A Bountiful Collection of Bentleys
The Concours of Elegance – famed for gathering together the rarest cars ever created – will showcase some of the world’s most extraordinary Bentleys at Hampton Court Palace in this year’s ‘Main Concours’ display. Taking place from 3-5 September, the event is renowned as one of the top three concours d’elegance events in the world for the quality of cars it attracts; nowhere else in the UK can the public see such a high standard of rare historic vehicles.
Since it started manufacturing cars in 1919, Bentley has established itself as a pinnacle of both luxury and performance. Built upon the company’s racing pedigree – five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s, plus a sixth in 2003 – Bentley is known across the globe for creating cars with an unrivalled blend of speed and the finest craftsmanship and materials.
Among the earliest Bentleys on display is ‘YB 633’, a very original 1926 6 ½-litre Sports Tourer. The car is reputed to be the last 11 foot chassis with the original one-off aluminium body still on the car – a four-light drop head coupe with a dickey seat and wind-up windows, referred to as a “Simplex Coupe” by Coachbuilder H J Mulliner. In Bentley factory records the car is referred to as a “3/4 folding head coupe”. The car also features its originally installed engine.
Alongside it, is ‘YW 5758’ a 1928 Bentley 4 ½-litre Le Mans Team Car – the most decorated original-bodied car in existence – still featuring its original chassis number, engine number, body number and body. The car’s impeccable racing history includes second place in class at the 1928 Newtownards TT, fifth at the inaugural 1929 Irish International Grand Prix at Phoenix Park, and class winner and third overall, at the 1929 ‘Six Hour Race’ at Brooklands. The car also placed fourth at Le Mans in 1929. The car continued its successes into the 1930s, and is still used regularly at historic meetings today.
Also on display is another Bentley 4 ½-litre with a different kind of history. ‘GC 6002’ was originally delivered via Jack Olding & Co to a Mr Arthur Grout in 1930. Arthur was the landlord of The Southampton Arms which was at the centre of the ‘race track wars’ of the 1920s – recently made famous by the Netflix series ‘Peaky Blinders’. The car is a sports four seater by Vanden Plas with fully valanced wings finished in green. Unfortunately for Arthur, the car’s commanding looks would do nothing to ward off the creditors – his failure to keep up repayments meant the vehicle was returned to the factory in 1935, as denoted on the chassis record. The car has never been rebuilt, only maintained, and is in regular use today, having covered less than 100,000 miles in more than nine decades.
Also gracing the pathways of Hampton Court is an early example of a ‘blown’ Bentley – a 1931 Bentley 4 ½-litre supercharged. The addition of the supercharger was facilitated by then racing driver Tim Birkin who, in 1929, suddenly found himself hopelessly outclassed by the supercharged Mercedes cars that were running away on the straights. Birkin approached engineer, Charles Amherst Villiers, who had already made his name with Brescia Bugattis and the supercharged Villiers Vauxhall Special, and commissioned him to design a super-
charger installation for the 4½-litre Bentley. Villiers also reworked the engine to cope with the strains imposed by the supercharger. The example on display at the Concours retains its original four-seater open sports body by Vanden Plas, and its original colour scheme of black with fine lining in red.
Rounding out the selection of 1930s Bentleys is ‘WD 4499’ which is a 1932 Bentley 8-litre, and the 64th of the 100 8-litre Bentleys built in 1930–31. The 8-litre was designed as a fast, powerful chassis capable of carrying heavy closed coachwork with sports car levels of performance. Indeed when the 8-litre was introduced at the 1930 Olympia Show it was the fastest production chassis in the world, capable of 103mph at 3,500rpm. This particular car is a long wheelbase model, with coachwork by H J Mulliner finished in black and green.
These are just some of the beautiful Bentleys that will be on display, with many more examples forming a line-up with the Bentley Drivers’ Club. This display is part of the additional content that makes up the near-1,000 cars on display during the Concours of Elegance, also including a collection of 95 British cars gathered to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 95th birthday, and a 30UNDER30 Concours aimed at inspiring the next-generation of classic car enthusiast.
Special features for 2021 will also gather together a line-up of Future Classics, representing the potential concours d’elegance stars of the next 50 years, a celebration of 60 years of the Jaguar E-type and a Veteran Car Run display, gathering the pre-1905 motoring pioneers that each year make their pilgrimage from London to Brighton.
Away from the automotive displays, Concours of Elegance remains an occasion of pure luxury, with champagne provided by Charles Heidsieck, picnics by Fortnum & Mason, live stage interviews with Chubb Insurance, hosted by Jodie Kidd, and a collection of art, jewellery and fashion displays. Presenting Partner, A. Lange & Söhne, recently confirmed to support the event for a further three years, will continue to showcase some of its most intricate timepieces. New long-term partners joining the event in 2021 include The Peninsula London Hotel and Residences, Gooding & Co and McLaren.