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Home  /  May 2018  /  Reviews

Yes, it’s the day you’ve been waiting for: The Weekend Australian Motoring official list of the five cars over $350,000 that don’t make you look like a drug dealer even if you are.

Ever since Wocka Bentley started making them in 1919, pre-war Bentleys have been the stuff of romance. This is mainly due to hard work on and off the tools of The Bentley Boys, a group of mainly wealthy lads, that won Le Mans four times in a row.

As Wocka told me over a pint at the Ash-bank Hotel in Pym’s Lane near his factory in Crewe back in the late 20s: “The public like to think about them living in expensive Mayfair flats, drinking champagne in nightclubs, playing the horses or stock exchange, and beating furiously around the racetrack at a weekend”.

All of which was true. Their parties went on for days and they knew how to celebrate a win. When Dr Dudley Benjafield and motoring writer Sammy Davis won Le Mans in 1927 after repairing their badly damaged 4.5-litre Bentley with string, Autocar magazine put on a dinner for them at the Savoy.

The Bentley Boys included Carlton’s own war hero and record breaking pilot, Bernie Rubin, who only started racing in 1928 aged 32 and with bad boy Woolf Barnato, won that year’s Le Mans.

Then there was Sir Tim Birkin of whom a relative said: “Sailing, shooting and cars was what he lived for and he spent, really, all the family money on it. On one occasion, at Le Mans in 1928, he managed a lap with an average speed of 85mph (137km/h). All on three wheels because one had blown out.”

But my favourite was Baron Andre d’Erlanger whose occupation was simply listed as “playboy”.

Brian Johnson, who many of you would know as the former lead singer for a group of mainly 65-year-old Australians who perform dressed in schoolboy outfits (not that there is anything wrong with that, WART member and race coach Phil Alexander is often spied on the track in a similar get up), says the 4.5-litre Bentley is the best car he’s even driven.

“The first time I saw it, everything went north on us, except me jaw — that went south. I just had to have it. That car, I think, is a masterpiece … (It) was ludicrously expensive — I mean, just crackers.” Expect to pay up to $10 million for an original.

After Wocka went belly-up and Rolls Royce took over, the cars were pretty crap.

VW bought the business in 1998 and lately the cars have just been sensational.

The Bentley Continental Supersports, yours for just $626,000, has a 522KW W-12 engine that is good for 336km/h, making it the fastest four-seater in the world and even better, and is faster off the lights than most Fezzers and all Mazers.

Then we have the Porker Turbo S, which at $495,600 is not exactly a bargain but it’s faster, cheaper, easier to drive around town and more reliable than the Feezer 488 Spider. Plus it looks like every other Porker so less likely to attract members of the drug squad or the federal police.

Next is the McLaren 720S for a touch under $500K. Road & Track magazine named it their performance car of the year saying: “You could own this car for a lifetime and never grow tired of the manner in which it conquers everything from a 200mph (321km/h) blitz to the commuting crawl.

“No streetcar in history has offered a better driving position, a more immediate command of the road, or a better integration of usability and capability. And, not for nothing, it’s improved in every possible respect from the 650S, which was already one of the world’s most competent supercars. Inhumanly sleek, monstrously quick, reassuringly approachable, the McLaren 720S is our 2018 Performance Car of the Year.” I wonder what they really think?

Finally the most beautiful car in the world, the original Jaguar E-Type. Prices are still going through the roof with a reasonably well restored one costing you $180K and Bob Janes’ lightweight selling for $10m. Can I suggest you get Gavin King at Concours Sportscar Restoration to restore one for you. Gavin has spent his whole working life under Jags and will restore or build you a concours winning model for around $450K. That’s a saving of over $1m on the new Jag factory E-Types.

As usual, last week I got it wrong. The Shannons Sydney Classic Auction at the Hot Rod and Custom Auto Expo on the Cote d’Azur at Sydney’s own Saint-Tropez and Positano combined, the lovely Rosehill Gardens Racecourse is on this Sunday. Now I’d get out there because there are two E-Types up for sale. A very original two-owner 1971 4.2 two-plus-two with 65,000 miles (104,600km) on the clock for around $55K and a 1972 V12 two plus two with 25,000 miles for about $10K less.

I’m going out with the Visa (they don’t take Amex) to have a very serious go at the 1973 Volvo P1800 ES (ie station wagon). Early on this three-owner car was performance tweaked and more recently got modern aircon.

Ten years ago you couldn’t give these away at $8K. Four years ago they moved up to around $16K. In the US they are now bringing $30K and in Europe up to $45K. Volvo only built about 8000 and if I’m right this is one of only 10 on the road in Australia. I have only had a quick look but if it’s as good as Shannons say then I think anywhere around $25K-plus is fair buying.

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