The world of motorsport has lost one of its most charismatic and enduring stars with the death of Alec Francis Rivers-Fletcher, one of the last links to the Bentley Boys of the 1920s. Known to motoring enthusiasts throughout the world simply as ‘Rivers’ and a Brooklands race track habitué from his early teens, his big chance came in 1928 when Malcolm Campbell needed a riding ‘mechanic’ small enough to squeeze into his monoposto Grand Prix Delage (below).
The fifteen year old Rivers got a seat more on account of his size and bravery than any mechanical ability and the pair were the first to take the chequered flag. Signing autographs after the race decided the boy’s career among cars and racing stars and Rivers became apprenticed at Bentley Motors under the tutelage of WO Bentley himself. By his penetrating look alone. recalled Rivers,WO could wither any apprentice caught mistreating a tool or a casting — no words were needed.
Rivers went on to work closely with great drivers such as Raymond Mays, Woolf Barnato, Dr DJ Benjafield, Sammy Davis, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss,Jackie Stewart, Froilan Gonzalez and Richie Ginther.
He later become known as a motorsport documentary film maker — he was a pre-war pioneer of colour cinema, a writer, journalist and broadcaster. Less acknowledged are his efforts in keeping the spirit of motor racing alive during the war. He organised the very first post-war event and served as Assistant Clerk of the Course at the British Grand Prix. Until his death he was the chairman of the ERA racing car club. A rare ‘double member’ of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (his organisational work was recognised by Earl Howe who appointed him associate and patron, and he later become a racing member after his successes at the wheel of a Grand Prix Bugatti) Rivers inspired as much affection as he did respect. He leaves a wife Penny and sons Peter and Jeremy who continue to compete at classic motorsport events.