One Of The Greatest Ever Racing Bentleys Makes An Epic Homecoming
Images courtesy of HR Owen
How about this for the ultimate homecoming? This is the Bentley 4.5L that Bentley Boy Jack Barclay drove to victory in the 1929 Brooklands 500 race. And the location? Well, that’s the famous Jack Barclay Bentley showroom that Jack Barclay moved his business to in 1954; the business that he started over 90 years ago, in 1927. So that’s your history lesson, now for geography: the showroom is in the heart of London’s salubrious Mayfair area, on Berkeley Square, and is the oldest Bentley showroom in the world. And yes, Berkeley is pronounced “barclay.” The showroom has been a London landmark for over 60 years, and still retains important period features like the checkerboard floor, art deco signage and ornate entrance.
But back to the car… it’s a legend, having competed in the 1928 Ulster Grand Prix in 1928, then winning the 1929 Brooklands Double Twelve and finishing third at Le Mans in the same year–the race in which Bentleys finished first, second, third and fourth. It’s still highly original, right down to the correct black-painted Le Mans-spec P100 headlights and sidelights, the flap cut in the bonnet for faster oil top-ups, the protective gauze under the petrol tank and the 20in racing steering wheel. There’s also an aluminum control to adjust the brake pedal after hours of heavy use and a billiards counter mounted on the dashboard–perfect for counting laps.
As for Jack Barclay, he was known as “the finest luxury car salesman in the trade.” When, in 1924, he beat millionaire Bentley driver Woolf Barnato at Brooklands he became accepted as one of the Bentley Boys, whose antics did so much to create the legend of Bentley. Jack had to stop racing in 1926 when his mother made him promise to give up racing in return for paying a large gambling debt but he managed one more race–the highly dangerous 1929 Brooklands Inaugural 500 Mile, then the fastest long-distance race in the world. He and Frank Clement finished first on handicap at an average speed of 107.32mph. Now the Jack Barclay showroom is part of HR Owen, completing a circle because none other than Captain Harold Rolfe Owen started working with Jack in 1928 but left in 1932 to set up on his own. The two companies were fierce rivals until they merged in 2001.