The Story of Lucius (previously named Dotty).
it took me a very long time to get the vintage bug, my dream car since the age of nine was a Derby Bentley, this dream came true in 2008-9 when I stumbled across a fantastic collection of cars in Essex where I purchased my first Derby Bentley and unbeknownst to me my first part of Vintage Bentley history when I also purchased form the same place a 1930 Goshawk Rolls Royce 20/25, I can see you scratching your head at that statement but let me fill you in, I purchased the Rolls Royce that was a project to immediately sell on to fund the purchase of
the Derby Bentley.
whilst talking to the then owner of the Rolls Royce he told me that inside the Rolls Royce was the body of a vintage Bentley, it was totally stripped and was packed well inside the barrel side body of the Rolls Body, the deal was I had to pay £5000 but I must take the body inside too. Reluctantly I agreed, I didn’t really want to transport the car all the way back to Staffordshire with a load of kindling flying everywhere, but I roped her up just like my old man had taught me many years before and set off for home.
once home I was eager to get the car listed on EBay as soon as possible to get some more money to pay for the Derby.
so I unceremoniously dragged everything out of the Rolls and threw it into storage, gave the Rolls the once over and got it listed, ten days later she was off to her new home and I was off back down to Essex with a bundle of cash to purchase another project to sell and to give the previous owner some more money off the Derby Bentley.
This went on for several months until I had finally raised enough money from the projects to pay for the Derby, she had been stored in the same barn for 40 years by the previous owner who had purchased the car from an old boy in Essex who used the car daily until getting too old to drive her, I seem to remember he told be he paid £50 for her.
The day finally came to bring The Derby home, this was a double Red card day as my younger brother Luke had also purchased a Derby Bentley from the same gentleman at the same time so if you remember seeing two Derby Bentleys travelling up the M40 in March 2009 that was us.
I was so excited to get home with my Derby Bentley that I had coveted for 30 odd years, I rushed in to tell the kids and the Wife, needless to say little enthusiasm came from the lady of the house but the kids were all over the car like a rash, opening the doors and smelling the 70 plus year old leather and wiping the dust off the guages amp making trumpeting sounds like toad of toad hall.
several months later we were driving our barnfind Bentley to Bentley Silverstone it was an amazing experience, my two boys Thomas and George absolutely loved the journey, a steady 50-60 mph all the way, however two miles before the entrance to Silverstone circuit I managed to pick up a big end bearing which caused a knock, it was disappointing but didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for Vintage Bentley motoring, I called a friend who came out to recover us from the track at the end of the day, then began the strip down of our Derby.
whilst looking through the BDC advertiser for a suitable company to remetal the bearings I cam across an advert for a kit of Vintage Bentley parts in Coventry, West Midlands, there was an Engine 4 litre, a new reproduction chassis, a radiator and various other bits n bobs, I called the vendor a gentleman known to many in the BDC and I have to say probably the most knowledgeable person in the club in all matters 4 litre, Alan Smith.
I arranged to go to view the kit or Bitsa as Alan called it.
I took my brother Bill (also a Derby owner) excited at what we were about to see we set off on our way,
when we arrived at the address it looked like we had come to the wrong place, not really where I expected to find Vintage Bentley parts, a little bungalow and a small one car garage attached to the house.
We were me by Alan and his 101 year old mother.
we were taken into the living room and Alan proceeded to sell me the dream! He was looking for someone to build a 4 litre engine into a 3 – 4-1/2 litre chassis and race it against the guys who win the BDC races all the time, it was a lighter more powerful engine and with his designs for a new alloy cylinder head and high lift camshaft, the car he was offering could break records and be a leader in the field also maybe be a future marketing tool for him to sell his other four 4 litre engines.
I bought the story hook line and stinker!!!!
Alan took us into the garage where he had a massive collection of what I now know to be broken parts hoovered up over the years from some of the main Bentley restoration firms throughout the uk, I was later told by several of these firms and other members that Alan had put an advert in the BDC magazine claiming to be a university student looking to build a Vintage Bentley which appealed to BDC members who gave Alan their broken or unwanted parts and the sweepings of their workshops.
I don’t have an issue with Alan’s tactics of acquiring his massive collection of parts.
so before Bill and I had left Alan and his mother we had all but come to a deal, even though I didn’t see a chassis as it had not yet been made, it was on order from a workshop in Brownhills, Alan kept this workshop a secret from me but living only 3 miles from Brownhills it didn’t take me long to find this place.
