A model like Ben Collings’ Bentley Saloon would never have been raced in period, and therein lies its charm. Very few Saloons survive in their original form, most have succumbed to the knife to create Le Mans replicas. In fact, this is the sole surviving Park Ward bodied saloon. Ben, who is the brother-in-law of Lord March, bought this one from the widow of Alan Clark MP around 10 years ago. He delights in the wonderful details that would have been lost had this car been converted to an open-top format. For instance, the driver’s door has two window winders so that you can separately open just the lower part of the glass to make hand signals.
Despite the fact this large, comfortable, 1800kg Saloon is far from a racing car, Ben will hand the keys to Gareth Graham for the Brooklands Trophy race this weekend. It will battle other pre-1939 cars that capture the spirit of endurance races held at the historic Surrey circuit, albeit with one arm tied behind its back, metaphorically speaking. ‘Accelerating mid-corner is almost impossible because the inside wheel is usually in the air,’ says Ben. ‘It’s very unusual to race one of these.’
Barring some careful porting, the engine is all as it came from Bentley and produces around 180bhp. It will reach about 100mph, but bringing the speed of all that mass back down with the all-drum brakes isn’t easy.
The car is used all year round, and is often entered into VSCC events. It’s not just circuit work that this car is put to. Ben often competes in classic trials, where it does battle with steep, muddy hills with his children bouncing on the back seat in a bid to gain traction. It has become part of the family: ‘It’s like an old labrador that you can’t put down. My children would be very upset if it went to another home'” says Ben.
And having fun with the family is what it’s all about for Ben. His son Archie is competing in the Settrington Cup pedal car race this weekend, the J40 having been brought to the circuit strapped to the back of the Saloon. As this snap also reveals, the Bentley was driven to the Goodwood. ‘It’s lovely on a long run – it just pushes the bumps into the ground!’ Why use a transporter when your racing car is such a capable tourer?
Main photography: Pete Summers