From the Bookshelf: Bentley - Still Maturing Vintage

It’s common knowledge now surely that 2019 marks the Bentley company’s centenary year. Commemorating that landmark, the rotunda of the Pall Mall clubhouse has played host this year to no fewer than nine rather different Bentley models spanning that full 100 years. [That’s surely a record in its own right for marque-exposure in the Pall Mall rotunda.]

So an interesting light was beamed on the range of Bentley monographs held by the Club Library as a result: motoring writers have certainly been romanced, relatively speaking by the quantity of publications available, in documenting Bentley’s earliest years.

And the vintage era generally (1919-31) coincides so neatly with the rise, fall, and receivership of the original company in 1931.

Writers really adore that first decade. Clare Hay’s monumental three-volume, limited edition, work in its latest and much expanded incarnation leads the way. Her other major penmanship of the period focuses on the company directly, a new edition of which came out very recently. Both are handsomely mounted reference books which will remain seminal works for decades to come.

Another sizeable volume, just published on behalf of the Bentley Drivers’ Club of Australia, records the custodianship of those ‘wonderful cars’ that have ended up down under; with Hay as lead writer, the laurels, however, should go to Tony Johns’ beautifully laid-out and enormous ‘appendix’ of all the cars’ details and photographs.

Good further illustrative material is provided by Nick Walker who uses different body styles to demarcate the many and various coachbuilders that have adorned Bentley chassis.

As well as production, competitive models come to the fore in those early years. Much of David Venables’ quite recent and nicely glossy history of Bentley racing’s pedigree concentrates on the vintage period with two books zeroing in on the Bentley Boys themselves, one homage to the lesser-known among the group (Nagle); another no-nonsense yet evocative insight of the dangers of motorsport and those charismatic characters who practised it (Foulkes). Just a glimpse then of Bentley’s power & refinement on the road, performance & handling on the track …

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Clare Hay, 2015. Bentley: The Vintage Years (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Number One Press.

Clare Hay, 2018. The History of Bentley Motors, 1919-1931 (2nd rev. ed.). Cambridge: Number One Press.

Clare Hay, Bob Watson, Phillip Schudmak, Tony Johns, 2019. Vintage Bentleys in Australia. Mulgrave/Melbourne, Victoria: Images Publishing Group.

Nick Walker with photography by Rowan Isaac, 2005. Coachwork on Vintage Bentleys. Beaworthy, Devon: Herridge & Sons.

David Venables, 2011. Bentley: A Racing History. Sparkford, Somerset: Haynes.

Elizabeth Nagle, 1964. The Other Bentley Boys. London: George Harrap & Co.

Nicholas Foulkes, 2006. The Bentley Era: The Fast and Furious Story of the Fabulous Bentley Boys. London: Quadrille Pub.

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