The early 3 Litre car that ushered in the legend of Bentley at Le Mans will be among the many storied and stylish Bentleys showcased when the 59th annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance takes place on Sunday, August 16. Event organizers also plan to unite the record-setting Bentley Speed Sixes, known more simply as Old Numbers One, Two and Three, and the iconic Birkin Blower race cars.
“It will be a thrill for me to see these Bentleys, many in British racing green, pull onto the green at Pebble Beach,” says Concours Chairman Sandra Button. “Raw power will be paired with raw beauty. Interestingly, both Bentley and Pebble Beach had their beginnings in 1919 and they share a devotion to excellence.”
Four full classes of Bentleys will be spread along the 18th fairway of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links to mark the 90th anniversary of both the resort and the motor car company, which was begun by W.O. Bentley, whose stated philosophy was to “make a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” In addition to the racing class, there will be two classes of unique Vintage Bentleys, a class of Derby Bentleys, and several Bentleys in other classes.
“Our Bentley racing class promises to be the most impressive collection of Bentley team cars ever assembled,” says Peter Hageman of the Pebble Beach Concours Selection Committee.
At the very first Le Mans race, held in 1923, it was Bentley Chassis 141 that set the inaugural lap record and finished in fourth place. W.O. was in attendance, and he was determined to build on that initial success. The following year, a Bentley won the race, and Bentley recorded four consecutive wins from 1927 through 1930. More recently, in 2003, the renewed marque returned to Le Mans to garner a sixth title.
For a time, Chassis 141 languished in the obscurity of a small English village, but it has since been restored. For the forthcoming Pebble Beach Concours it will journey all the way from its current home in Australia to serve as the proud elder in the class of Bentley works and race cars, many of which were made famous by the daring escapades of the aristocratic Bentley Boys.
One Bentley Boy, then-Chairman Captain Woolf “Babe” Barnato, not only ran the company in its heyday, he raced the cars: Barnato was behind the wheel for the last three of Bentley’s four straight Le Mans victories. He also made a bar bet that he could beat the Cannes-to-Calais Blue Train while driving a Bentley Six Speed — and he won the bet. Barnato’s magnificent 8-liter Van den Plas Tourer, which he drove across the United States on his honeymoon, is newly restored and will be on the field at Pebble Beach. It is also featured on the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours event poster.
Tim Birkin, perhaps the most famous of the fast-living Bentley Boys, devoted much of his time to developing a supercharger for the Bentley race team during the late 1920s, and all four of the original Birkin Blower race cars, the supercars of their day, are headed to Pebble Beach. Birkin’s personal team car, a non-supercharged Bentley 4.5-liter that ran at Le Mans three times (in 1928, 1929, and 1931) as well as in the German Grand Prix, will also be exhibited. In 1929, this Birkin car was driven by Mildred (Mrs. Victor) Bruce for 24 hours at Montlhéry, averaging over 142 kph (89 mph) — a record.
The two Vintage Bentley classes will feature cars built between 1921 and 1931, called “the Golden Years of Bentley Motors” by Hageman. One class will feature 6.5-liter cars, including Big Sixes and Speed Sixes, while the other will consist of 8-liter Bentleys.
The Derby Bentleys, built in Derby, England, in the 1930s, when Bentley was owned by Rolls-Royce Ltd., are also known for their beautiful coachwork.
Along with Bentley, the 59th Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has selected Bugatti, Morgan and Audi as featured marques. The legendary coachwork of Zagato will also be highlighted.