Frank Page

Sad that the irrepressibly optimistic Frank Page has died. The Observer, Mail on Sunday, presenter on Top Gear; his career was wide and his judgements usually fair and precise. He was a joy until strokes and illness dogged him. His enthusiasm was boundless. Meet him at the airport going on a press trip and he would be bubbling over with joy to let you know what Denis Thatcher had just told him during a round of golf. Generous and funny, a worthy Guild Chairman with a keen sense of occasion and a credit to the profession. Another light gone out. Picture: Bentley event at Le Mans.

Bentley Azure

Returning Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer, it seems, waxes nostalgic for a convertible. He’d like to build a 2-seater but he’ll most likely follow Royce’s example and go for a 4-seater. He liked the 1995 Azure, which continued in various iterations for years. His options now, with W12, V8 and V10s available from stock, as it were, are wide and the Continental is a fine platform. The Complete Bentley recalled the first Azure (left).

By 1995, after the best part of a quarter-century, the Corniche-Continental’s time was up. When they drew up Project 90 in 1985, (below) which had evolved into the Continental R, Heffernan and Greenley conceived a convertible which as a result had been waiting ten years. Despite a good deal of strengthening and reinforcement, scuttle shake was endemic in the old Corniche, so it had to be done away with for the Azure. Basing it on the Continental R instead of the old Corniche brought a 25 per cent improvement in torsional stiffness.

Manufacture however was not straightforward. A joint project was arranged between Crewe and Pininfarina in Turin under which Park Sheet Metal in Coventry, which made Continental R body shells, sent sub-assemblies to Italy for completed bodies to be painted and have the intricate power-operated hood mechanism fitted by specialist Opac before being shipped back to Crewe for completion. Bodybuilding was done at Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese factory, where Cadillac Allantes had been put together. The unitary hulls still had to be strengthened to make up for the absence of a roof, with an additional 190kg (418.9lb) of reinforcement under the rear floor, deeper door sills, thicker A-posts and screen top rail.

All that remained of the Corniche’s shivers, I recall from a 1995 road test, were tremors that could still be seen in the rear-view mirror and vibrations felt through the steering column. Door sill plates proclaimed Bentley Motors’ and Pininfarina credit for the structure, in particular the power hood designed to close in 30sec, although one famously failed on the Cote d’Azur press launch. The Azure’s interior was furnished like the Continental R with traditional veneers and leather, woollen fleeces on the floor and, by virtue of a 1992 co-operative agreement with BMW, electrically operated front seats with integral seat belts from the 8-series coupe.
Final Azure 2005

Several generations of fast turbocharged Bentleys had transformed road behaviour, from the early tentative 1970s when Bentleys carried the legacy of Rolls-Royce town carriages, to the dawn of the 21st century when they were more able to compete with fast rivals. Steering was now 2.9 turns from lock to lock, faster, sharper, with more feel; braking more progressive with ever-bigger discs, and body roll, although by no means eliminated was less pronounced.

INTRODUCTION Geneva 1995.BODY Convertible; 2-doors, 4 -seats; weight 2610kg (5754lb);
ENGINE V8-cylinders, in-line; front; 104.1mm x 99.1mm, 6750cc; compr 8:1; 286kW (383.53bhp) @ 4000rpm; 42.4kW (56.86bhp)/l; 750Nm (553lbft) @ 2000rpm. ENGINE STRUCTURE pushrod overhead valves; hydraulic tappets; gear-driven central cast iron camshaft; aluminium silicon cylinder head; steel valve seats, aluminium-silicon block; cast iron wet cylinder liners; Garrett AiResearch TO4 turbocharger .5bar (7.25psi); intercooler; Zytek EMS3 motormanagement; 5-bearing chrome molybdenum crankshaft. TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; GM turbo Hydramatic 4-speed; final drive 2.69:1
CHASSIS steel monocoque, front and rear sub-frames; independent front suspension by coil springs and wishbones; anti roll bar; independent rear suspension by coil springs and semi-trailing arms; Panhard rod stiffener; anti roll bar; three-stage electronically controlled telescopic dampers and Boge pressure hydraulic self-levelling; hydraulic servo brakes, 27.94cm (11in) dia discs front ventilated; twin circuit; Bosch ABS; rack and pinion PAS; l08l (23.75gal) fuel tank; 255/55-WR 17 tyres, 7.6in rims, cast alloy wheels DIMENSIONS wheelbase 306cm (120.47in); track 155cm (61.02in); length 534cm (210.24in); width 188cm (74.02in); height 146cm (57.48in); ground clearance 14cm (5.5in); turning circle 13.1m (42.98ft).EQUIPMENT 2-level air conditioning, leather upholstery, pile carpet, 8-way electric seat adjustment, galvanised underbody PERFORMANCE maximum speed 249kph (155.1mph); 64kph (39.87mph) @ 1000rpm; 0-100kph (62mph) 6.0sec; fuel consumption 19.3l/100km (14.64mpg) PRICE £215,000 PRODUCTION 1311

