This Bentley B361TO we have named Marque has been a part of our family for almost 40 years. It has encountered many obstacles on the road to recovery. And I must admit that a great deal of the abuse was the result of our neglect and improper treatment. Marque's story with us begin in April 1973. Not to long after we were married in 1972, we bought a very nice R-Type 1953 Bentley. It was in fair shape, but needed some mechanical work. The car was built in May, 1953, and delivered to Glovers of Ripon, Ltd on 12 June 1953. They in turn delivered the new car to the original owner Mr. J. Bullock, The Cliff, Sandal, Wakefield, Yorks for the sum of £3,904 on 11 July 1953. Included in this sum was the "purchase" tax (sales tax) of £1,292. Also included in the price was 8 gallons of petrol for £1 15sh & 6p. Mr. Bullock sold the car in 1956. The records indicate the sale to a Mr. W. Sutton Scott of 7 Golden Square, London, W.1; however, the motor vehicle registration book shows the new owner as James Scott & Sons of Langholm, LTD of Waverley Mills, Langholm, Scotland. The last time the car license tag fees were paid in the UK was 1966. This leads me to conclude the car was crashed sometime in 1967 and languished in a wrecking yard until 1972 when it was "fixed" up and sold to Mr. Fred Brown of Portsmouth, Ohio. He brought the car to the USA in 1972. We bought Marque in April, 1973. Not knowing any better, we drove it 945 miles to Tampa, Florida with no front brakes, the tail pipes blowing blue smoke, and the engine overheating all the way. As you can imagine, we had just started up the steep learning curve.
Original Sales Receipt with delivery date the week ending June 12, 1953
Original buyer was J. Bullock - July 11, 1953
Car was sold to Sutton Scott - Nov 11, 1957
The last time the car was licensed in the UK was 1966 with fees paid through 31 December 1967.
Sneed & Anne took possession April 1973 and drove from Ohio to Tampa, FL
We air conditioned our garage in Florida and set about making the car roadworthy. We spent the first 6 to 9 months of ownership tenderly fixin' things like refinishing the leather, refinishing all the wood, installing new brake pads and new tires, installing new brake cylinder and shock absorber rubber parts, installing new bijur lines to the left front wheel, installing new valves, and flushing the cooling system. Marque had an overheating problem. Living in Florida at the time did not help.
Marque was easy to work on with a climate controlled garage and lots of space.
Note demister piping hanging on the far wall along with the left front door wood and new head gasket.
I know those SU carbs are in this garage somewhere. Finding them was the easy part.
Getting them working together was the nasty bit.
It was a very early morning high in the Smoky Mountains. I had crawled out of our tent. We were in a National Park campground on a large grassy knoll with intermittent oak trees. It was very foggy. Hence the name the Smoky Mountains. The fog could not have been thicker. B361TO is Tudor Grey and Shell Grey. In this fog the car was almost invisible. I had to feel around to get the cooking gear out of the boot. I lost the boot lid in the fog and banged my face twice retrieving breakfast stuff. My bride and I cooked our breakfast on a picnic table next to B361TO. We sat next to each other. Could not see each other from across the table. After breakfast we lucked out and found our camouflaged Bentley after only 5 minutes of groping about in the fog. We finally folded camp and packed up B361TO ready for travel. But alas, we did not know which way was out. There were too many trees between where I remembered parking in last night's dark and that little brown sandy road I turned off of last night. But not to worry. It was 8:30am by now and the smoky stuff was starting to burn off. We wiped the heavy dew off B361TO. It purred softly as the dew came off. We were startled at the sound of "Good Morning" coming from a fog-engulfed stranger who appeared out of nowhere. He was about 60 years old with white hair. He walked up to the front of our purring Bentley, looked at me and said. "I have a Bentley like that but I'd be damned if I would take it camping." He turned and vanished into the fog as quickly as he had appeared. Never saw him again. There was no one else in the campground when we arrived late last night. There was no one in the campground when we finally managed to find our way out through the fog to the main highway. Who was our visitor?
We moved to Boston in 1974 and Marque was joined by GXB21 a 1934 20/25
Marque was moved to our
farm in Virginia in 1975. Here he enjoyed
providing proper transport for a picnic under a wild cherry tree in bloom.
We moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1978 and Marque continued to overheat. A friend recommended I take the radiator to a shop in Pittsburgh that he used to recondition his antique radiators. I disassembled B361TO's front end once again and walked into this old and messy looking radiator shop deep in the dark back alleys of downtown Pittsburgh. The proprietor gazed at me as I entered his shop. What can I do for you? I strained to see any thing in the dark and dingy shop. I managed to blurt out, "I would like you to look at this radiator - I believe it may be plugged. The car overheats." He cocked his head and looked at it sideways as to view it lengthwise. He said quite confidently, "So, your car overheats because you have a Chevy pickup core in your RR radiator. It has about half the capacity of the proper core." It goes without saying I was dumbstruck. I was smitten even more when this radiator messiah told me he had the proper replacement core in stock. I reinstalled the radiator, grille, etc. and I was ecstatic - no more overheating. I called home and announced we were going for a ride in the fixed Bentley. Now I knew this would not be a real test. It never gets warm in Pittsburgh but a 70mph run south on I-76 would be a good test. It was great going south down the hill. On the return as I crossed the Ohio River and headed up hill, the temperature needle started easing to the right in the clockwise direction. I was devastated. Will this pretty little Bentley ever run cool?
While living in Pittsburgh in
1981 Marque had some little playmates. Erika and Annemarie.
At the bottom you can see the same pix 21 years later.
A transfer back overseas in 1983
put B361TO back in storage at the farm in Virginia.
In 1991 after 8 years in storage, I tried to move it to Houston. No go - frozen front brakes.
By 1999 Marque had become a candidate for The RROC's Parts Car of the Year Award. Rescue was in order and Sam Rawlins in Atlanta agreed to have a go at it. The decision process was something like this. We had owned the car for 27 years and it was a complete car. There were no missing parts. The wood was good. The leather was dirty but in great shape. It ran great in 1983 and should run great once again. All it needed was a little mechanical work to remove 17 years of hydrocarbon residue and a fresh coat of paint. Famous last words.
Storage between 1983 and 1999 brought forth the poorly done repaint of 1972. It began to fall off.
Cleaning off the poor paint revealed many rusty spots filled with body putty.
Oh, did I forget to mention the mice? I have some advice for anyone placing a car in storage. First, don't do it. If you have to do it, seal the car. Enclose it in a large plastic zip lock baggie. The mice destroyed the interior of B361TO. They chomped up the carpet and carried it up the walls and nested in the headliner. They also ate the insulation off the wiring. Sam and his crew found 12 dead rats (large Virginia farmland field mice) residing in the headliner.
The shop crew promptly dubbed it "The Rat Car".
Disassembly began in earnest in Atlanta in October, 1999. One of the first things Sam told me was that my fan blade was installed backwards. Maybe that answered a lot of questions. The mystery remains however - who committed this atrocity? Was it the guy that put in the Chevy radiator core or was it the novice mechanic in that air-conditioned Florida garage? An early projection for completing the work in Atlanta was 6 to 9 months. The estimated finish date became a moving target as new discoveries were made during disassembly.
The left side of the car had been severely damaged before arriving in the USA when it rubbed against something solid at high speed. There were copious quantities of body putty hiding large rusting holes and dents in the fenders and rocker panels. The crankshaft was bent. There were holes in two cylinders. The chrome liner in the pistons had failed, as in all Bentleys of that era. The floor pan was eaten away by a mix of coal dust and Scottish mist. One of the UK owners apparently drove the car about a coal mine and loaded up the underside with coal dust. The moisture of Britain turned a bit of the coal dust to acid. The paint had fallen off the left side of the car. The dead rats had carried most of the wool carpet into the headliner to make nests. The front brakes were frozen. And last but not the least, the rats had feasted on the pure rubber insulation on the wiring. I wonder if that is what killed them?
The engine compartment sans engine. The amount of work to save the engine was not anticipated.
With blown pistons, faulty chrome liners and a bent crank shaft it took a great deal to fix the engine
..The engine reinstalled. Mid 2001 .The fuse box and new wiring. Mid 2001 Disassembled engine bits February 2000
Left photo shows new spin on oil filter installed on rebuilt engine. Right shows new water pump.
