Bentley "Old Number One"

By Michael Hay ISBN:0 9535827 1

Published by Number One Press, £18.00

If you know vintage Bentleys you’ll know Michael Hay, author of the twin marque Bibles, Bentley – the Vintage Years and Bentley Factory Cars. This latest work concerns just one of those cars, the famed ‘Old Number One’, one ofjust three cars in the 76 year history of Le Mans to win the race twice. After these victories in 1929 and 1930, it won the 1931 Brooklands 500 Mile race before being heavily rebuilt and subsequently crashing over the famous banking in the same race the following year.

With Bentley Motors closed, you would have thought Old Number One had earned its last headline. Not so. In 1990 the car was in the national press again as a court battle raged over its identity. If it were ruled that it was not Old Number One, its value would be about£250,000.If it was, the agreed sale price was a cool £10 million.

Do not expect Hay to be even-handed about this. Parts of the book come across as campaign literature to support the car’s identity but it is as well written as we have come to expect and the story of the car’s career with the works is as thrilling as it’s achievements suggest. The result is a book no fan of proper Bentleys will want to be without. The best bits of the details, particularly Nobby’ Clarke’s post-race strip-down reports which reveal in a few words as much about the engineering of these cars as you’ll ever need to know. Having stripped down the engine after it had spent 24-hours pounding around to victory at Le Mans in 1929 he wrote simply: ‘Nothing to report.’