PICTURES above right 2003 Limited Azure edition. Left Road test GTC chez nous

Another COTY winner

COTY jurors aren’t voting for Car of the Year. They are voting to look Green. Why else would they have elected the Ampera in 2012? They surely can’t have expected it to sell more than a handful. They’re not that stupid. No, they are spooked, along with governments round the world, by what WS Gilbert called greenery yallery Grosvenor Gallery foot-in-the-grave young men. Or women.

Opel and Vauxhall dealers, who hadn’t a lot of choice perhaps, accounted for the first year’s 5,000 or so Amperas. That sank to 3,184 last year and collapsed to 332 in the first five months of this, of which only 46 were in its German home market. GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky vented frustration at Geneva: “All the governments in Europe said, ‘We want EVs, we want EVs.’ We show up with one, and where is everybody?” The answer is that they were off buying something else, real cars mostly.

COTY jurors are like governments appeasing Green voters with inglorious wind farms and wasteful subsidies. By any standards the Ampera was a disaster. Production is stopping and although GM will redesign the broadly similar Volt next year it won’t come to Europe.

There wasn’t much wrong with the Ampera. It was sensibly-sized and quite handsome, drove smoothly and quietly and as a hybrid didn’t have the range anxieties of milk-floaty plug-in electric cars, attracting complaints now about how costly they are to top-up. Apparently charging stations take money by the hour, without knowing how much electricity is actually being used. The cost can be just as much for a battery flat or near full.

I have said before that there is a FIFA flavour about Car of the Year. In 50 years COTY has never elected a Jaguar, Range Rover or Land Rover. It can’t be anti-British-ness. Munich doesn’t come off well either. There has been no BMW; a range that goes from Rolls-Royce to Mini has never made the grade except for second last year for the i3. It elected an electric Nissan yet COTY doesn’t do safety. Volvo and Saab never featured. Engineering excellence? Bentley has never made it. Production quality? There have been no Hondas. Value for money? No Skodas, no Seats but 9 Fiats, 6 Renaults and 5 Fords. I can’t understand why manufacturers get so excited by it.

Bentley Brooklands

I didn’t mean to praise Bentley quite so faintly. I liked Bentleys, but I guess in 1992 I felt compelled to emphasise Brooklands, since there really wasn’t much that was new about the car. They had taken the turbo off the Eight, as recounted in The Complete Bentley available digitally for £12.31. After tax changes the price of the Brooklands came down to £87,500, making this essentially the entry-level Bentley. The press launch had been at Brooklands the previous month and they gave me a plaque to say I had driven a Bentley on such of the historic track that remained. This was before the developments that have taken place since, including the magnificent Mercedes-Benz World centre that opened in 2006. Perhaps I gave the Bentley less space that week because I wanted to highlight Saab’s research. I was coming round, even then, to the view that technology held the key to developments in driving we hadn’t even thought of. This was four years before Google had been invented and two decades away from driverless cars. You can now buy a Bentley Brooklands for the price of a well-used Mondeo.
It is not easy for an old aristocrat to recapture youthful vigour without losing some dignity. Bentley Brooklands has a fine alliterative ring for buyers tempted to a new non-turbocharged version of the old Bentley Eight at only £91,489. Its badges will be in traditional British racing green, to emphasise the connection with the track built by H F Locke King on his Weybridge estate in 1907. Brooklands was the cradle of motor racing, and Bentleys won stirring contests here, such as the six hours endurance race of 1929.
The 'Bentley Boys' wove themselves into the rich tapestry of Brooklands, dyed into the wool as indelibly as the Spitfires and Wellingtons created there by Vickers-Armstrong. Some Bentley Boys, like Clive Dunfee whose car topppled over the lip of the Members' Banking in 1932, lost their lives.
Brooklands is now a thriving industrial park. Gallaher's offices fill a gap in the Members' Banking, and one small corner is dedicated as a museum to halcyon days, when Locke King's estates extended not only to a large part of Surrey, but a good deal of Sussex as well.
The Bentley Brooklands is a magnificent anachronism, strong, quiet, powerful, and furnished in impeccable taste. Burr walnut, and deep Wilton carpet with tailored overmats give the interior the feel and the aroma of luxury. The loudest sound is not the clock - quartz movements no longer tick - but the faint creaking of the Connolly leather on the sumptuous upholstery. The huge 6.7litre V8 engine rumbles under the long bonnet, rejuvenated with the latest electronic technology, but still devoutly middle-aged. It is an imposing car, introduced just as Rolls-Royce and Bentley sales show signs of a recovery in Scotland and the North of England.