Engine bits including broken damper. Reassembly of the interior started mid 2001. The new floor pan. Early 2001
We asked Sam to repaint Marque in its original colors of Shell Grey and Light Tudor Grey. Sam went to the UK and obtained the paint specifications from the original records. He had them duplicated as modern clear coat paint. He re-chromed all the bright work. All the rusty body sections were cut out and replaced with new metal. The engine was rebuilt and the faulty chrome liners bored out. He cleaned and reconditioned the transmission, brakes, and shocks, and added a modern spin-on oil filter. He added a new headliner and carpet to specifications. As the car was rewired the electrical polarity was reversed to provide a negative ground in lieu of the British positive ground.
Body restoration underway. The old paint was sandblasted off to remove the paint and body putty to expose the dents, dings and rusty places. The yellow covering is a first coat primer to protect the steel body after sand blasting. The work to remove all the old dents, dings, rust, and collision damage was a major undertaking. It was amazing how much prior damage had been hidden by the repaint that was done in 1972. The person who prepared the car for sale in the UK did a good job of concealing the damage. I have never seen a Bentley of this era with so much rust and corrosion. It looked as if the car had been driven for years in the snow and salty roads of North East USA. I can only surmise that the coal dust imbedded in all the nooks and crannies of the body combined with the wet weather of the UK produced the same results.
September 2001 Mechanical work complete. New paint complete ready for the interior in Sept 2001. January 2002 Ready to hang doors and finish out the details. The leather remained original. Worn, but no tears or cracks. Lots of conditioning fluids and hand rubbing to bring back to good condition. Surprisingly, the mice did not bother the seats or the stuffing in the seats.
An agonizing 31 months later, Marque was reborn in April, 2002. We drove Marque from Atlanta to Houston.
It was an apprehensive 900 miles. We did take a rock in the right fender that made the first chip in the new paint.
Marque reached Texas in time for the annual azalea blooming.
The interior looked great. 50 year old leather with lots of TLC.
We took Marque on a test run to Abilene in June 2002. He joined Maggie (1938 Bentley B39LE James Young Sedanca Coupe) owned by Steve & Sue Krazer in performing Honor Guard Duty at The Perini Cattle Company ( a very fine ranch style restaurant) in Buffalo Gap, TX.
In July, 2002, Marque attended the 51st National RROC Meet at The Homestead in Virginia, (being ever mindful of the danger of encountering more Virginia field mice) and captured 1st place in the Touring Class for Mark IV and R-Type Bentleys.
The 2,800 mile round trip drive from Houston became worthwhile in spite of the heat and bad weather.
That new paint made a big impression.
1st in Class Award Presentation by Fred Fabre
.......National Ribbons and Award Badge....
On the judging field and the competition all lined up.
The Winners Circle at The National Meet. Marque is to the right behind the Corniche convertible.
The judging field (aka the driving range). Marque is parked beneath the red arrow.
There were approximately 300 cars on the field, 250 of which were entered for judging.
The early Silver Ghosts were behind me when I took these pictures.
Back home in Texas resting quietly after a great trip to Virginia.
21 years later. Erika and Annemarie. May 2002
And occasionally Marque plays a supporting role in an important wedding.
Everett Pauls Best of Show Award
May 2003 at Texas Region Annual Meet
Won 2nd time April 2008 at Texas Region Annual Meet
On RROC Spring Tour 2005 - Natchez, MS
Sterling Moss presents 1st Place in Class to B361TO at Houston's Keels and Wheels 2005
On RROC Spring Tour 2006 Blue Ridge Parkway
On RROC Spring Tour 2007 Texas
Preparing for the trip to Washington State and the National RROC Meet Aug 2007
Pausing along the Oregon Trail en route to Washington State
On the judging field at the 2007 National RROC Meet in Washington State - Aug 2007
Touring Texas Spring 2008
Another Wedding in Style - Austin, Texas
Another Wedding in Style - Houston, Texas
On the Judging Field at RROC National Meet 2008 - Williamsburg, VA
Marque wins 1st in Class Concours at 2008 RROC National Meet, Williamsburg, VA
Marque wins Henry Royce Trophy at 2009 RROC National Meet, New Orleans, LA
Best of Show Post War Cars
Marque on Tour - Stanton Hall Natchez, MS - RROC Spring Tour April 2010
Double click on the licence tag will take you to a web page with detail photos of Marque