ROB & JANE PEDLER
29th August 2020
Jane Pedler is presented with her 40 year RREC badge by RREC Middlesex Secretary Richard Edgell
1995 Bentley Brooklands
Red pearl, with magnolia piped red interior, red carpets and red over carpets.
Our Mk VI Bentley is a really important part of the family as we have owned her for 35 years. Many Club members have, of course, had their cars for far longer, but the fact that we have had ours for all of our married life (and before) puts a different slant on it.
I first became interested in Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars in the late 1960's and joined the Club in 1971 at the age of 22, but these were inflationary times and old car prices moved too fast for a young clockmaker to catch up. A pre-War car was out of the question so sage advice was to go for a Mk VI, preferably coach-built, thereby combining pre-War character with post-War practicality. Sound advice even today!
B86FV lay in a lock-up in North London and was found through the Exchange and Mart in 1974. The price was £700, which I was later to discover was far too high given its condition, but heart and blind ignorance sometimes rule. The attraction was the coachwork by H J Mulliner, as I was seduced by the razor edge styling which could almost be 1939 rather than 1949. The log book showed a regiment of previous THE PROUD NEW OWNER owners, some of the later ones for
only six months, which is never a good sign when buying a classic car! Her paint was a very faded elephant grey and someone had given the interior a spruce up by painting over the worn grey leather in a fetching shade of Valspar eggshell blue! Blind to the problems that lay ahead I drove home very gently, peering along the bonnet to the radiator cap, with a rusty bolt where the mascot should have been, but the right hand change gearbox was a revelation. I was hooked. It was the first Bentley of any kind I had ever driven!
Bentley Mk VI
Chassis constructed 1948
First registered 1950
Sports Saloon by HJ Mulliner
Article first published in the Spring 2010 edition of the RREC Middlesex newsletter. Janes tells us that the actual restoration was completed a lot earlier than this.
The proud new owner
For those who do not know her, B86FV (KYR 166 -known as Duchess to her friends) was completed in late 1949 and first delivered in January 1950 to her first owner, a Mr E C Biggins of Sussex. She carries an attractive (to our minds) 4 door Sports Saloon body (the coachbuilder's description) with doors closing to the middle (a design later re-invented by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars of Goodwood for their New Phantom) and windows in the rear quarters which makes for a very light interior. Boot arrangement is similar to the standard bodied Mk VI with a drop down lid which can take a trunk, and an inner sliding blind, and spare wheel in a compartment below. Colour is now Royal Blue over Masons Black, with grey interior hide and carpet. A few years ago she had a full set of matching lambs-wool over-rugs as a Christmas present.
To my mind the proportions and subtle razor edge to the design show H J Mulliner knowing exactly what they were doing. They built over 200 of this style on the Mk VI chassis, more by far than any other coachbuilder.
The euphoria felt on at last owning a Club car was not quite enough to disguise the ominous knock from the engine, failing brakes and draughts from all directions. There were several incidents where she "failed to proceed" but the most embarrassing was when visiting an ex-colleague in Belgium, when the car spectacularly boiled -in a snowstorm!!!
Jane well remembers being taken on her first ride in the car when we were just "friends". As we approached a roundabout with a Mini patiently waiting for a gap in the traffic, I happily mused "I hope the brakes work". To her credit Jane did not promptly abandon ship but stuck around for the duration!
After a year or so it became impossible to ignore the car's many faults, so a very haphazard and badly planned restoration commenced, when I invariably started attempting to repair one part only to find faults in others which also needed attention, rather than doing a proper assessment of the whole job in the beginning. I was VERY green and very over-optimistic!
It was to be 9 years before she went back on the road, still with many things unfinished! Admittedly we got married in the meantime which slowed things down for a bit -but a blessing in disguise as that was another pair of hands to strip paint and re-make seats! Jane shared my enthusiasm for the project and we are still married 31 years and 3 other cars later!! It is worth mentioning at this point that all through this period the car was lodged in a lock-up garage near my parents' home, 30 minutes from our first flat, where it fitted in with a foot to spare all round, and had to be pulled out onto the forecourt before work could commence! Whatever job you did, the wheels had to be back on by the evening, and preferably before it got dark!