I had agreed to pay Alan £16000 for new chassis, with blower dumb irons, and special tubular engine mountings to carry the cradle that the 4 litre engine sits in, a used good running engine (Alan’s words) a 4-1/2 litre radiator a lightweight magnesium bulkhead (4 litre) a pair of Perot shafts (scrap) a set of hubs (scrap) a set of drums (scrap) and a few other bits n bobs as Alan called them , Alan did however agree to a payments scheme and agreed that if I paid by an earlier set date there would be a reduction in the price.
so it wasn’t all bad!
I paid my deposit and from that day on I was converted, the thought of me owning and building my own race car and it being a Bentley was beyond the dreams of a man who left school with no qualifications at all.
from my many adverts I received a call from an old gentleman ( Bob Sheridan) who claimed he made radiators for WO Bentley, he served his apprenticeship and in later years built radiators for all the major restoration firms, he called me to say he had a blower radiator shell for sale, so I hopped into the Mercedes and set off for his place, on arrival he was waiting on the driveway to lead us up the garden path! Bob was well up in the years, I seem to remember 92, his memory was pin sharp and his work was absolutely first class.
These are the radiator shells I purchased from him, he said that everything has to go so have a mooch and see if anything else takes your fancy, I had a good hour looking around when under a workbench I found a buck, for a 4-1/2 litre radiator, I pulled it out and asked him what the story behind it was.
Ahhhh he says! That was the buck used to make all the Blower Bentley radiators for sir Tim Birkin! He said that is a real piece of motor racing history! I asked if it was for sale, Bob said yes, you can have it for £0.50 yes 50p I said are you sure Bob, he said yes. I couldn’t believe what I had just purchased.
soon Beaulieu came around again and with all the reading up I had done regarding 4 litre Bentleys I was fully armed and ready to hunt for parts, when I got to Beaulieu I wear a white T shirt with a wanted vintage Bentley parts advert on it, you may have seen me! Anyway, I’m looking at stalls and finding a few interesting things, then I come across a stall and behind it is a Mercedes van, sat on the step was a gentleman whom I now know is Sy Conrad, he says to me, what are you looking for? I replied anything Vintage Bentley especially 4 litre, he looked at me and smiled, then took out of his tweed jacket top pocket a 4 litre feeler gauge ! Talk about rare! They only made 50 4 litre cars and many of them didn’t make it past WW2.
Cy Conrad became a close friend that day and I see him twice a year a Beaulieu and one or two visits here from California when he’s in the UK, lovely bloke.
It took several months to pay the full amount and true to his word Alan did give me the discount promised, however when the parts finally arrived, a few things were either missing or not what I was shown in the pictures, for instance flywheel and clutch and starter motor, so I made some enquiries to see if any of the well known dealers had any flywheels or clutch’s ( after they stopped laughing) I went to the BDC members book and searched for owners of 4 litre cars, I began to call each and every one, most had sold their cars or told me to call Alan Smith, however I managed to find an engine in Dunmow Essex, in a lovely old workshop, the engine belonged to a sir John Bird, so after a telephone conversation I was in the trusty old Mercedes and off to meet him, a lovely obliging gent he was too, but he said he had left his friend in charge of the engine, which had been stored since1956!! His friend was not my friend and told me he wanted £15,000 for the stripped down engine and any other 4 litre parts that were there, sunken hearted I drove home, I had actually had a 4 litre flywheel in my hand and not come home with it, When I got home I called sir John again and explained that the asking price was not only too much but way more than I could afford, sir John just said make me an offer! I did and after some bartering I managed to square the deal off for £6000, which I thought was a result as Neil Davis wanted £10,000 to make a flywheel and clutch… and in the deal I also got a complete 4litre radiator too worth about £4000, the remarkable thing about this lot of parts, everything was marked with “bird” written in yellow ink ( bare in mind it was there since 1956).
This lovely Weyman styled 4 door 3 litre body was in the unit next to Sir John Birds engine, the story was that it was due to be fitted to a RR 20/25 chassis.
