Bentley 8 Litre – Car of the Day

Bentley 8 Litre

This magnificent road and racing Bentley has an astounding history, having been bought new by renowned racing driver Forrest Lycett, who kept the car all his life. Lycett who had ridden in Benz cars as early as 1901, and his father’s De Dion Bouton in 1903, grew to love Bentleys, and owned nine of them.

In this machine he took the last record ever taken at Brooklands, just a week before World War II, a standing mile in which he crossed the finishing line at 135mph. His Bentley 8 Litre, capable of over 140mph, was certainly the fastest pre-War British sports car and probably the fastest in the world
at that time. It is exceptional for many reasons. The low bodywork was styled by Lycett himself and built by Corsica.

Notice how the radiator was lowered to reduce wind resistance, and how smaller headlamps were mounted inboard. Lycett’s favourite engineer, Lewis ‘Mac’ McKenzie, made many modifications. The dynamo, usually protruding below the radiator, was moved and mounted inboard. Instead of the twin
carburetors the engine was given three SUs, and its compression ratio was increased from standard 5.5:1 to 7:1. Dual magnetos, rather than one, were fitted.

Weight was saved by many means, including removing the brake servo. The scuttle was lined up with the light bonnet. ‘Mac’ also fitted a one-shot lubrication system and a second accelerator for smooth low-speed driving, for Lycett, who had six final drive ratios to choose from, used this car for pleasure and business motoring as well as racing.

His competition successes in the car are numerous: he won the Lewes speed trials in 1934, and at Brooklands, Brighton, Shelsley Walsh and other places he beat Bugattis, Alfa Romeos, supercharged Mercedes and Frazer Nashes, Hispano-Suizas and Railtons. Yet, afterwards, Lycett would drive the 8 Litre home, a unique car with beautiful lines and stunning performance.

After the war the car won races at Silverstone and Goodwood in the capable hands of Leslie Johnson and in 1959 driven by Lycett aged 75 at Antwerp regained his international class B records including the flying kilometer at 141.131mph. On Lycett’s death in 1959 the car was acquired by Stanley Sears
under a private arrangement previously made and passed to the Corner family under a similar agreement in 2012.