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Bentley 4 ½ litre 'Le Mans'

1929, ERA Shed, On long term display

This car was delivered to its first owner H.N. Holder already prepared for the Junior Car Club's first 'British Double Twelve Hour Race’ at Brooklands in May 1929. Holder and Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin drove it in the race. Holder also drove it in the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club's Six Hours Sports Car Race in June 1929, but in each case it retired. Its only success at Brooklands was third place in an all-Bentley race in 1936.

Before World War One, Walter Owen Bentley raced motorcycles and cars at Brooklands, and during the war, as a Royal Naval Air Service Lieutenant, he developed aero-engines. He founded Bentley Motors Ltd in 1919 and the first model was available in 1921. The 4½ Litre was introduced in 1926.

Bentley dominated Le Mans in the 1920s. This was largely due to the famed ‘Bentley Boys’, a group of about a dozen ‘race hard, play hard’ gentlemen racers. The group included ‘Tim’ Birkin and Woolf Barnato, heir to the Kimberly Diamond fortune and chairman at Bentley. Many of them regularly raced here and came to epitomise the glamorous golden age of Brooklands.

Loaned by John Lander