The starter motor was also missing from the engine so I made enquires for a starter motor, unluckily for me they are the same as a 4-1/4 litre so they command a high price, around £1200 so I took off my shelf an S type startermotor, stripped it down, and refabricated a starter to do the job, the original starter on the 4 litre sits in a cup with straps over it, but the diameter of the S1 starter was too big so Jan at JJR machined it down to fit, then I had to obtain the innerds from an early commercial starter and a 13 tooth pinion from a gentleman in Dudlay West mids, the whole thing came to around £120 and is still working until this day, fingers crossed.
a few weeks later I had a call from the reverand David Smethurst from up in Cumbria he was selling his fully restored 4 litre saloon and would I be interested in buying his spare rebuilt engine? The rebuild cost £20,000 but the engine was available for £4,000 and was being stored in a museum in Cumbria! So Ray and I promptly jumped in the cabstar and picked up the engine along with an engine stand and a four wheel car lift!
Ray and David Smethurst, with 4 litre Engine on the truck.
I began searching EBay, prewarcar, carandclassic, bargain pages BDC advertiser for parts and info , I bought a complete set of BDC reviews and advertisers right back to volume one which was just a single page and I called almost every advert that had vintage Bentley parts asking if there was anything still available, to my surprise there were parts still unsold or the advertisers still had their Vintage Bentleys and recently replaced parts, I soon began to amass a garage full of used and some new unused parts from some very generous members of the BDC, however many were dismissive of me going forward with the 4 litre project and said I should really try to find a 3 or 4-1/2 litre engine to put into the chassis if it eventually arrives, there were a few frowns when I mentioned where my deal had come from.
A selection of fuel tanks purchased over the years, I also purchased a George Daniels tank from the Bonhams auction at Goodwood where I went to bid on the Axles the day the Birkin car sold for a record price, needless to say I missed out on the axles, also here a 4-1/2 litre crankcase, late magnesium type.
one day a friend of mine Joe Blakemore came to visit, I told him about my deal and how excited I was, whilst discussing the car and that I was awaiting the chassis to be built by a workshop in Brownhills, Joe said I know where this workshop is, we have been collecting scrap and having digger bucket repairs from there since the 70s.
The following day I went to visit the Secret chassis builder, and as I pulled down the side street in Anchor road I came across the non descript building with corrugated asbestos roof and plain brick construction with blue sliding doors, no signage, nothing outside to give any clue at all to the nature of the work that was carried out there, you wouldn’t give it a second look
I knocked the door, no answer, but there was lots of noise coming from inside so after knocking again and waiting a while, I pulled the door across to reveal an amazing insight to British fabricating and blacksmithing, in a dark poorly lit workshop with what I can only describe as a permanent dust cloud floating around the roof area I could make out two gentlemen working away building what I now know was an 8 litre Vintage style Bentley chassis.
Dave stood amongst his creations.
I introduced myself to the men and a man in his mid 60s introduced himself as Dave Wilson a pleasant softly spoken gentleman who came across as an absolute gent, helpful,knowledgable, honest and loyal, loyal to the person who he was working for who I later found out was Julian Ghosh.
on this first visit Dave gave nothing away about who he worked for or who their clients were or the costs of the build of a chassis, Davis friend was maybe in his late 60s early 70s and I noticed he was struggling but managing to help, so I offered to help for free, just to be a part of what they did there would have been amazing, Dave turned down my offer but it didn’t deter me, I began to visit the workshop twice a week, make cups of tea, sweep up swarf, preload the shot blast cabinet for Dave to save him time so he could get on with other work, this also meant that my chassis would be built sooner, me being a bit of a tidying freak I would clean every corner of the workshop for Dave and remove any scrap or rubbish.
in time I became a regular at the lunch table with Dave and would run errands for him and do any heavy lifting for him whilst also learning how to build chassis members, Daves skills were second to none, honestly I mean it when I say he could build or repair anything, it was an absolute pleasure to watch him work but it was sad to see how he was being a used, buy door stop customers and his main employer, Dave had never had a proper holiday since starting this work in the 70s, he lived in a park caravan and didn’t have a flashy car, it was a really poor way to be rewarded for all his excellent work, since meeting and working with Dave I have seen or been shown so called rare vintage and veteran cars that the owners claim to be original that Dave made the chassis for from scratch.