Bentley Mulsanne

Friday Fact - According to Bentley Comms the flagship #Bentley #Mulsanne is named after the famous corner at the @LeMans24hour race - I thought it more likely it was named after the better-known Mulsanne Straight. I referred Bentley Comms to page 219’s reproduction of the famous Michael Turner painting of a Mulsanne Turbo on the famous Straight and presented to the Bentley Drivers’ Club on 17 June 1984 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Bentley’s first win in the 24 Hours’ race. Went to Le Mans that year. Bentley Motors kindly presented me with a copy No 68/250 of a limited edition, signed by Michael, which hangs on my wall now. The Complete Bentley is £12.31 digitally on Amazon for Kindle.


Mini, McLaren, Jaguar and Range Rover are easy leaders in Autocar’s list of Britain’s best-ever 100 cars. I’ve no problem endorsing the first couple of dozen but, notwithstanding Gordon Murray’s ingenious contribution, the Yamaha Motiv.e at 5 looks like lip-service to greenery-yallery. The Jaguar XJ220 also poses a question. It was neither a commercial nor technical success and needed a lot of fettling before it reached reality. Driving it was like looking at the world through a letterbox. The Aston Martins in the list are an odd bunch with no ground-breaking DB2, elegant DBS or Ian Callum DB7. Similarly it’s difficult to include a D-type Jaguar – OK on the Mulsanne straight but a bit of a handful on corners – and leave out the C-type which was more precise and exciting.
McLaren F1 (above): Collected daughter Joanna from school during my road test. She’s older now, still beautiful.
Austin-Healey Sprite. 71st. This was my second one at Turnberry. Wonderfully crisp, precise car.
Lotuses are questionable on grounds of quality and reliability but I’m surprised there is no Elan Plus2S. It was beautifully proportioned. I once did 300 miles in three hours with one. There you are the older I get the faster I was. I would not include any TVR; all I drove were just brute force and ignorance. Blower Bentleys were something of an aberration. I suppose they were glamorous but never won anything like the unsupercharged cars. Derby Bentleys are missing from the list. Surely the Silent Sports Car deserves better. Jensen-Healey – delete. Not well made, hastily modified and really quite dull. Same goes for the Daimler Dart SP250. The Edward Turner engine was ok but Daimler was so strapped for cash it had to cobble up a horrid plastic body that creaked and cracked.
One of my first drives in an E-type; Scottish Motor Show after introduction at Geneva in 1961 (below), with Jaguar apprentice Clive Martin.
No Bristols please. Except for the BMW-based 400 and the beautiful 404 they were heavy and lugubrious. I never went for the mystique so assiduously promoted by writers like the matchless Leonard Setright. Triumph Stag? I thought it was rubbish when I went on the press launch. Hillman Imp? I owned one and when it went it was OK; I drove it to Maranello where I had lunch with Enzo Ferrari, but it was not made very well. Same goes for any Avenger, even the Avenger Tiger. The press launch was on Malta where we couldn’t drive them far enough to grow suspicious of unreliability. The Morgan 3 wheeler or Plus 4 were fine, but the Plus 8 was where Morgan began to lose its way and power outstripped handling. I wouldn’t include a Delorean in any list except perhaps one on how not to develop a sports car. It was terrible. Reliant Scimitar? A definite maybe. Triumph TR5 - not bad until they put a wiggly independent back-end on making it pitch and curtsy. Triumph 1300 absolutely not. And why relegate the MGA to 95th? Shame
Range Rover. Deserves its place. Took this on the press launch by Goonhilly Down, 1970.

Love lists
Hillman Imp. On road test for The Motor with Penny Duckworth by door. Pre-launch picture so badges taped over.