As an example of the problems encountered, it says in all the manuals when dealing with rust in the body "cut back to sound metal". So I happily removed the undershields from the rear wheel arches, and started to cut away the rusty bits. When I found myself looking at the underside of the rear seats, with no signs of anything holding this part of the body to the chassis, I began to wonder just what I had let myself in for. There was no choice but to strip the interior out completely, seats, carpets (what was left of them) woodwork, door panels etc.
It says a lot for the patience of my by then prospective mother-in-law that she raised no objection to the seats being stored in her loft. I don't think she realised they were going to be there for 7 years until Jane had learnt enough about car upholstery to commence recovering them! This was finally achieved with the assistance of Roy Creech and John Hession of Creech Coachtrimming, both of whom gave freely of their advice and time.
Paint all off!!
Completely stripping the body of all paint was a tedious business -I lost count of the number of times we filled my mother's dustbin with the remains. I also learnt not to lean over the car roof on a very hot day, when it had just been coated with Nitrormors, while wearing a thin shirt not buttoned properly! The doors were removed and taken home to our flat to be attended o. Once again Jane accepted this with tolerance -her only comment being that after they had been rinsed down in the bath I was to be the first person to use the tub!
The interior woodwork was also stripped down at home and carefully revarnished in the workshop I had by then built in the cellar. Our ginger Persian discovered that walking across freshly varnished picnic tables was not conducive to popularity!
When the car finally went back on the road the maintenance work continued and over time achieved a car that is reliable and a pleasure to drive. A tendency to wander over the road was cured by trial and error, and eventually further improved by the fitting of radial tyres. The tired engine was re-built, but the gear box and differential have never been touched. You never get very far with a project like this working alone but advice was always at the end of a phone from Brian Bilton-Sanderson, David Haines and Richard Barton among many others.
Runs and drives - seating somewhat basic!!
Mechanic at work
Within the Club seminars there is a wealth of knowledge that has proved invaluable. Many Club events and tours have been accomplished with only two major failures that could not be solved at the roadside. A failed back axle bearing in the mid-eighties saw us coming home on a low-loader from Guildford, and the water pump fell apart without warning a few years later, meaning a fast run back from north of York, again on an AA truck! Not a bad reliability record on the whole.
There have been other ups and downs to our long term ownership of the car. On her first outing after the restoration was finally finished she was "sideswiped" by a Hiace van with a glass cradle, which split her offside front wing from top to bottom and jammed the driver's door. In true British style we carried on to the Annual Rally at Yarnton, won the Philip Francis Prize for best effort, and paraded with the damaged wing in full view! I have to say that our insurers, Richardson Hosken, were absolutely splendid on this occasion and the repairs were completed in a few weeks and with the minimum of hassle. Yet another good reason for using the Club's Insurers! We never did find out what happened to the driver of the van, although we were able to give the Police a full description and the number.
There have been many highlights but the way she stormed up mountain passes in Norway was certainly one of them - at one stage she left a BMW standing! These cars certainly improve with frequent use while the superb brakes can allow for high average speeds with safety. With old cars it is always the brakes which are the limiting factor.
During Jane's term as Chairman of the Club the Bentley ably shared the duties of Chairman's official transport with the 20/25, both of them covering in excess of 10,000 miles in each of the two years.
I did not for a moment consider in the very early days, as I lay under a precariously jacked up car scraping away with a worn out wire brush, that this would be the same car 30-odd years later, bowling along with the speedo hovering at her happy cruising speed of 68 - 70 mph under a clear blue sky, en route to Madrid as the transport for the first lady Chairman of the Club. That Euro Rally to Spain is just one of many memorable long distance Cluborganised events which the car has attended.
The car is still able to turn an ordinary journey into an event - we aim to keep her for many more years to come.
ROB PEDLER (with a great deal of support from JANE)