You may anticipate you apperceive Bentley, that maker of exquisite, fast, graceful affluence cool cruisers like the Continental GT, Flying Spur, Mulsanne and, best recently, the big able-bodied Bentayga SUV. And while those are accomplished cartage anniversary in their own way, they are what you ability call, “the new Bentleys.” There are those who accept that the alone absolute Bentleys are the ones congenital beneath the ambit and administering of the original W.O. Bentley, whose name, as they say, is on the building.
Bentley the aggregation was alone absolutely in the ascendancy of W.O. from its founding in 1919 to about 1930, aback the Abundant Depression and its afterwards common bread-and-butter collapse eventually bent up with the perennially financially aged aggregation and W.O. –- architect and architect — was alone and then, later, gone from the works he had created. W.O. was a ablaze architect and an aboriginal apostle of aluminum pistons, amid added efficiencies, but he was a awful businessman. His engineering accuracy beforehand to bristles wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans during his tenure, as able-bodied as abundant wins and almanac runs at Brooklands by The Bentley Boys.
It is the cars from that 11-year aeon that are admired and acclaimed by the accurate believers in the sliver-thin alcove of archetypal Bentleys. There were alone article like 3,000 absolute Bentleys anytime made. It was those cars and alone those cars (well, about only) that their owners aggregate calm aftermost anniversary for a admirable bout –- at acceleration –- over some of axial California’s greatest roads, 99 years afterwards W.O. founded the company.
What a lineup! Photo by Mark Vaughn
My accord in the assemblage started with a alarm from Bentley buyer Craig Ekberg, a longtime adherent of the Petersen Automotive Museum and a car beneficiary in his own right. One of his admired cars (and the acumen for the call) was a 1928 4½-liter Bentley that he and his acquaintance Don Shires had purchased accurately to go on big rallies like this one, accurately to drive it aloof as the aboriginal Bentley Boys had apprenticed them 90 years before.
The avenue featured some of the best anchorage in the state, anchorage so alien and squiggly that I anticipation no one abroad knew about them. To accumulate them secret, I won’t acknowledge specifics, except to say that they ran from Santa Barbara arctic for hundreds of afar and aback again.
Officially, the West Coast Bentley Bout ran for four days, but there were additionally pre- and post-rally routes that some of the avant-garde Bentley Boys and Girls would run. I capital to do the accomplished thing, but there was this botheration of what you alarm work, all this accursed accounting you see actuality and elsewhere, that got in the way. Hence, I absent all but the final official day, which ran 175 afar from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara through rolling hills of blooming flowers and blooming hills that alone arise in this accompaniment for a brace weeks in the springtime, and afresh alone if it had rained a fair bulk aloof before. This year it had, and it was a heck of a admirable route, through hills absolutely of the array you see in the day-tripper brochures and in all the ads in Westways magazine, area they don’t bother to acquaint you that the blow of the year the abode is brown, dry and brittle dead.
So what if the greenery was all a acting illusion? This was California — annihilation actuality is absolutely real. Except, for the bigger allotment of a week, these Bentleys. Well, one was declared to be a re-creation. Some grumbled, but I looked at it, and if that’s re-creating, I had no botheration with it. It looked splendid. Like all the others, with arid levers and gauges and cull knobs that adapted God-only-knows what.
So there we were, amid the admirable California springtime with about 30 or so absolute Bentleys, conceivably 1 percent of the absolute assembly if my algebraic is right, and off we ran. I rode aboriginal in Ekberg and Shires’ car, angled like a sack of California avocados into the left-hand-side passenger’s bench of this right-hand-drive beast. There were little windshieldlets that affectionate of propped themselves up in avant-garde of our faces, but they didn’t do any absolute windshielding except to taunt us with their aerodynamic inefficiencies. There was a beyond ellipsoidal windshield, but that was allegedly for sissies. It was bankrupt collapsed appropriate there on the awning area it couldn’t do any of that chichi careful of the wind. Ekberg didn’t care. His job alfresco of active able beasts bottomward abundant anchorage was, apparently, “Man.” He didn’t charge no abhorrent windshield. Didn’t charge any sunscreen, either, it looked like, nor alike a hat. I sat there with a pint and a bisected of SPF 75 and a big, impaired sun hat from Costco. I looked like an idiot.
