Monday 2 July 2012

Goodwood Festival of Speed: Vintage Bentley sells for £5 million

Goodwood Festival of Speed: Vintage Bentley sells for £5 million

At the beginning of March I blogged about an upcoming automobile auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in which an historic 1929 Bentley 4½-litre "Blower" built and raced by my personal hero Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin was expected to become the most expensive Bentley ever sold.  Well I can report that not only did it succeed, at £5,000,000, in smashing the previous record of £2,800,000 paid for the 1929 Speed Six Bentley "Old Number 2", but it also becomes the most expensive British car sold at auction.  I hope whoever bought it values it for more than just the money he paid for it and that it can be kept in Britain and shown for generations to come.

All images courtesy of

Bonhams have produced a wonderful video of the Bentley, found at the top of this post, that perfectly captures the majesty of this magnificent race car and the heroism of the man who created and drove it to record speeds.  It is all the more welcome since so little footage exists of 'Tim' Birkin himself.  His autobiography Full Throttle is, as I have said before and will say again, well worth hunting down.

The sale of this significant racer at the world-renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed marks a high point in the British motor racing schedule - with the Grand Prix at Silverstone pending and of course the Revival back at Goodwood in September.  The latter I hope one day to be able to attend - the ultimate Mecca for a vintage motoring enthusiast!

I'm given to wonder what 'Tim' Birkin would have made of today's motor racing scene.  He was vociferously scathing about Brooklands, a fact which he devotes a large portion of his autobiography to, but only due to unswerving patriotism.  (The chapters he devotes to England's racing woes of the time is a masterclass in apologetic criticism).  We look at [what's left of] Brooklands today relishing and marvelling at what went on there 80+ years ago but as Birkin makes clear by the early 1930s it was no longer suitable for the cars that were raced on it.  Birkin deplored the lack of a more modern track (so I think he would be pleased with the proliferation of race circuits today - a legacy of the Second World War, many of them evolving from disused airfields) and, as the Thirties progressed, a British car with which to race - Bentley having withdrawn from all forms of motorsport upon their acquisition by Rolls-Royce in 1931.  His own career reached a nadir in 1931 when he was forced to drive an Alfa Romeo in order to win at Le Mans, an achievement made all the more bitter when he received a congratulatory telegram from Mussolini claiming it "a win for Italy".

I think 'Tim' would have been happy, if a little bemused, to see his beloved "Brooklands Battleship" still running and still creating such a thrill today, at such an incredible price.  It is truly a piece of British history and if it helps to keep the marque Bentley, and 'Tim' Birkin's fantastic achievements, in the public's consciousness (or at least this member of the public's consciousness!) then it is worth every penny.


  1. Wow! It seems to be a time for notable cars. One of Jimmy Saville's notable Rollers is also up for auction- a very different icon, of a different era, but instantly recognisable nonetheless!

  2. I could buy all my dream cars and still have enough change for a fancy house... £5 million for a (very nice) car, the mind boggles :)

  3. it's so expensive, though i believe it must be high quality. Thx for sharing its cool design.


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