If there had been an ironman contest for car and driver, this pairing would have been the winners
(Naples, FL) October 9, 2015 – Eddie Hall was a man of dogged determination. It was evident in the way he embraced mountaineering, bobsledding and motor racing. Hall competed in a variety of racing cars, but his most famous was a 1933 Bentley The Revs Institute will show at The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival. Those who follow modern racing know that Bentley has been very successful racing its current Continental GT3s. The famed Eddie Hall Bentley is an important predecessor of today’s winners.
Walk into The Revs Institute on any visitor’s day and you’ll find the Eddie Hall Bentley, nestled among other important cars of the Collier Collection. It has been a crown jewel in the collection since it was acquired in December 1986 as one of the cars from the Briggs Cunningham Museum in California. The Bentley had been part of Cunningham’s collection from the time he bought it from Eddie Hall in 1970, though the story goes back to 1950 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. A pair of Cunningham teams cars–a stock 1950 Cadillac and another Caddy with a special body–had finished a creditable 10th and 11th overall. Eddie Hall and the Bentley were two spots ahead of them in 8th place. Obviously Cunningham was impressed. Two points of interest: the Bentley had been built in 1933 and Hall drove the entire 24 hours. Indeed a man of dogged determination.
When Rolls-Royce bought Bentley in 1931, it intended to use the acquisition to create a “silent sports car.” Rolls had no intention of racing Bentleys. They didn’t reckon on Edward Ramsden “Eddie” Hall. The young businessman bought a Bentley and used it as a reconnaissance vehicle to practice for Italy’s famed Mille Miglia. His race car for that event was an MG Magnette, which blew a head gasket in the race, but the recce experience in the Bentley convinced Hall it should be raced.
Rolls-Royce wasn’t convinced, but Hall prevailed and the factory helped a bit, among other things tuning the engine for competition. Then there is the matter of the body on the car. You buy a car today and the body on the car will be there forever, right? Not back then. Hall had the Bentley’s original Offord body removed and basically recreated entirely in aluminum to save weight for added speed.
Hall’s aim was to win the Royal Automobile Club’s Tourist Trophy race, which was held on the tricky Ards Circuit in Northern Ireland. The event drew more than 250,000 spectators. For three years, Hall tried to win the TT, even converting to a 4 1/2-liter engine for the last year, 1936. It wasn’t a matter of speed. The TT was cancelled after the 1936 due to safety concerns, so Hall and the Bentley still hold the record race average speed of 80.81 mph, but they lost to the handicapping system, finishing 2nd all three years.
Before that 1936 race, Hall planned to also race in the 1936 24 Hours of Le Mans and had still another body created for the Bentley. Imagine doing that for your modern Mercedes-Benz, Lexus or Porsche. Turned out Le Mans was cancelled due to a general strike, but the Bentley body saga doesn’t end. When Hall moved to South Africa after the war he had the original Offord body from 1934 reinstalled on the chassis…and later had it replaced with the Le Mans body. Yes, it can get confusing…
Hall continued to race the Bentley in smaller events, but come 1950 the temptation of Le Mans was too much. The coachwork was fitted with a wind tunnel-tested hardtop and rounded cowling around the radiator. Hall had a co-driver, Tom Clarke, who was to spend the 24 hours as a spectator as Hall drove single handedly to 8th place overall.
So anyone who has the pleasure of seeing the Eddie Hall Bentley on the quiet lawn of The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival should spare a thought for the ironman who drove it for the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In addition to being at The Lake Mirror Classic Auto Festival for the spectators, the Eddie Hall Bentley will be part of an “Auto Biography” seminar in which five great automobiles will have their “life stories” related. Lodge Mckee, a volunteer docent at The Revs Institute, will tell the Bentley’s tale. The dedicated volunteers at the collection were asked to choose which car would be the best candidate for the seminar and they choose the Bentley from among the 115 cars on display.
“Eddie Hall and the Bentley are a testament to courage and tenacity,” says Miles Collier, President of The Revs Institute. “The stories of these cars and the men behind them that are an important and intriguing element of the history of the automobile…and also great fun.”
The Revs Institute for Automotive Research, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization and is recognized for its extensive library, outstanding periodical collections that date from the 1890’s and its photograph and manuscript collections on all things automotive. The Naples, Florida automotive research institute houses The Collier Collection featuring over one hundred of the most significant and influential automobiles of our time.