Dave told me that to his knowledge he build around 300 vintage Bentley chassis not to mention very rare Alta chassis, Fiat chassis, many Vauxhall chassis, Bugatti chassis, aero engined special chassis.
i became very close to Dave and his family
my chassis was eventually built and supplied to me direct from Dave and I had to pay him the balance
I then made myself a chassis using Davies knowledge and chassis formers I had made, it was an amazing feeling to actually build your own chassis by hand, something Dave did on a weekly basis and thought nothing of.
as time went by I would make cross members for the Bentley chassis Dave made and would rivet them together,
one day I turned up to the work shop and Dave had injured himself the previous day using the press, the press was a fantastic machine, a real heath Robinson looking thing with a massive cog drive wheel on it that I think converted a small amount of pulling to 20 tons of power, Dave said he slipped off this machine and hurt his rib cage and his leg, this came at a time when Dave was talking about his plans to retire in the future, however once this was revealed to the big boss Dave became inundated with work a 6 litre chassis to build, and 8 litre chassis to build and maybe 5-6 3-41/2 litre chassis to build, not to mention people coming round for wheel bearings to be pressed out, lambretta frames fo be shot blasted, trike projects to have seats welded and land rovers to have rear sections welded.
I got cross with people coming and putting on Dave and his kindness and began telling them to pay Dave for his work or take it elsewhere, I could see Dave really wanted to say this but didn’t have the heart to.
Dave had to go have exrays because of his injury after a few weeks his pain was getting worse when one day whilst sat in the office drinking tea babe had a call from his doctor about his blood tests, I actually watched the blood drain from his face as the doctor ( who was a stand in ) explained that his pain was caused by the cancer not the injury! Dave hadn’t been told he had cancer by his normal doctor so this was a massive shock to him, and I swear from this day Dave died a little more every day, he took the descision to retire there and then and gave me the task of clearing the workshop.
Pictured above is Dave holding a strip of Aluminium, here’s the story behind it.
Dave and I were clearing out the unit, throwing all the scrap onto the back of the cabstar, Dave picked this piece of aluminium up and was about to throw it on the truck, I said no Dave I’ll have that please as a straight edge, he looked at me with his wry grin as if to say really? He said do you know what it is? I replied no? Dave went on to tell me that when he built the mods onto the James Bond DB5, they found that the bullet shield in the boot wouldn’t drop down far enough to hide it so he had to cut this off the bottom!, he said all this so matter of fact, apparently he did all the mods to that car, in Daves previous job before making Bentley chassis he restored and rebuilt Aston Martins, I have here his signed agreement where he agreed not to repair any more Aston’s after a certain date.
It was a massive task, I had to strip down the spray booth that was now used as a shot blast unit, and move tons and tons of steel chassis formers, Dave sold me all his tools, his blacksmith forge steel work and years of repairing and rebuilding Vintage cars parts.
when I moved the forge I came across a set of dumb irons and front crossmember all wired together, I asked Dave what it belonged to, he told me it was his retirement fund but as he thought there was no need to it anymore I could buy it off him, so I did.
this was to become Lucius.
I soon began to realise that Vintage Bentleys were an expensive hobby and before long found myself needing more and more expensive parts that you couldn’t find under someone’s workbench or if you could needed to sell a lung to afford it.
so I needed to sell a few things to fund the build of my Lemans rep special
first up was the old Vintage Bentley Body that I purchased by default from Essex, so I dragged it out of storage and because it was an ash framed body I could build it up in some kind of fashion to reasemble a body and take pictures to list it on eBay.
it was a stunning Gurney Nutting two door fabric saloon body from a 4-1/2 litre, complete with helmet style wings and drop forward seats, all the door furniture and glass.
Once the body was built and advertised it grew on me just how beautiful it was but before it really took hold of me it was sold,
I was also sold the vision of a 1920s Icon, the Lemans Blower Bentley, I really wish I had kept the original body and not had a LeMans style body made.
I needed to name my Bentley before building her to give her life so I named her Dotty after my favourite actress Dorothy Lamour.
Once I had got Dotty chassis in the workshop I lent it up against the wall for a few months whilst I decided what direction to go with the Derby after a period of time I realised I needed to sell the Derby to fund Dottys build so she was listed on EBay and a gentleman came to see her from Swindon, David Sainsbury, he kept his cards close to his chest and never gave too much away however I nailed him to the post on the price and got what I was asking, once David had paid he let on that he had Six other Derby Bentleys on his portfolio.
now with a bundle of cash on the hip I was ready to buy some important items.
I thought I was pretty good when it comes to having a deal or negotiating a deal but as I found with Alan Smith there are some in the Bentley world that are fully versed in alleviating you of your hard earned cash.
first big payment was new unmachimed front axle was on the net for £600 but I paid £1200 to someone who bought it off the net, drove past my house to collect it then drove back to Hampshire past my house to then call me to say he had found me a new unmachimed front axle! But in all fairness this is fine, I wouldn’t have done it myself I would have directed you to it but that’s business, and once I took it to The Legend Peter Butler he confirmed it was suitable for my car and would machine it for me, so in reality I had a saving of around £3,000.
