Old No 1 Bentley

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Sir,

I was most interested to read your comments in Random Reflections Motor Sport July 1983 concerning the Woolf Barnato 8-litre coupe. I can confirm the chassis certainly was 4-litre and of course replaced the Speed Six frame of the Old No.1 team car, in time for the 500 mile race of 1932.

It had always been the practice at Bentley Motors to replace bodywork on certain cars used in track racing, I believe this is the case with Old No. 1. The car retained its original identity throughout this development of MT3464. Chassis number LB2332.

I actually re-bodied this car somewhere about 1958 for the then new owner LG ‘Mike’ Quinney of Reading. The new body which I built was not as I had wished, a replica of the 1932 Brooklands one, but a rather stark 2-seater.

The 1932 Brooklands car was a very attractive 2-seater, narrow but stylish with full undertray semi-pointed tail. The radiator was Speed Six but slightly lower. In contrast the rebuilt Coupe had a full size 8-litre radiator which is too high for best proportions on open 2-seater bodies.

During my work on the car I discussed its Brooklands crash with Fred Hofmann and he told me the car was only slightly damaged. He didn’t think any chassis damage took place, certainly the paint evidence on the side members related to the colours at Brooklands and after. Many of the castellated nuts were stamped No 1 and the gearbox crossmembers and 0-Type box were from the Speed Six chassis.

As Old No 1 had its original Vanden Plas body replaced in 1931 by a narrower one in time for the 500 mile race that year, which it won, and further modification with new chassis and 8-litre engine in 1932 little was left of the original Le Mans car. I personally thought the final derivation of Old No 1 to be a very attractive car and as the 4-litre chassis was possibly the best WO produced, especially when fitted with the 8-litre engine, it is a great pity this car wasn’t raced any more. I thoroughly enjoyed my drives in this car, a true thoroughbred.

One can imagine the sentiments of Woolf Barnato for this car and his reason for its further re-build as the coupe. Mike Quinney sold the car in early 1960 to Mr J Ward Jnr of Boston, Lincs. I have recently spoken with Mr Ward’s son who remembers his father owning MT 3464 but cannot trace to whom the car was sold some time mid-sixties. I, and I am sure many others, would be most interested to know the car’s present whereabouts and any additional history, particularly of its pre-war days, would be most helpful.

Alan Padgett,  Spanby, Lincs.

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