle wanting to help the rack-and-pinion steering, and the screen-washers’ knob is divorced from the wipers’ press-button which. is alarmingly close to a similar button for putting on the “panic-fireworks” as an accident alarm.

The clutch is heavy and jerky, the gear change mediocre, with a rotating knob that makes a mockery of the gear locations inscribed thereon, and a rattle from the long lever, and one heater-control had all but seized up. The boot is endowed with that rough metal which is murder to good suit-cases but the 1,078-c.c, engine idles quietly. used practically no oil in 600 miles, and can be taken up to speeds of 23, 40 and 63 m.p.h. in the gears. It is not of the Opel o.h.c. family, albeit the camshaft is mounted high in the block to shorten the pushrods. The 100 m.p.h. speedometer and combined Temp./Tank gauge are matched by a big Kienzle clock, there is a big lidded cubby hole, nice pull-out internal door handles, and the 1/4-windows have thief foiling catches. The recommended price here is £778.

Successful car.—When Gold Leaf Team Lotus arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix they had three Lotus 72 single-seaters with them, which meant that as far as the factory team was concerned the Lotus 49 had been finally abandoned. Added to this was the appearance of Graham Hill with the dark blue Lotus 72 of the Brooke Bond Oxo racing team, in place of their well-worn Lotus 49. A reader from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire prompts us to recall the impressive history of the Lotus 49 in its brief life span of four years, pointing out that since its debut in the Dutch Grand Prix in t967 the Lotus 49 and its B-series and C-series variants have won twelve major Grand Prix events and seven others. The Lotus 49 was designed exclusively for the Cosworth V8 engine in 1967 and started a new design trend by using the engine as the rear part of the car, so that when the Cosworth V8 became available to other racing teams in 1968 they inevitably followed the general design of the Lotus 49. Using the engine as a structural member for the chassis was not a Lotus innovation as such, for Lancia did it on their front-engined D50 Grand Prix car in 1955 and BRM did it on their H-16-cylindered car in 1966, but with the Lotus 49 being designed jointly by Lotus and Cosworth, the successful V8 engine was designed and stressed to be used as a structural member, so that Matra. McLaren, Brabham, De Tomaso and others followed the obvious trend. For 1967 Lotus had the exclusive use of the Cosworth V8 engine and they coupled this to a ZF gearbox, having arranged a near-monopoly with the German firm for supply and assistance, while other racing-car constructors were queuing up for gearboxes at the English Hewland factory. The Lotus 49 made motor-racing history by winning its first race, joining the ranks of the elite like the 250F Maserati and the W196 Mercedes-Benz, which both won the first race in which they took part. It was not long before Lotus realised that the Hewland gearbox was a better racing proposition than the ZF and in 1968 the 49B series began, using the English gearbox, a layout it retained for the rest of its life. In 1969 it was intended that the 49 should be superseded by the 4-wheel-drive Lotus 63, but various problems delayed this project so the 49B was up-dated to 49C and kept the Lotus flag flying with wins at Monte Carlo and Watkins Glen, the third version of the original car having revised front hubs and smaller wheels with wider tyres, the road-holding through tyre development having been the exclusive work of Firestone in conjunction with Lotus. When the Lotus 49 first appeared it was green with a yellow stripe, the old Team Lotus colours, and these changed to the red, white and gold colours of John Player, the cigarette manufacturer, when they sponsored Team Lotus, changing the name to Gold Leaf Team Lotus in 1968.

During its life the Lotus 49 passed through numerous aerodynamic phases, from the long flat tray-like bodywork derived from Indianapolis cars, through the vast variable incidence aerofoils front and rear, to the final triple layer rear aerofoil borrowed from its successor, the Lotus 72. At the beginning of this season when the Lotus 72 was not ready the 49 was pressed into service again and won at Monaco. Drivers who took the Lotus 49 to victory were Clark, Hill, Siflert and Rindt.