“That apparently won’t break on,” Ekberg said of the hat, actuality affable abundant not to ask if it was from Costco. He was right, it didn’t. I was afraid my T-shirt backward on. Heck, I was afraid the acrylic remained on the car.
We flew off into axial California abaft the ability and ability of those four and a bisected liters like we were bottomward assimilate the cyberbanking at Brooklands.
There’s a lot activity on in the cockpit. Pedals aren’t in the accepted positions; it takes a while to get your bearings. Photo by Mark Vaughn
Of beforehand there weren’t any seatbelts, either, because if we were activity to die we were activity to die like Men, dammit. Likewise the gas tanks of these things were all army in back, area a rear bonanza and accompanying CAD-designed crumple zones would be on article like a Camry. You abounding it up by agee off the astronomic spiral cap the admeasurement of a baby debris can lid and aloof array of dumped gas into it like you were bushing a baby pond pool. The abstraction abaft this gas catchbasin area ability accept been that the aqueous would act like a shock cushion in the accident of a rear-end collision. And it apparently would, too, up until the gas hit the hot bankrupt aqueduct that poked out appropriate beneath it.
Ekberg wasn’t afraid about any of that. He didn’t say abundant — men don’t, ya see — and it would accept been adamantine to apprehend him alike if he had said anything, so abundant was the wind blast. What heroes those aboriginal Bentley Boys charge accept been, arrant about the abundant beforehand of Europe in these things with cloth-cord tires and bugs on their foreheads.
I didn’t alike ask if I could drive; that’s article you are offered if a car buyer wants you to do it. It would accept been a adversity anyhow aback the pedal locations on absolute Bentleys are all screwy. Aback in the ‘20s the apple hadn’t ample out that the gas was declared to be on the right, anchor in the average and clamp on the left. These were: gas in the middle, anchor on the larboard and clamp on the right, aloof in case you are anytime asked to drive. I would accept adjourned or comatose into article while cerebration I was dispatch on the anchor aback in actuality it had been the aerial axle adjuster or atom beforehand or God knows what.
Out on the accessible artery we raced forth beside added Bentleys, anniversary disciplinarian animated like a Cheshire schoolboy, blessed as the clams abutting to us on Pismo Beach, announcement forth the anchorage in cars so big and able and avant-garde for their day that it would booty the blow of the automotive industry decades to bolt up. I don’t apperceive how fast we were going, but it had to be abutting amateur digits. It was amazing to do 90 mph in a 90-year-old chase car that could bench bristles and backpack their luggage, too.
“If these cars are well-maintained, they’re admirable machines,” said 1929 4½ liter buyer Trevor Tomkins aback we’d pulled in to cafeteria at Los Olivos. “I consistently said if I anytime get the opportunity, I’ll buy one.”
“You accept to absolutely drive these things, be affianced in the process,” said 1928 4½ liter buyer Todd Coady. “It’s not like a Lexus. It takes a brace of canicule to get the adhere of it. The gearbox is as abundant an art as a science. But it’s added advantageous aback you do it right.”
After lunch, Shires took the caster of his Bentley, and I jumped in with Joel Laub in addition 4½ liter.
“My acquaintance had a Bugatti Type 35,” Laub explained. “One day, he was affairs it out of the garage, and he said, ‘Hey, wanna go for a ride?’”
That beforehand to an acknowledgment of archetypal cars. Once he was on a assemblage of Bentleys and was afraid at how able-bodied they ran. Some analysis showed that Bentley owners seemed to accept the best events. So he got a Bentley to add to his collection.
“I’ve got a barn with a Mercedes SL, a avant-garde Ferrari a brace of added cars and a Bentley. I consistently booty the Bentley.”
And who could accusation him? They are big, admirable British beasts. And here, at atomic they were actuality apprenticed as they were meant to be aback they were new, abounding acceleration and all-out.
The assemblage formed aback into Santa Barbara like a apparition train, admitting a blatant and alluring apparition train. For me, it was over. I thanked Ekberg and Laub and anyone abroad I could anticipate to thank, afresh got into a Hyundai Accent –- as abhorrent an end as any in Bentley history –- and collection home to LA, forehead sunburned and pockmarked with bugs, the bigger for the experience. Ekberg and accompany were planning a few added canicule of driving. They were Bentley Boys, for sure, and it was acceptable to accept met them.
Learn All About Bentley Continental GT From This Politician – Bentley Continental GT
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