Bentleys of yore will gather to celebrate a special anniversary in April. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bentleys of yore will gather to celebrate a special anniversary in April. Picture: SUPPLIED

A contingent of vintage and classic Bentleys will arrive en masse at the Knysna Motor Show on April 28.

The occasion will be the Bentley centenary, and to celebrate this milestone, the Bentley Drivers Club of SA has scheduled the Knysna Motor Show as the first stop of its special commemorative 2019 rally.

About 20 Bentleys are so far confirmed for the show to be held at the Knysna High School sports grounds on Waterfront Drive.

“The Cape branch of the club is scheduled to gather at Arniston. From there we drive to Knysna, where we will take part in the wonderful Knysna Motor Show,” said John White, chair of the Bentley Drivers Club of the Western Cape.

White and his wife, Frederike, will be arriving in his magnificent Bentley 4½l, perhaps the most famous Bentley model of all in the brand’s century-long history. However, the club will showcase  iconic cars, ranging from at least five 3l models built in 1922-1928 to more modern classics, such as the 1998 Bentley Continental T, owned by Robert and Maryke Middelmann, and Shaun Rai’s 1998 Bentley Azure convertible.

The club’s mustering for Knysna, and their post-motor show foray into the mountain passes in and around Oudtshoorn, will include cars from the most important periods of Bentley history. These will include the “Silent Cars” built from 1932 to 1939 and the beautiful post-World War 2 models.

Apart from the vintage and classic-era Bentleys on display, it is expected that there will be a significant presence of the latest Bentley models, including the new Bentayga SUV.

The SA Barnato-Bentley connection

It is probably true that were it not for the discovery of gold and diamonds in SA in the late 19th century, the awe-inspiring Bentley cars wouldn’t exist today.

Barney Barnato was one of the British Randlords who made their fortune sin SA. He died mysteriously while travelling by ship from SA to Britan in 1897, leaving his fortune to his son Woolf, then a young boy. Woolf became enamoured of Bentley sports cars soon after they went into production in 1919, and went on to acquire a 3l model in 1925 and race Bentleys at Brooklands race track in Britain and at Le Mans as one of the famous Bentley Boys.

When WO Bentley, founder of Bentley, suffered financial setbacks in 1925, Woolf Barnato bailed the company out and became its chair.

This period was to be seen as the Golden Period as Bentleys won four successive Le Mans 24-Hour races from 1927 to 1930. But after Wall Street  crash in 1929, Bentley Cars was taken over by its fierce competitor, Rolls-Royce, in 1931.

Thus began the era of 3½l cars, advertised by Rolls-Royce as “the silent sports car”. Postwar, the Mk VI Bentleys were produced at Crewe in Britaind, and later came the famous R-Type and S-Series of the 1950s. Rolls-Royce ownership continued until 1970, when it was bought out by the Vickers Group. And since 1998 the Bentley nameplate has been under the ownership of the Volkswagen group.

Knysna Motor Show

The Knysna Motor Show, sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth, is the eighth event. Since 2011 it has been considered one of the best-organised events on the classic-vintage car show calendar, with the highest quality of entries.

Since its inception, the organisers have donated hundreds of thousands of rand to charities in the area. The event now has up to 400 cars and classic motorcycles, which are displayed on the lawns of the grounds by invitation only. There will be many vintage and classic car marques.

“The invitation-only policy enables us to keep the standard of the event very high, and to vary the display each year, so even for enthusiasts who have been to all of our previous seven shows, there will be something new,” says Peter Pretorius, chair of the Garden Route Motor Club, which organises the event.

The show runs from 9.30am to 4pm on April 28.

Admission costs R50 for an adult, R10 for  children aged 12 to 18, and it free for children under 12.