100.Range Rover Evoque 99. Ginetta G40R 98. Vauxhall Astra 97. Marcos TSO 96. Honda Civic 95. MGA 94. Vauxhall Chevette HSR 93. Triumph Dolomite Sprint 92. Allard J2 91. Honda Jazz 90. Sunbeam Tiger 89. Nissan Juke 88. Invicta Black Prince 87. Noble M12 86. Lotus Carlton 85. Caterham Seven 160 84. Caparo T1 83. Rolls-Royce 10 HP 82. Triumph TR5 PI 81. Radical RXC 80. Triumph 1300 79. Daimler SP250 Dart 78. Morgan 4/4 77. Renault Megane RS 225 76. Noble M600 75. Lotus Sunbeam 74. Morgan Plus 8 73. BAC Mono 72. Gordon-Keeble 71. Austin-Healey Sprite 70. MGB GT 69. Bristol Fighter 68. Ford Cortina 1600E 67. Bowler EXR 66. AC Ace 65. Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow 64. Austin FX4 63. Napier-Railton 62. Caterham Supersport 61. Triumph 2000 60. Jaguar F-type 59. Morgan 3-wheeler 58. Reliant Scimitar 57. TVR Sagaris 56. Ford Escort RS2000 55. Bentley Continental GT 54. Ford Capri RS3100 53. Delorean DMC-12 52. Aston Martin V8 51. Ascari KZ1 50. Aston Martin V12 Vantage S 49. Subaru Impreza WRC 48. Hillman Avenger Tiger 47. Triumph Stag 46. Hillman Imp 45. Lister Storm 44. Rover P5B 43. Lotus Evora 42. Rover P6 3500S 41. Nissan Qashqai 40. Ariel Atom 39. Vauxhall Prince Henry 38. Aston Martin One-77 37. Rover 75 36. Jaguar XJ 35. Austin Seven 34. Bristol Blenheim 33. Lotus Cortina 32. Austin-Healey 3000 31. Aston Martin Vanquish 30. Lotus Seven 29. Land Rover 28. Jensen-Healey 27. Lotus Esprit 26. MG Midget 25. McLaren 12C 24. Morris Minor 23. Lotus Elan 22. TVR Speed 12 21. Rover SD1 20. TVR Chimaera 19. BMW Mini 18. Bentley Blower 17. Jaguar XF 16. Ford GT40 15. Rolls-Royce Phantom 14. Lotus Elise 13. Jaguar D-type 12. Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 11. Jensen FF 10. Ford Escort Mexico 9. TVR Griffith 8. Aston Martin DB5 7. Jaguar XJ220 6. McLaren P1 5. Yamaha MOTIV.e 4. Range Rover 3. Jaguar E-type 2. McLaren F1 1. original Mini

Works Austin-Healey 3000 rally car test. I am the fresh-faced youth.

Rolls and Royce

Inseparable as Gilbert and Sullivan or Victoria and Albert, Rolls and Royce created the world's most recognisable brand name 110 years ago, Wednesday 4 May 1904. They met at the Midland Hotel Manchester not only producing “The Best Car in the World” (Rolls-Royce was never modest), but aero-engine excellence throughout the Second World War and ever since.
Right: Merlin in a Spitfire.
Only a little of the credit belonged to The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls, (below) an Edwardian gentleman to his elegant fingertips, complete with uniformed chauffeur and mechanic, but famously stingy. The late Sir Thomas Sopwith described him as, “curiously unlovable.” Rolls felt he had little to learn from Royce, a northern engineer, a crane manufacturer with an infinite capacity for taking pains. But as an ardent balloonist and aerial adventurer Rolls’s lifestyle was expensive, and the sales company set up with £6,500 from his father, Lord Llangattock, needed a new line to augment his imported French cars. Flying exploits were his undoing. Rolls achieved the melancholy distinction of being the first pilot killed in a British air crash at Bournemouth on 2 June 1910.
Workaholic, obsessive, sickly Frederick Henry Royce’s pursuit of perfection knew no bounds and, ill from overwork, he dismantled his Decauville to make it function properly. It was a car, he concluded, “...marred by careless workmanship,” so he set about designing something better. The result was an experimental car Rolls drove out of the Midland Hotel's carriage court (demolished in the 1930s to make way for a reception area) and realised that this 2-cylinder was as smooth and quiet as a 4-cylinder. Rolls instructed his partner, Claude Johnson to take on the Royce car, and negotiate for C S Rolls & Co (Royce below)to have exclusive rights.
The great engineer and the parsimonious aristocrat signed their agreement on December 23, 1904. Claude Johnson thought double-barrelled names had a ring to them, and made his contribution to the motoring lexicon, inserting a clause stipulating that the cars would henceforward be known as Rolls-Royces.
Later one of the 40/50 cars was painted silver and called The Silver Ghost. It was the fashion to apply names to individual cars, rather like ships. The title stuck, and the Silver Ghost remained in production for eighteen years. Phantoms, Wraiths, Shadows and Spirits followed. Rolls-Royces were always beautifully made although scarcely inventive, and never above taking somebody else's component (an automatic transmission from General Motors, or a patent suspension from Citroën) and adapting it to its own exacting standards. An engine from Munich, transmission from Friedrichshafen, even an aluminium body from Dingolfing, has not been entirely out of character.
In 1914 the Admiralty instructed Lieut Walter Owen Bentley of the Royal Naval Air Service to find out why its new French aero engines were overheating. By 1916 he had designed one himself the Bentley rotary (below), which saw service in Sopwith Camels, and was used by the RAF until 1926.
After the war Bentley wasted no time getting into car production. His 3 Litre appeared at the London Motor Show in 1919, yet the foundations of the Bentley legend were laid at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in France. Bentleys won it five times against opposition from Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, and Bugatti, but following the 1929 depression even the extravagant Bentley Boys had to economise. In July 1931 Bentley Motors called in the receiver.
Napier had not made a car since 1925, it was now predominantly an aero engine manufacturer, but was so impressed with the new 8 Litre opened negotiations to buy Bentley Motors. In September The Autocar confidently announced that an agreement only awaited formal approval. The receiver called for sealed bids, but the mysterious British Central Equitable Trust dashed Napier’s hopes. Weeks later the subterfuge was revealed. Rolls-Royce, learning of Napier's interest, had pre-empted its rival.
Bentley never forgave what he regarded as Rolls-Royce's deceit, and although he joined Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd soon left, forbidden from ever applying his name to a car again.
In 1933 Rolls-Royce announced the Derby-built Silent Sports Car, and with a few memorable exceptions, Bentleys became little more than badge-engineered Rolls-Royces. The exceptions included the splendid Continentals of the 1950s, with sweeping lines inspired by a contemporary Buick, and the new Continental developed by the VW-owned company. More in The Complete Bentley, Dove Publishing Ltd. (right, WO Bentley bust at Bentley Motors, Crewe)