Next came the F type gearbox which also came from the same gentleman who sourced the front axle, this gearbox I am lead to believe was actually on the workshop floor at Cricklewood when W.O Bentley went Bankrupt and it was given as payment from the receivers to a gentleman who’s name escapes me at the moment for his help in valuing all that was left of W.Os business, it is brand new and never fitted, well, like I’m lead to believe, however it was the perfect drive train for my 4 litre engine, and again a fraction of the cost of the A,B,C or D type gearbox, it is encased in magnesium and the F type gearbox are said to be unbreakable, I got it for £2,500.
As you can see from the first picture the bracket below is missing from the front of the gearbox, this bracket is important because it allows you to fix it to the cross tubes, so the hunt was on for this part, which eventually came from Julian Ghosh.
I then came across a 4-8 litre hypoid differential from another friend in Londoninium this was a complete CWP and again mag housing for wait for it ! £800 yes I said £800.
I was given a pair of brand new 4-8 litre hd half shafts.
it was at about this time that I put the chassis on axle stands in the workshop and rested the radiator haphazardly to give that iconic look as I walked in to work on her, it’s really amazing how much that radiator fills you with pride and motivation.
from a response to an advert I managed to find a set of front and rear leaf springs, fronts were branded in string, but also in this lot was various switches, cables, brackets all original parts that came from a rebuild, this little lot was delivered to me at junction 10 of the m6 (3 miles from home) for £800 including delivery.
whislt all these useful items were turning up, I was driving up and down the country and buying things from South Africa and Australia I was having boxes turning up in the post daily and my workshop began to resemble Alan smiths.
I collected a lovely set of early front leaf springs from Bryan Downes in Staffordshire and a set of 21” wheels complete with tyres, Bryan was really helpful.
i must say on the whole I have had so much help from members of the club
my next purchase had to be Rear axle banjo, I remember Alan Smith always telling me, you’ll never find an original they are always broken or slack, you must try to find something period to do the job or even a ford transit back axle, it’s your car and you want to be driving it, don’t worry what anyone thinks, most of them don’t even know what a Bentley axle looks like.
This is a rear axle banjo I was unsuccessful in winning on eBay.
i did find an aluminium racing back axle that was unmachimed again this was down in the south, Hampshire, but it was cheap and came again with a bundle of really useful parts, clamps, brackets and the like, however when I took it to show Peter Butler he said in no uncertain terms would he would not use that, there are prone to stretching and sagging and leaked badly after hard use.
Peters Butler and Wilson and Peter Butlers race car.
It was around this time that I became initiated into The Warwickshire contingent and would be found every Thursday night at Peter Butlers workshop along with Mike Miles and Peter Wilson, tinkering with all things Bentley and learning more every week from Peter who was a guru when it came to Bentleys, another absolute gent who just wanted to help, he included me and my boys in everything he could, and I worked on his race car also being credited for his win one day at Silverstone for making a bracket on site to hold his carburettors on.
whilst shopping in Walsall I received a phone call from a gentleman asking if I was interested in a pair of genuine rebuilt 4 litre carburettors £2,500, I jumped at the offer and soon found myself on my way to Leicester where Mr Parker lived and made a deal with him, he showed me his fathers original 8 litre tourer in the family garage, a truely beautiful machine.
So I set about looking for an axle suitable for the job, Joe Blakemore was my first stop his quarry was full of vintage cars and trucks, his father would buy job lots of vehicles and just park them in his sandpit, he told me that when they bought the MOT scheme out in the sixties people were leaving the cars in the streets or just driving them to his dads place and abandoning them, I was sure I would find something, little was I to realise what I would find which was more than I could ever wish to find! After Joe pointed to an area where he remembered a massive nickel plated radiator as a kid playing in the sandpits with his brother, I spent days going back with a shovel and then I took my mini digger and dragged out the completely rotted out remains of 6 litre chassis and a 3 litre chassis, sadly I swore to Joe that I would not take pictures or reveal to anyone where the cars were, Joe already suffers from metal thieves on a daily basis taking radiators from 1920s trucks and cars.
it was as if I had just dug up a massive gold nugget
it was real currency in the Bentley world and because I had no interest in building 6 litre nor the funds to do this, I managed to do a deal with the remains of the 6 litre for a brand new rear axle banjo and a pair of brand new front stub axles!
