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1931 Bentley 8 Litre Tourer

Broadcast dates : 4th July 2004
8th July 2004


Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the 1931 Bentley 8-Litre is its size. It dwarfs even the modern Bentley Arnage T. And this is despite the fact that this particular Bentley has had an open sporting body fitted.

This is the largest and the last of the classic Bentleys built before the Rolls Royce takeover of the company in 1931.

Walter Owen Bentley began building his famous sporting luxury cars in 1919.

The sequence of early Bentley models is quite easy to follow, starting with a three-litre four cylinder, a four-and-a-half-litre four-cylinder engine, then a six and a half litre six cylinder, and finally the eight-litre six cylinder models.

A series of Le Mans victories in the nineteen twenties will forever immortalise the Bentley name. But it was as a luxury carmaker that Bentley was beginning to threaten Rolls Royce.

Thus when the depression economy bit, Rolls Royce made a timeous takeover. And thereafter Bentleys were considered as badge-engineered Rolls Royces, right up until a few years ago when the companies were again separated.

This eight-litre was originally built in 1931 with a massive seven-seater body. But a number of years ago it was re-bodied with the famous Le Mans replica sports car bodywork by a specialist firm in England.

The dull green is the original British Racing Green in which the great cars raced at places like Le Mans and the old Brooklands track.

In fact the eight-litre Bentley in saloon form was the first closed body saloon to lap the track in one hundred miles per hour, a speed today equivalent to just over one-sixty kilometres per hour.

Each and every Bentley that left the factory was guaranteed to do 100 miles per hour no matter what sort of bodywork it has.

This car was endowed with two hundred and fifty horsepower back in 1931. That's one hundred and eighty six kilowatts in today's terms, a respectable output for many modern cars.

The big eight-litre motor is in straight six configuration, hence the massive length of the car's nose. It revs to just three thousand five hundred rpm and the torque is massive .

Other interesting details include a four-speed gearbox, leaf springs front and rear, and mechanic drum brakes.

The spoked wheels are 21 inches in diameter and the car has infinitely adjustable damping.

This particular car has covered massive distances throughout South Africa and a trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town is considered a "little jaunt" for the Eight-Litre.

Even in their heydays Bentley's were considered preposterously large for racing.

It is no wonder that the French master race-car-builder Etorre Bugatti, referred to the cars as "Mr Bentley's flying trucks."

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