W.O. Bentley and the Bentley Boy Years #003

Also at Le Mans in 1924, in front of the Bugatti Circuit pit. The winning machine and the winning crew flanking W.O. Bentley, pictured in the centre with his usual gentle smile.


■The Birth of the Bentley Boys and the Challenge of Le Mans


The Bentley models built by W.O. were soon enthusiastically welcomed by the wealthy motorists of the time. The 1920s were a time of advancing technology and culture in Europe. The Bentley sports car's overwhelmingly high performance and unique heroism must have been an irresistible attraction for the young, cutting-edge people who were fascinated by the dynamic age of new automobiles. The appeal of the Bentley at the time was enhanced above all by its great success in motorsport. The originator, W.O. Bentley, having won races with his DFP tuning and achieved certain commercial success himself, was convinced that motorsport victories would improve his marque’s financial prospects.
The Bentley Boys were the idols of the era’s youth, bringing their own Bentley automobiles, purchased with their own money, to form a works team under the direct control of the manufacturer, and dominating sports car races such as Le Mans and Brooklands. These men were deeply drawn not only to the automobiles created by Bentley, but also to the gentle personality of W.O. Bentley himself.
The Bentley Boys are all as individual as they come. Firstly, Captain John Duff, who ran a Bentley dealership in the city of London. Dr J. Dudley Benjafield was a brilliant bacteriologist and a courageous driver. Sir Henry Birkin, popularly known as 'Tim', was one of the most handsome Bentley Boys of all time. George Duller, star steeplechaser. Sammy Davis, journalist for Britain's Autocar Magazine. Glen Kidston, known as the 'Immortal Man'. Then there were the star-studded big names such as Colonel Woolf Barnato, who won Le Mans three times in a row from 1928 to 1930, while working as a South African diamond miner and acting as chairman of the Bentley Company.
Each of the Bentley Boys was born and brought up in a wealthy upper-class family, but they were not snobs who had grown complacent in their elevated status. With their high culture, enterprising spirit and competitive passion, the Bentley Boys were united by intense friendship and together they created a legend.
The Bentley models driven by the Bentley Boys enjoyed historic success in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, still regarded as the world's biggest and best sports car race, winning for the first time in 1924, followed by a total of five overall victories from 1927 to 1930. Bentley thus became the most powerful competitor at Le Mans in its early years. Here we would like to record the glorious history of W.O. Bentley and the Bentley Boys' challenge at Le Mans.。

This is a revised version of an article that appeared in Flying B No 001 (2008). The information provided here was accurate at the time of publication.

Translation: Mako Ayabe and Michael Balderi

Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, the Bentley Boys' idol, winner of Le Mans in 1929/31, known for his fighting spirit and sportsmanship, as well as his handsome presence on the scene and resulting popularity with the ladies.