Simanaitis Says

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THIS GARAGE find of mine isn’t a car—It’s a book. And what a find!

Bentley A Motoring Miscellany, by Nicholas Foulkes, illustrated by Mark Watkinson, Quadrille, 2005.

Here are a few tidbits gleaned from this book.

W.O. Bentley and the Red Baron had encounters, albeit indirect ones, during World War I. The B.R.I and B.R.II Bentley Rotary engines powered British fighter planes, the B.R.I being standard on the Sopwith Camel, the B.R.II being the last of rotary powerplants used by the R.A.F.

On a visit to the front, W.O. was strafed by Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, who later died in aerial combat with Canadian flying ace Roy Brown. Cited in Bentley A Motoring Miscellany, W.O. said later, “I almost felt a pang of regret when Brown in a Camel, powered by one of our B.R.IIs, caught him at last.”

Bentley parties in the 1920s were legendary. For instance, a celebration of Bentley’s 1927 Le Mans victory was held June 18–19, 1927, at London’s Savoy Hotel.

The winning Bentley is brought into the ballroom of London’s Savoy Hotel, June 18, 1927. Image from Bentley: The Story, by Andrew Frankel, Redwood, 2003.

Bentley dominated Le Mans with wins 1927 through 1930. After the 1929 Le Mans victory, Capt. Woolf Barnato, one of the Bentley Boys, composed instructions for a proper celebration of the win.

This and other images from Bentley A Motoring Miscellany.

Note that the festivities ran from 10 p.m., Saturday, June 29, 1929, until 6 a.m. the next morning.

Barnato was also famed for his 1930 drive beating the Blue Train on its Cannes-to-Calais run.

A Bentley of Bond, James Bond, was described in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, 1953, and cited in Bentley A Motoring Miscellany: “Bond’s car was his only personal hobby. One of the last 4 1/2-Litre Bentleys with the supercharger by Amherst-Villiers, he had bought it almost new in 1933 and had kept it in careful storage through the war…. Bond drove it hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure.”

I am not surprised.

Several ”Not to be Confused With” citations in Bentley A Motoring Miscellany list people sharing W.O.’s surname, if not his prestige. Among them and tantalizing: “Nathaniel Bentley—eighteenth-century dandy, aka the ‘Beau of Leadenhall’ aka ‘Dirty Dick,’ as in later life he adopted slovenly habits and became a byword for squalor.”

Moving fast forward to 2003, Bentley, now part of Volkswagen AG, scored another victory at Le Mans. A pair of Bentley Speed 8s ran one-two for most of the race, their six drivers celebrating on the podium in this order after the 24 hours.

Bentley A Motoring Miscellany celebrates Tom Kristensen, Danish long-distance race driver, and his seven victories at Le Mans (including Bentley’s in 2003). He added two more later, in 2008 and 2013.

Above, the classic 8-Litre Bentley Saloon. Below, the Bentley 2003 Speed 8. Notes for the Le Mans car’s controls are Tom Kristensen’s.

Recalling the 1927 Savoy Hotel fête, Bentley A Motoring Miscellany observes, “With such an honourable tradition, it was only fitting that the sixth Bentley Le Mans victory in 2003 should be celebrated in the same way. To accommodate the winning Speed 8, the entire revolving door of the Savoy had to be removed, and then, to access the ballroom, the car had to be tipped through 45 degrees.”

After dinner, an impromptu contest decided who could most quickly get into the Speed 8 cockpit—no mean feat, particularly with the celebratory toasts.

Diana Barnato-Walker, MBE FRAeS, 1918–2008, English aviatrix and sportswoman.

“However,” notes Bentley A Motoring Miscellany, “the evening belonged to Capt. Woolf Barnato’s daughter, Diana Barnato-Walker, who at the age of 85 kicked off her shoes and wriggled into the car to tumultuous applause.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

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