This 4½-Litre, chassis number ‘RL3439’, was completed in March 1929 and has one of the longest competition histories of any car known to the Bentley Drivers’ Club. Originally bodied as a Weymann-type saloon by Gurney Nutting, the car was sold new to Edgar Heap of Ilkley, West Yorkshire. In 1932 Mr Heap sold the Bentley to the second owner, Major A. N. Braithwaite of Leeds. Bentley Motors’ service records show that McKenzie’s Garages serviced Major Braithwaite’s car for two years prior to ‘Mac’ acquiring it in 1936.
A renowned tuner specialising in the preparation of the Cricklewood cars, Lewis Charles ‘Mac’ McKenzie was a prominent figure in Bentley circles during the 1930s. Proprietor of McKenzie’s Garages Ltd of London, SW1 and known as the ‘High Priest’ of Vintage Bentleys, ‘Mac’ built gentleman racer Forrest Lycett’s famous 8-Litre, ‘YX 5121’, which was capable of exceeding 300 horsepower. ‘Mac’ followed the same principles he employed on the 8-litre when given Lycett’s new 4½-Litre to play with. He shortened the chassis, lowered the suspension and re-tuned the engine. Bodied by Corsica as a two-seater in a style similar to the 8-Litre, this new car was nicknamed ‘The Hooligan’.
Delighted with how his new creation had turned out, ‘Mac’ decided to build another for himself. So he converted Major Braithwaite’s car in 1936 and on completion it was painted in Riviera Blue, earning itself the nickname ‘Bluebell’ by which it has been known ever since. In 1942 ‘Mac’ sold ‘Bluebell to Jack Evan-Cook. The car then competed at many venues with a succession of owners over the next 60+ years.
In 2010 ‘Bluebell’ returned to Goodwood to take part in the Revival Meeting. And she is currently part of the Bert Degenaar collection. The car underwent a comprehensive rebuild in 2017 by Kingsbury Racing Shop when she was returned to her original McKenzie specifications. The chassis is still the shortened and reinforced 9’ 9 and 1/2” created by McKenzie and the brakes are still hydraulically operated. The body has been sympathetically rebuilt and the chassis straightened to correct the ravages of such an illustrious competition history.
This Bentley’s provenance is fully documented by press cuttings and factory records and ‘Bluebell’ also comes with a FIA Historic Vehicle Identity Form (1990), Netherlands registration papers, and an old German Fahrzeugbrief (issued 2006). Retaining its beautifully proportioned Corsica body and boasting a competition history equalled by few of its peers, ‘Bluebell’ represents Bentley’s racing ‘specials’ with probably the longest and most exciting race history, created by one of the marque’s legendary practitioners, ‘Mac’ McKenzie. Her competition history continues. After the rebuild she immediately won Benjafield’s Sprint at Goodwood and continues to be used for race, rally and touring events worldwide.
Bentley Centenary Celebration
This car is the second of five Bentleys to be displayed in the Club’s rotunda across June and July as the Club celebrates the manufacturer’s centenary year.
Displayed courtesy of E.R. Degenaar Esq. from Monday 1st July to Sunday 7th July 2019.