In the early days of car manufacturing, Bentley emerged as one of the world’s premier brands. Extravagance, glamour and speed became synonymous with the company and the people who drove the cars. Bentleys became popular racing vehicles and it led to a group of wealthy British motorists winning various events. They became known as the Bentley Boys, with many of them having colourful backgrounds. We’ve looked into the stories of four of the Bentley Boys.
Joel Woolf Barnato came from a family of entrepreneurs and from an early age he wanted to excel at everything he put his mind to. A decorated war hero, Barnato acquired his first Bentley in 1925. He became an avid racer, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans three years in a row from 1928 to 1930. Barnato also made a name for himself by beating the Blue Train from Cannes to Calais.
It wasn’t long before Barnato became the Chairman of Bentley, with his money keeping the organisation afloat through harder times. Company founder W.O Bentley called him “the best driver we ever had and, I consider, the best British driver of his day. One who never made a mistake and always obeyed orders.”
Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin
Henry Birkin earned his nickname from the comic character Tiger Tim. He began his association with Bentley in 1927, when he raced a three-litre model for a six-hour race. Birkin went on to win the 1929 24 Hours of Le Mans with co-driver Barnato. Birkin believed the future was in a lighter car that had more power. After Bentley refused his request to create the supercharged variant, Birkin developed the car himself. This led to the creation of the first blower Bentley.
Sammy Davis was best known as the Sports Editor of The Autocar magazine, writing under the pen name of Casque. Davis acted as a business partner for W.O Bentley, helping him form the company. He participated in numerous racing events, winning the 1937 Le Mans in partnership with Dr Benjafield. Motor Sport commented on the event, saying “the victory, in spite of the accident of the crippled 3-litre Bentley driven by J.D Benjafield and S.C.H Davis, will always remain an epic, and even if the competition was not keen as in the past, it is a great thing to have won a race with a car which was damaged in the early part of the event.”
A British doctor and racer, Dudley Benjafield used his bacterial knowledge to combat the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Initially, he raced boats and moved into cars during the 1920s. He bought his first Bentley in 1924, going on to win the 1927 Le Mans with Sammy Davis. Benjafield also went on to create the British Racing Drivers’ Club.
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