Ray seen here fitting up the new Stubbs.
I think that little find saved me about £10,000
by this time Dotty was coming along nicely, I had a rolling chassis with a running engine, connected to the gearbox via a new Carden shaft made for me by Jan, Brian and Tony at JJR engineering, in fact I can’t remember how many things they made for Dotty, bearings, bushes, clamps, special bolts, they manufactured the control levers for the steering column, the machine turned dashboard, the spacer blocks in the chassis, the most amazing fuse boxes and covers, flame arrestors and mounting plates for the tripple carbs, the triple carb manifold and so much more, I owe them a great debt for their help and skills
On our biannual trip to Beaulieu I purchased all the cloth covered wiring and Ray (my right hand man) set to workwiring the car up.
Now I began to look for a body for Dotty, I was hoping I could fit a second hand one removed from a recent renovation (to save on costs) but I realised that the dimensions for my body were different to those of a 10’10” 4-1/2 litre because my car has a 6 cylinder engine fitted, I was contacted by Mark Palliser who told me he would be interested in getting involved, whilst I was waiting for Mark to come to measure up I continued my twice daily EBay search for anything Bentley, and up came a listing that just said “Bentley Body” nothing else! Just that, it was a £50 start bid and half heartedly that’s what I bid, and just forgot about it until the 14 minute item ending reminder text, and I remember thinking shall I place a £100.00 but got sidetracked and never did, 14 minutes later I got the message “you’ve won Bentley Body pay now”, I duely paid and arranged to collect asap, it took me several weeks to get down there but drove down in my cabstar and met the gentleman who was glad I turned up as it was going to get burned for firewood if I didn’t want it, we got talking about my project and as usual I asked if there were any parts from their rebuild that were surplus to requirements ? The gentleman said yes there may well be, follow me to my garage and we will have a look, I picked up another (probably my 5th) propshaft, and again various other brackets and useful items, but one item stood out, it was a 4 litre bulkhead steering column mount of which I needed and amazingly it had (bird) written on it in the yellow ink, the Bentley world is such a small world, I loaded up all my extra parts and was about to set off for home when the gentleman said oh I forgot to say, Bill Sykes lives a mile or so down the road, he had some 4 litre stuff maybe you should visit him! We called Bill but sadly he was away that time.
When I actually saw this body in the flesh it was amazing, it was repatriated from the states on a 6-1/2 litre that was used in the 50s as a breakdown truck, I’ll post the pics when I find them, the two door body had amazing presence really moody looking,
I placed it on my car to get an idea what it would look like, it looked bloody fantastic and I swore I would never get rid of it!!! However two days later it was sold! Well I did need a steering box, column and gearing.
A deal of a lifetime came in a swap for the body which in return I got everything I needed steering wise bar steering wheel and a pair of front brake plates that had been converted to hydraulics.
thank you William.
The steering wheel!
Well a friend called me, I’ll refer to him as Bentley Steve because that was how I stored his number in my phone after a deal with him some years previously, I think his real expertise lies in RR, anyway he call me to say there’s a steering wheel coming up for auction shortly, and was I interested? I definitely was but couldn’t make it so asked if he could bid or knew someone who could, the guide was £600-£800! Out winning bid was £160, for a wrapped original 4-1/2 litre steering wheel, I was over the moon.
This is the stage where Dotty Became Lucius.
My younger brother Luke, who was also a Bentley boy and the one that had the second Derby Bentley that came out of the barns in Essex ( the black car).
Luke had also sold his car and was building up to a 3 litre car (the car alongside the 6-1/2 in the sandpits in Brownhills.
Luke lived in Polperro Cornwall and was living the dream buying and selling Bentleys also building specials like myself, however Luke suffered with Bipolar disorder, and had some dark times.
On Tuesday 22nd April 2014 Luke visited me to see how his chassis was getting on and to see the progress of Dotty, we laughed and joked about how soon it would be ready and I made a bet with him that she would be on the road by New Year’s Eve.
luke was going to my fathers farm to work on another special and in the morning we agreed to meet for breakfast….
that morning never arrived for Luke, that afternoon he drove back down to polperro to move some Mk6 chassis and decided to stay there the night, Luke for whatever reason couldn’t face life anymore and took his own life!!!
such a waste of a young life and a gentleman.
that day Dotty became Lucius, she is still a she.