Goodwood 1914

Goodwood had a 1914 French Grand Prix Mércèdes at Bonhams in Bond Street in the run-up to the Festival of Speed. A hundred years ago WO Bentley purloined one of the works team cars in an obscure piece of espionage worthy of Hannay in The Thirty-Nine steps. The great racer had shown such speed and stamina over a 23 mile course near Lyon, that Bentley believed its secrets should be revealed. The race took place on July 4th 1914, a bare six days after the fatal shots that began the Great War had been fired at Sarajevo.
By the outbreak of war Bentley was effectively out of work. His family firm had been selling cars but trading soon ceased. Cars still had to be serviced but with his business in ruins for as long, it seemed, as the war lasted, WO wanted to make the most of his great secret scoop. He had been one of the first to adopt aluminium pistons in the DFP in which he set ftd for his class at the Aston Clinton hill-climb. He set a ten-lap record at Brooklands for a 2 litre car at 66.8mph (107.5kph) and a year later, with L8 aluminium pistons, raised it to 81.9mph (131.9kph).
He now wanted to put this breakthrough at the disposal of the nation. It would be just the thing, he was sure, for high performance aircraft engines. He sought out Commander Wilfrid Briggs, head of the Air Engine Section, which liased between the Admiralty and the engine industry. Briggs operated from a small wooden office on top of Admiralty Arch and captured WO’s attention at once. “The only officer in the navy as clever as Briggs was the man who appointed him,” wrote WO, recounted in The Complete Bentley.
By June 13 1915, less than a year after the grand prix, Briggs had WO Bentley gazetted as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), an elite bunch of civilian volunteers who obtained quick promotion for wartime officers into the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Briggs sent WO to Derby, where Rolls-Royce was making air-cooled Renault aero engines, to meet Ernest W Hives (later Lord Hives) with whom WO formed a friendship that lasted 20 years. Engineer Hives soon had Rolls-Royce’s new 200hp water-cooled Eagle engines equipped with aluminium pistons.
Henry Royce was adept at meticulous improvement rather than radical innovation. WO was determined he should get to know more of his adversary’s engineering. WO recalled that in 1915: “…a friend of mine tipped me off that one of the Mércèdes racing cars, which had swept the board at the 1914 French Grand Prix, had got stuck in England at the beginning of the war and still rested at the Mércèdes showroom in Long Acre. I thought it ought to be investigated. So I told Briggs about it and together we went along, representing the British Crown so to speak, with a ‘search warrant’. The place was in a fine old mess, but down in the basement lay a 4½ litre Grand Prix Mércèdes. We had it dug out, and soon it was being taken to pieces by Rolls-Royce at Derby.”
There was no search warrant of course and accounts of the legitimate wartime larceny differ. In one WO towed the Mércèdes to Derby behind Briggs’s Rolls-Royce. In another he recruited his old school friend Roy Fedden, later a distinguished engineer at Bristol Aircraft, and the pair raced along empty wartime roads from London to Derby, before towing the 1914 racer into the Rolls-Royce factory.
The precocious young Lieutenant also recommended that Rolls-Royce examine the contemporary double overhead camshaft Peugeot racing engine.
Lord March promoting the world's best motoring garden party

