Looking a gift horse in the backside

Every year I volunteer to help out at an art show for four days; every year I think I’m losing four days’ writing time. One of my more pernicious self-deceptions. None of the best stories come from the keyboard. Some come from reading, some pop on like little light bulbs while you’re out walking or stripping paint,  but the best play out in front of you.

So there I was, an attendant in the sculpture tent with my view blocked by the boot of a Bentley. I realize that for most men on this planet, that is on a par with gazing at a very beautiful bottom for several meditative hours. So what’s the problem? But to me it was just the boot of a car. The men coming to it like wasps to a honey trap were more amusing, their bug-eyed envy and wistful stares, their hands hovering over the ‘Do Not Touch’ sign like those of a faith healer. Just a car, I thought. So what?

Dear Men, feel free to stroke your screens and/or dribble

It was only on the third day that I asked its owner the story of the car. It is a 4.5 lr engine, built in 1930. In the earliest days, you would buy the engine and chassis only from Bentley, and would have the body built to your own specification elsewhere. In 1919 an artist called F. Gordon Crosby made a speculative illustration of how a Bentley might look. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy and dictated the look of the car from that date forward. He even designed the winged mascot. And that was why cars had mascots, so that you knew what the engine was no matter what the body.

Worthy of Kipling or Aesop, that tale, and there it was, staring me in the face.

Here is a side view, for some serious drooling.

3 thoughts on “Looking a gift horse in the backside

  1. Hi Linda,

    In defence of men who stare at Bentleys…

    For some, the attraction of a car like this is the sheer beauty of the design, the craftsmanship and the sense of presence that they have (for an example of the sheer presence some of these cars have, google ‘Naper Railton’ and see what you get).

    For others, it is the stories of the cars’ history or the factory’s history at the time. Bentley has some very fine stories, linked to hallowed places like Brooklands and semi-legendary people like the Bentley Boys.

    Mind you, sometimes its worth staring at them simply because they’re a nice colour…

    Stephen

  2. It was naughty of me to suggest that men are strange in their love of cars. If it wasn’t for you wonderful lads and your love of moving parts, I’d be stuck in a cave and carving on rock. I did hear some terrific stories about Bentley, and after four days, did begin to find the car attractive, but it’s colour was black.

  3. Hi Linda,

    Black isn’t a bad colour for a Bentley, but British Racing Green is de riguer. As for attractive, some Bentleys of the era can’t claim attractiveness, but can attain a sort of stately elegance. The racing versions don’t even get that far, but the pared-down purposefulness of their appearance does look magnificent.

    Oh, and there was a typo in my previous comment- it should read ‘Napier Railton’.

    cheers,
    Stephen

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