To be an enthusiast, for anything, tends to distil into a general interest centred on a particular favourite. Cars and motor sport are my “big thing” and as per the model above, although I have broad interests there are one or two subsets that excite more than any other. The original turbo era within F1 and Group B rally cars betray the age of my adolescence. Land speed record cars speak to my love of speed and adventure whereas Auto-Union grand prix cars appeal to the engineer and provide personal heroes. Lotus and Bugatti, for almost exactly opposite reasons, sit near the top as favourite marques but all are ultimately surpassed by Bentley.
I cannot pinpoint when I became aware of Bentleys, I guess at the age of 9 or 10 but I was starting down the path of being “an enthusiast” and as such absorbing quantities of information as only a child with eyes freshly opened to a new vibrant world of possibilities can. I can remember when I realised they were to be a life long passion though. There was a meeting near Derby and, I think aged 13 or so, my brother and I set out on our bicycles to attend. A glorious sunny day, we were heading along the A52 when with an almighty bellow three black Vanden Plas bodied “WOs” came thundering past. My heart was lost to them instantly.
Learning of the exploits of the Bentley Boys, those impossibly dashing playboys who risked all for the sheer thrill of it, only added to the appeal. Racing at Brooklands during the day, driving back to their apartments in uber-chic Berkeley Square in the evening, partying into the night and then occasionally thrashing around the square in their trusty steeds until the neighbours called the police. This is a life that appeals above all others, a life that inspires and, sadly, one I will never know.
However this isn’t to say that a taste of that life cannot be found. A little opportunism and luck coupled with a tenacious grip on my dreams has led to a number of incredible experiences. Well, that along with the kindness, indulgence and help of others. Capturing a shot of Martin Overington sliding his Blower through the chicane at Goodwood, riding up the hill at Syston park in the passenger seat of a 4 ½, the gathering of cars just driven back from le Mans Classic outside Jack Barclay’s showroom, our own Blue Train run last year and seeing the latest Continental GT racer win at Oulton Park. All were beyond the dreams of that 13 year old but have come to pass.
So Bentley and the Bentley Boys – more than the focus of my enthusiasm, rather a catalyst and inspiration for my approach to life. I wont see the bicentenary come up but I guess there will still be those young boys and girls cycling along and who will have their lives set on a new course by the flash of a set of spoked wheels, the sonorous boom of a drain pipe sized exhaust and the image of a bluff tail disappearing into the distance with a badge bearing the letter “B” set between outstretched wings. Happy 100th birthday!