Bentley 3 Litre

Could a 1924 3 Litre Bentley do 70 in second? Third maybe, but although a bare chassis was guaranteed to do 90, its weight and with what they used to call the “windage” of even an open body would restrict speed to not much over 85mph. So I somehow doubt “Open Throttle” in the Brooklands Gazette (later Motor Sport), writing enthusiastically in its very first issue that “With a slight pressure on the accelerator one can then speed up the Bentley in a few yards to fifty, fifty-five, sixty-five, and seventy quite easily—all on second. The leap forward when the increase of engine revolutions permitted by the sudden change from top to second, is a thing to be experienced to be appreciated.”

It was, he claimed, “one feature that may be described as unique… How many sporting cars will do seventy miles an hour in second gear?” His test car, moreover, had the five-jet water-jacketed Smith-Bentley carburetter, the 45BVS, used up till 1923, not the regular Speed Model’s two sloper SU G5s. Perhaps a 3 Litre Speed Model person can put us right.
Otherwise “Open Throttle” doesn’t materially contradict The Complete Bentley (Amazon e-book - £12.31). This first Brooklands Gazette of July 1924 gave the price of a 3 Litre with 4-seat body as £1,125 and with two seats £1,100. My research was based on contemporary advertisements and other accounts. I gave the Red Label Speed Model a couple of decimals’ difference in the top gear ratio. You could have any colour you liked on the badges but speed models were all red. “Open Throttle” discovered the “system of dual controlled magnetos” but surprisingly doesn’t seem to have counted the spark plugs. He gives the weight at 19½cwt although that was for the chassis only. Bodywork added 5-6cwt. I think I prefer Motor Sport’s later practice of initialling contributors, such as WB and DSJ.
A lot of 3 Lire Bentleys were burdened by heavy saloon bodywork.

