Bentley Brooklands | Spotted
A 'proper' Bentley, and a wonderful reminder of why hand-built means imperfect – but special…
By John Howell / Thursday, 25 May 2023 / Loading comments
If you, like me, can see that big can be beautiful, then maybe you’ll appreciate this. The Bentley Brooklands is certainly a big old beast, but by crikey it still manages to deliver beauty in spades, don’t you think? As you might be aware by now, I have a soft spot for Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, but mostly the older stuff from the ‘60s, ‘70s, 80’s and ‘90s. And while this generation of Brooklands doesn’t seem that old to my timeworn brain – years pass so quickly these days that this still seems relatively new – the truth is it’s no spring chicken anymore, for sure.
What I particularly love about it, though, is its ability to look classic despite its relative modernity. It’s just so regal and elegant when, at the time, other manufacturers were moving towards where we our now: cars that are aggressive, perhaps bordering on vulgar. Bentley itself had bought out the first Continental GT not long before this Brooklands was made, and while that wasn’t aggressively styled, I’m not sure it was styled that well.
It looked, to my eyes, a bit of a pastiche Bentley, rather than a proper Bentley. It had too much preformed plastic around its nose for a start – and I might be misremembering this, but I seem to recall the front wings of the early GTs were plastic, too. Plastic wings on a Bentley? Come on, that’s just wrong.
The Brooklands, though, was, and is, a proper Bentley. A hand-built car with lots of hand-hammered aluminium rather than machine-pressed or injection-moulded panels. Apparently, each one took 650 hours to build, which is very nearly a month. Now look, I am well aware that hand built isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. A machine will stamp out a panel perfectly every time, and then a Mitsubishi robot will fit it properly to within the minutest of tolerances.
People pay more for something that’s made by hand, but what if that hand is shaking because last night’s beer is diluting the blood running through its veins. Then what’s turned out might be half-arsed and a bit wonky, because humans are fallible and inconsistent. My mate Craig, who I did my apprenticeship with, was and still is a Bentley mechanic. And he used to tell me tales of replacing OEM parts on Bentleys of the SZ era – things like alternators and the like – and having to fettle the fittings because the new bits didn’t quite fit. If you’re a Toyota mechanic, you’ll be scratching your head in disbelief right now.
But while hand-built cars like this Brooklands have their foibles (to put it mildly) there is something undeniably lovely about them, too. And that loveliness comes from appreciating the skill and craftsmanship of being able to produce something by hand. One of the most awe-inspiring things I’ve ever seen is watching a human being – someone who is basically the same biological machine as me – taking a sheet of aluminium and, through a process of cutting, trimming, rolling and beating, producing a beautiful, intricately curved body panel. I can’t do that. And that’s precisely what makes it so special.
It’s the same thing with sport. When I watch Formula 1, there is a little part of my subconscious (stupid) brain that goes ‘Yeah, I could do that’. Don’t get me wrong: my conscious brain knows that’s not true. It’s hubris, but because F1 cars are just cars, and I can drive cars reasonably well having done so that since the age of 10, somehow it doesn’t seem that otherworldly.
Then I see the MotoGP boys, and that’s a whole different level. I started riding bikes much later in life, so I don’t have that ingrained, muscle memory that comes with developing a skill in your youth. As a result, when I watch MotoGP riders, with their bikes wriggly around underneath them in a constant state of controlled chaos, it’s mesmerising. I know there’s no way I could do that, which makes it even more special.
I appear to have wandered off the topic of this Brooklands, sorry. Anyway, the point is the Brooklands, because of how it was made as much as how it looks, is a lovely thing, and this one’s a lovely example of one. Just 8,750 miles since new and, as you’d expect, looking Febreze fresh as a result. Being picky, I would rather some lighter wood instead of the piano black veneer, but as I didn’t have the money to commission it new, I can’t have it all. I don’t the money to buy it now, sadly, but if I did have £140,000 spare, this would definitely be at the top of my ‘want’ list.
SPECIFICATION | BENTLEY BROOKLANDS
Engine: 6,750cc, V8, twin-turbo
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 537 @ 4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 774 @ 3,250rpm
Recorded mileage: 8,750
Year registered: 2009
Price new: c. £230,000
Yours for: £139,950
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