My father also a BDC member converted his rather special original bodied 4-1/2 litre Maud into the funeral car for Luke with a special bed to fix Luke’s coffin to, Luke would have loved his final journey driving through the streets of Looe where Luke spent his early years.
Luke Horacio Roland Blue AHB Barrett
Myself and Luke just months before his passing.
Mark Palliser came in May 2014 and began the measuring up of the chassis to start building the Lemans style body, I wanted a few revisions to the body ie a cross over brace from behind the driver and passenger seats that strengthened the body, I had over the years observed many people clambering into Bentleys by grabbing hold of this area and pulling their not to supermodelesque torsos up into the car, these bodies are only wood, glue and screws so it was just an extra precaution, I also wanted a lower section of the top rear hoop as to slow ladies to enter the car without revealing the colour of their underwear! Little did I realise that this was where the main hood fixing went so causing a problem, the other revision was an inspection panel in the top of the body between dash and bulkhead to allow me to get to the wiring without lying on my back with my legs in the air and getting dust in my eye.
Mark was a busy man and I was in his hands as we were still working on Lucius so I couldn’t take her to Hereford where Mark was based,
also in May was again our trip to Beaulieu where amongst other things I found a pile of brand new unmachimed brake shoes for Vintage Bentley I got 12 of them for £60, and as soon as I got home I took them to Commercial brake services in Bilston Wolverhampton who charged me £6 each to do the 8 I needed.
Ray and I still had work to do, I went to Marrens our local nonferrous scrap dealer and purchased two1m square pieces of aluminium about 15mm thick, I took them to Jan at JJR Engineering and asked him to spin me two rear brake plates and recess them to allow me to fit Land Rover brake cylinders in them, two in each side as I intended the handbrake to be hydraulic too.
She was finally beginning to take shape too, Mark was coming round every few weeks with updated body parts to be fitted together.
The above pictures were taken on the first day I drove Lucius out of the workshop, it also happened to be the day Alan Smith turned up for a visit on his return from a France, if you read a Alan’s blog you will see where he’s not very polite about my build, I had worked damn hard to get her to this point and it was like I had been kicked in the balls by the master! I looked up to Alan and was excited for him to see Lucius.
Then I remembered him saying it might take ten years to do but I did it in just under 5.
i was still proud of my achievements so far.
Finally the end result of all Marks hard work!
Off it went to a trimmer in Milton Keynes, £1200 later.
another modification to our car would be a bench front seat, so I could get three in the front at a push.
I paid Tim Houlding a visit one day coming back from visiting Mom in Cornwall, Tim is a wonderful man, totally honest, helpful and a true gentleman, his knowledge on Vintage Bentleys is second to none, well it just happened that by luck I dropped in at a time had decided to retire from restoring Vintage Bentleys and Tim offered me the contents of his workshop, I couldn’t believe this opportunity, Tim’s tools, nuts n bolts, wiring, clamps, brass fittings, special fittings, wheels tyres, interior and exterior furniture, hubs, drums, a 4-1/2 crankcase and so much more, but at the back of his workshop leaning up the wall was an old seat back, I asked if it too was for sale? Tim said you can have that, do you know what it’s from? I replied no? Tim went on to tell me the seat was out of Number 2 Lemans Bentley !!
Another item I purchased from Alan Smith was this delightfully ropey original windscreen that looks like it was removed from a fire damaged car, maybe Jim Pike knows of its origins.
come to think of it! I haven’t paid you for this Alan, pop in and I’ll buy lunch.
This is the triple carb manifold I designed for Lucius, and the three Alvis TD 21 carburettors I rebuilt,this is the manifold that Jan at JJR engineering made for me.
After much research and purchasing several flying B mascots, 4 litre, 3 litre, all other types of B’s I found that early Vintage Bentleys should wear an Icarus mascot, I searched high and low for this beautiful example for £1200, pricey I know but absolutely stunning.
Once you get the bug you want to buy anything WO Bentley, here’s just a few of the things I picked up over the years.
reading some early Autocar magazines I found the following adverts, I’m sure I was born in the wrong era!
Imagine turning up to find this in someone’s garage today for £1200.00
Another eBay purchase that I couldn’t afford or resist, I don’t know if it’s a true story and I never researched it once I’d got it home but seems legitimate.