In the Auckland City Libraries website you can search the complete digital archive of “The Times” (London) from 1785 – 1985. On the front page of the issue for my birthday in 1961 there is, in large print, a single column advertisement from Jack Barclay Limited, which quotes Laurence Pomeroy:
“….such realisation made me all the more appreciative of the extraordinary condition of a big bore, small boot 1952 Bentley which Jack Barclay kindly loaned me for a few days. This car showed almost no sign that it had run over 60,000 miles. For a little more than 1,000 pounds one could have a car which was a first-class example of a make which is legendary for refinement and quality. Compared with a new car of the same price, one has superlative steering, stunning silence and the smoothest imaginable gear change; and on the road a 100 m.p.h. maximum with a genuine 16 m.p.g.”
Little did I know that 43 years later I would own such a car. It must have been providence!
My first recollection of a real PMC (Proper Motor Car) was when we lived in the UK and my father was lent a Bentley S-series in the mid-sixties for our summer holiday. I was only 4 or 5 years old at the time and being a family of five, with two older brothers, you can imagine the boisterous behaviour in the back seat travelling through the countryside of England. My experience was actually quite a painful one as I discovered that the cigar lighter in the rear companion was not a toy and indeed would burn skin, my lower lip to be precise!
We moved, as a family, to New Zealand in 1975 and I bought my first classic car in the early 80’s, a 1956 Daimler Regency MK II, not in great condition but at my young age it was the best I could afford and it looked like a PMC, in my eyes anyway!
As an aside, when I was restoring the interior I needed to replace the carpets and saw advertised some carpet left over from a restoration of a Bentley R-Type. I thought that was just great; the carpet in my Daimler also went into a Bentley!
I ended up selling the Daimler and looked around for my first PMC. In the mid-80’s, advertised in the national newspaper, was a NZ new 1955 Bentley S1 (chassis: B414AN). It was royal blue over silver with light grey interior and had covered 118,000 miles but did not have power steering! From the ownership papers it was first registered to the New Zealand Governor General Lord Norrie (1952-1957) and then to Sir Woolf Fisher. There were a few other owners before I purchased it. I joined the New Zealand Rolls-Royce & Bentley Club at age 25 and became the Northern Region Treasurer. The Bentley was then sold in the early 90’s to an Englishman who was holidaying in NZ at the time and who took the Bentley back to the UK. I managed to purchase the personalised number plate “S1” when they first released in NZ at a cost of 100 pounds. I ended selling the number plate in the late 90’s for twice the price of the Bentley!
For the next 12 years I owned a 1981 Cadillac Seville, a 1973 Triumph TR6 and a 1987 Jaguar XJS V12, which were all lots of fun. I then heard about the 2004 Rolls-Royce World Tour and the intended gathering in Auckland, which I did not want to miss. What a magnificent collection of PMC’s and it was then that I decided to come “back to the fold” and own another PMC.
I decided at that stage to look at a Bentley MK VI/R-Type, the main reasons for choosing this model being the relatively small size, the ease/cost of maintenance and with pre-war styling. I advertised in the NZ club magazine, without much success as there were two other adverts wanting similar cars and also adverts from the Australian Club magazine. Then in mid-2004 a Bentley MK VI 4.5L (chassis: B372MD) was advertised in a NZ car magazine. I was sent a few photos which showed that it was in very average condition, having done very little mileage since 1972, being dry stored for most of the time. The 3rd owner’s daughter brought it out from England in 1965 at 132,000 miles, drove it until 1972 when the mileage was 174,000 and then sold it. It went through a couple of owners with some renovation work was carried out in 1984 including a paint job. The mileage is now 176,000.
The restoration did not start until earlier last year with the current status being that the body is fully stripped and has been lifted off the chassis, all the mechanicals forward of the firewall have been rebuilt. The upholstery and woodwork are in the process of being refinished. Still to be started are the chassis, the rear end, the chrome work and finishing of the body.
I have the factory build records and ownership history along with the original delivery docket, dated September 1951, from Bentley Motors to The Bristol Motor Company, which shows that the car was ordered in April 1949! The first keeper was the owner of the Bristol Corset Factory.
I am pleased to see the Bentley starting to look like a real car again after nearly 3 years of dedicated work. There was a break of about eight months from late 2007 after the body shell had been sandblasted and etch primed to having the final colour and clear coats done in two-tone Shell Grey and Velvet Green.
We had a full running chassis over Easter 2008 which was quite an event, all being captured on DVD for prosperity. We even balanced a round coin on the radiator at a fast idle and it did not move!
The final interior job is new headlining, carpets and door panels, the seats have already been completed.
We are looking forward to the spring time in October/November 2009 to get the engine run in as there is a Bentley Drivers Club NZ tour in early 2010 that will be inaugural rally.