1924-1929 3 Litre RED LABEL SPEED MODEL

Essentially a development of the TT Replica, Speed Models brought in four wheel brakes, and twin SU carburettors. WO maintained that hydraulic brakes had been tried on EXP2, but production cars had a mechanical system based on Perrot principles, which had a shaft with sliding universal joints. The front axle section was increased to take the strain, and instead of cast iron linings as used in the rear drums, all eight brake shoes had fabric linings. The handbrake operated an additional set of shoes and a single adjustment beneath the floor took up lining wear on all four wheels. There was no servo, but WO and FT Burgess developed and patented a mechanical compensator used subsequently in Bentleys up to the 8 Litre. There were several stages of Perrot-Bentley brakes, improvements having been tried out on Burgess’s experimental car ME 2431, that was doing effective duty as EXP4. The stage 1.1 Perrots ran to 1926, stage 2, which pinned the sliding keys, to 1929. There were gearbox developments and a larger sump as well as a gradual thickening of the chassis frame from 0.144in (3.7mm) to 0.156in (3.96mm), and in 1928 0.188in (4.78mm). Chassis flexure was problematical. LJK Setright: “(WO) carried over to his cars the notions of scale he acquired in railway locomotive workshops. So far as his chassis were concerned, the effect was almost always disastrous; everything about them was of heroic dimensions and villainous proportions, the outcome being an aggregation of components that was grotesquely heavy without being particularly stiff. Indeed the main chassis rails, though of very thick channel section, were only 4in (10.2cm) deep and their inadequate beam stiffness made it necessary for supplementary trusses to be bolted beneath, an arrangement which improved matters in bending but did nothing to improve the torsional stiffness of the chassis.” The reinforcements were struts and stiffeners below the main chassis members giving the effect of a deeper beam section. The radiator header tank was enlarged, making the domed shell 1in (2.5cm) taller and adding dignity to the prow. In 1926 steel rocker arms were replaced with duralumin even though they proved fragile at Brooklands in 1927.
BODY various coachbuilt; chassis weight 20cwt (1016kg); 1925 23cwt (1168.4kg); maximum with body 26cwt (1320.8kg) to 28cwt (1422.4kg)
ENGINE 4-cylinders, in-line; front; 80mm x 149mm, 2996cc; compr 5.6:1, 6.1:1; 85bhp (63.39kW) @ 3500rpm; 28.4bhp (21.18kW)/l; RAC rating 15.9HP
ENGINE STRUCTURE 4-valves, double springs; hollow overhead camshaft gear-driven from front; cast-iron non-detachable cylinder head, cast iron cylinders; aluminium crankcase; cast aluminium 2.5gal (11.4l) sump with gear-driven pump; long securing studs from block to crankcase; two sloper SU G5 carburettors; 2 spark plugs per cylinder; two ML CG4 later some RG4 magnetos, Autovac fuel system; 5-bearing Laystall forged steel crankshaft; water-cooled, L8 hourglass or BHB split skirt aluminium pistons.
TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; Ferodo-lined 42.25in (107.3cm) cone clutch; separate 4-speed A-type gearbox, or C-type on Speed Models; right hand change; one-piece plunger joint propeller shaft; spiral bevel final drive 3.78, or 3.53:1
CHASSIS pressed 35ton steel channel section frame, 4 riveted cross members; half-elliptic leaf springs (different leaves according to body weight) suspension; Hartford, Duplex friction dampers; 15.75in (40cm) drum brakes with Bentley-Perrot shafts to front; worm and wheel steering; 11gal (50l) fuel tank with 2gal (9l) reserve; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels, 820x120 tyres. Dunlop after 1926
DIMENSIONS wheelbase 117.5in (298.4cm); track 56in (142.2cm); length 159in 403.8cm); width 68.5in (174cm); ground clearance 7.25in (18.4cm); turning circle short right 46ft (14m) left 42ft (12.8m).
PERFORMANCE maximum speed, 86mph (138.1kph); 24.3mph 39kph app @ 1000rpm;
0-60mph (96kph) 40sec; fuel consumption 20mpg (14.12l/100km)-25mpg (11.3l/100km).
PRICE chassis only, £1050, 1924 £925; complete car (mostly VDP) £1275-£1475; 1924 £1125-£1350 PRODUCTION 513
THE sporting car, as a class, has characteristically more distinction than that possessed by touring types. Being essentially out of the ordinary, and representing the result of concentration upon a design intended to emphasise particular motoring qualities, the sporting car usually has quite an individuality of its own. Some sporting cars, of course, are much more conventional than others; whilst there are those which seem to stand quite apart from orthodox standards.
In the latter category one may place the three-litre Speed Model Bentley. This car embodies all the qualities which one has come to consider essential in a sporting car. In addition, it has features and characteristics quite its own. A brief review of the chassis reveals at once how interesting a proposition the Speed Model Bentley is, and this opinion is vastly enhanced when one takes the car for a trial on the road.
The engine is a four-cylinder monobloc of 2,996 cc. capacity and 15.9 h.p. on the R.A.C. rating. Its design has much originality, which has been well justified by the results obtained. There are two inlet and two exhaust valves in each cylinder, arranged in the head and operated by a totally enclosed overhead camshaft and rockers, running in oil. Both crankshaft and camshaft are carried in five bearings. The pistons are of aluminium, designed for high compression service. Cooling is by pump circulation controlled by an automatic thermostat. Ignition on a sporting car is, of course, a factor demanding the most careful attention. One usually has to “drive on the spark” more than is requisite on a touring car, and if one desires to obtain really the best running from the Speed Model Bentley one makes no exception to this rule with it. On this car one finds two M.L. high-tension magnetos, having a synchronised firing point control. The system of dual controlled magnetos enables one to obtain particularly effective ignition. Lubrication is by pressure to the main bearings and big ends, and by splash to the pistons and gudgeon pins. There is a pressure lead from the main oil supply to the hollow crankshaft, through which the camshaft bearings, cams and valve rockers are lubricated.
