At last the sun came out – and in fine style. The Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club Annual Rally on 21st to 23rd June in the appropriately elegant setting of Burghley House was above all a very friendly affair. Owners, traders, dealers and goggle-eyed visitors all wanted to talk about the cars – quite often in between munching one of the local Melton Mowbray pies. The club’s name is right: this crowd is truly enthusiastic.
The RREC covers Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of all ages and 2019 is of course the 100th anniversary of the Bentley company – so there were more than a few winged B’s in view.
Here are some of the images that particularly took our fancy – we hope you enjoy them.
1933 Phantom II Continental
This car, Chassis 140MY and registration 711 UYG, was built for Sir Malcolm Campbell and carries Barker touring saloon coachwork. There is no precise specification for a Continental, but historian Ray Gentile determined that the common features of the Continental chassis were a short wheelbase and stiffer, five-leaf springs. This was the ultimate version of the Phantom II and there were 281 built.
Bentley Mk VIs and R-Types assembled
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bentley company, a whole field was dedicated to the marque. Here is a row of only a few of them – a mixture of Mk VI (small boot) and R-Type (large boot). These were the first post-war Bentleys and, with their sister cars the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn were the first to be clad in the company’s own design of standard steel body – although, if you were really well-heeled, you could of course still buy a bare chassis and have the body built by your own coachbuilder.
1951 Silver Dawn with Pininfarina coachwork
And here is proof: this Silver Dawn, Chassis SCA43 and registration 270 YUW, carries unique coachwork by Pininfarina. It is the only Silver Dawn to be clothed by this Italian Carrozzeria and was exhibited at the 1951 Turin Show. Its first owner was Commendatore Luigi Bressani, a resident of Milan.
1939 Bentley 4¼-litre MR-Series with De Villars coachwork
The direct ancestors of the Silver Dawn, Mk VI and R-Type cars of the immediate post-war period were the Derby Bentleys. This is one of the famed M-Series (MR and later MX) Overdrive models – named after the gearbox that enabled higher cruising speeds by providing direct drive in third and overdrive (0.85:1) in fourth. It is Chassis B8 MR, registration GAS 905, and carries what is believed to be the only body by the French coachbuilder De Villars on the M-Series Bentleys. It appeared on the Bentley stand at the 1938 Paris Salon before delivery to Alfred Benhaim on 23 March 1939.
The unusual rear coachwork – giving away the body’s French origin
Another very French design feature: front seats built on tubular steel frames to give the maximum space for rear-seat passengers
A lovely detail: since the headlamps are by Marchal we venture to suggest that these sidelights are too
1939 Experimental Bentley 4¼-litre
Before we leave Bentleys for a while, we couldn’t resist including this car, arguably a missing link between the late 4¼ litre and the post-war cars. This is experimental Chassis 3B50, one of only four built for evaluation just before World War II. These cars used the very first B60 engines that were previously thought to have been a post-war development – but this car carried a B60 engine from its creation in 1939. The B40, B60 and B80 modular series of engines were designed with inlet-over-exhaust valve gear. This overcame the limitations in valve size (and thus on engine breathing) imposed by the earlier overhead-valve layout on the pre-war cars, without having to extend the bore spacing. Any other solution would have led to the evident penalties of engine length and weight and the possible penalties of replacing dedicated tooling. Post-war, the engines were intended for use in the cars, but only the B80 straight-eight was so used – in the Phantom IV, of which only 17 were made, all for heads of state. The six-cylinder engine used in all Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars until 1959 is a different engine.
In the military, the B40 was used in the Austin Champ, the B60 in the Daimler Ferret armoured car and the Humber 1-ton truck , and the B80 in various Alvis vehciles such as the Saladin and Saracen. Many modern Bentley Specials use ex-British Services B80 engines – so if it looks like a genuine pre-war Bentley, just ask how many cylinders it has.
The independent front suspension of the experimental car. Amongst pre-war Bentley production models, only the very late and rare (16 built) Mk V was so equipped, making this car a definite link to the post-war cars.
A B80 engine, ex-Military, in a Bentley Special
1919 40-50 h.p. Silver Ghost High-Speed Alpine Eagle with Barker polished Torpedo Skiff body
This car could be described as outrageous. On reflection, it can certainly be described as polished. It is Chassis 32PP, one of 44 Rolls-Royce cars owned at one time by Lieutenant-General H. H. the Maharajah Sir Buphindra Singh of Patiala, known as “The Best Customer of Rolls-Royce Ltd.” After the car arrived at Burghley, four shotguns were added – two of which can just be seen in our headline picture. They were not Purdeys, but we were assured that the Maharajah had hundreds of shotguns and some of them were, of course, produced by that distinguished maker.
And so to refreshments. There were extremely posh establishments such as this one…
Refreshments that you would expect at an RREC Rally…
… and there were extremely attractive establishments with excellent marketing skills. We had ONE pie.
… and refreshments that you can afford
2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Rolls-Royce Motors always bring their latest models to the RREC Annual Rally – and this year the new Cullinan was on display. The Rolls-Royce Communications head, Andrew Ball, was on hand to explain that this car has been developed in response to the company’s customers. Its competitors are apparently not cars, such as the Bentley Bentayga or the Range Rover, but other things that the well-heeled person might desire – such as a yacht or a painting. Most customers of these vehicles already have several cars.
Another view of the Cullinan
Spares for sale
Many people at the rally clearly have the means to buy these cars and to have them maintained by specialists – but we met a number of owners who love their less costly machines, such as Silver Shadows, and keep them running themselves. There were several stands where vital parts, new and used, could be bought to achieve just this aim.
1954 Fiat Topolino 2-door convertible saloon
Naturally, if your funds do not extend to the purchase of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, there are other delights to be had. One such was this wonderful little Fiat in superb condition and on sale for £13,750. Unfortunately, the poor little machine had been corrupted by the sight of all the more patrician motor cars surrounding it and made a cry for help – which the owner kindly reproduced on a placard on the car’s roof.
J for Jazz – entertaining the visitors
The jazz band was excellent – and much appreciated by the visitors passing by.
1931 Bentley 4-litre
This is a real rarity. Even rarer was the opportunity to photograph the engine – which was not designed by Walter Owen Bentley. In 1931 the directors of the Bentley company introduced this car in a desperate attempt to save the company in the depression years. The engine is a six-cylinder of 3,915 cc with a Ricardo-designed inlet-over-exhaust pushrod engine. Sadly, the car used short- or long-wheelbase versions of the 8-litre chassis and was accordingly underpowered. Only 50 were made – this is Chassis VF4011, originally bodied by Freestone & Webb, rebodied with inappropriate later open coachwork and then restored with the recreation of a far more correct body based on the remains of a genuine Gurney Nutting body found on another 4-litre.
The 4-litre engine – very rarely seen
1954 R-Type Continental with H J Mulliner fastback coachwork
The R-Type Continental is recognised as one of the finest post-war cars of any make. 208 were built (including the prototype, ‘Olga’) and around 190 of these were bodied by H J Mulliner in the fastback style we see here. Many turned up for this year’s rally, no doubt to celebrate Bentley’s 100th anniversary; we counted six Mulliner fastbacks.
Silver Ghost engine
And what better way to end our report than with an engine of the most famous model of Rolls-Royce – the first 40-50 h.p., known as the Silver Ghost. This is not the original, registration AX 201 built in Manchester in 1907, but a 1910 car, Chassis 1192, and therefore built in Derby after the company moved there in 1908.
We think we may be back at the Annual Rally in 2020 – this time to eat two pies. It is important to have a balanced diet.