Carburation is by a five-jet water-jacketed Smith-Bentley carburetter. A notable point is that a petrol consumption of 25 m.p.g. at 30 m.p.h, is guaranteed. The speed model Bentley, considering its wide capabilities, is not under any condition excessive in fuel consumption. The clutch is of the inverted cone type, lined with Ferodo. It has compensated withdrawal mechanism automatically lubricated, and there is a special automatic lubricator for the clutch spigot. The four-speed gear-box gives ratios in the forward speeds of 9.35 to 1, 3 78 to 1, 4.72 to 1, and 3.53 to 1.
It is operated by a simple right-hand gate change carried on an extension of the box. The frame of the chassis is of particularly strong construction, and does not rely on the engine or gearbox for part of its bracing. Double Hartford shock absorbers are fitted to the back axle and single to the front. There are oil lubricated Wefco gaiters on all springs. Steering is by worm and wheel.
In a car of such advanced design as the Bentley, one naturally expects to find front wheel brakes, and the system of fully compensated internal expanding brakes operating on all four wheels and controlled by pedal is very effective. The hand brake operates direct on the rear wheels. Wear on the four wheel brakes can be taken up by a single adjustment.
The tank holds eleven gallons of petrol, and a two-way tap near the filling cap gives access to a reserve supply of two gallons. The cardan shaft is hollow and is loaded with oil through a plug, this reservoir providing an oil supply for the back universal joint. Chassis lubrication is by oil, supplied from an oil-gun through screwed oil plugs. The only grease cup on the chassis situated on the water pump. After the chassis has been lubricated it can be run for three months of normal mileage without further lubrication, apart, of course, from the engine’s requirements.
The wheelbase of the sporting Bentley is 9 ft. 9½ins., and the wheel track 4 ft. 8ins. The weight of the chassis is 19½cwts., and it runs on 820 x 120 m.m. tyres. The annual tax is £16.
From the foregoing it will be appreciated that the Speed Model Bentley is a particularly interesting car. Our road experiences with this model, although not at the moment as extensive as we should like, have convinced us that this car must possess a fascination for every sporting motorist.
The sporting Bentley is naturally a fast car. But that is by no means the sum total of its outstanding attraction. Very few sporting cars arc really docile in control, many are not at all comfortable to ride in. The Speed Model Bentley is a happy exception to this too prevalent rule. We drove the Bentley quite comfortably on top gear at an exceptionally low speed, and found it very docile in traffic and those places wherein “sporting” characteristics are not over appreciated. Owing to its high gear range one must, of course, remember that the four speeds are there to be used. Gearchanging is so easy a matter, however, that one finds not the smallest objection to always starting in first and to a fairly frequent use of the lower ratios in traffic. On each gear the car is instantly responsive its life and acceleration under all conditions being admirable.
Later Sloper carburettor
There is one feature of the Bentley that may be described as unique, and to this we would give due prominence. How many sporting cars, or cars of any sort, will do seventy miles an hour in second gear? Their number must be very few indeed. The Bentley, however, makes light of this. One can speed up in the ordinary way on the successive gears until one is going along smoothly and comfortably at, say, forty-five miles an hour on top gear. One then changes down direct to second gear, missing third - and things begin to happen. With a slight pressure on the accelerator one can then speed up the Bentley in a few yards to fifty, fifty-five, sixty-five, and seventy quite easily—all on second. The leap forward when the increase of engine revolutions permitted by the sudden change from top to second, is a thing to be experienced to be appreciated. The acceleration is quite remarkable, as remarkable as the fact changing down at forty-five miles an hour itself. The Bentley will hang on to round about the seventy mark on second gear indefinitely, and the change down at speed with a quick double-clutch is not unduly difficult. One can change into top at practically any speed, slow well as fast, and the Bentley will attain the neighbourhood of the eighty mark without much forcing.
Steering of the Bentley is delightfully easy, comparable in its comfort to that experienced on a high quality light car. The four-wheel brakes, operated by pedal, remarkably powerful, and very easy and smooth in operation. Although there is not an over abundance of seating room the Speed Model Bentley is quite comfortable to ride in.
The electrical and other equipment is very complete and the general lay-out of the car very pleasing to those who desire a high quality sporting vehicle which is quite
practicable for ordinary touring and exceptionally attractive amongst sporting designs for town and general use.
The price of the Speed Model Bentley with four seater body is £1,125 and with two-seater body £1,100, purchasers being afforded the option of choosing the colour of body and upholstery. The manufacturers are Messrs. Bentley Motors, Ltd., 3, Hanover Court, Hanover Street, London, W.1. The extensive Bentley factories are at Cricklewood. London, N.W. 2.
Interest in the Bentley is naturally enhanced by this car’s splendid victory in the French Grand Prix d’Endurance last month. The Bentley was the only British car amongst some forty competitors, and its outstanding performance throughout the race provided a notable tribute to British engineering in general, and to Bentley design and workmanship in particular Magnificently driven by Duff and Clement, the Bentley maintained a thrilling struggle with some of the best representatives of French automobile science throughout the twenty-four hours that the race occupied. This event is indeed appropriately named, a trial of endurance, for it is difficult to imagine a more exacting test under road conditions than this gruelling struggle of speed throughout a day and a night.
The Bentley had no mechanical trouble, and at the end of the race was in good condition and still lapping consistently. The distance covered by the Bentley in twenty-four hours with Duff and Clement alternately at the wheel, was exactly 2,188 kilometres, or 128 laps of the course. Second place was taken by the Lorraine-Dietrich, driven alternately by Stoffel and Brisson with 2,016 kilometres to its credit.