Monday, December 13, 2010

Bentley Girls

The Bentley Boys are legendary, and their motor racing exploits put Bentley on the map back in the 1920s, but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some real life Bentley Girls who are high achievers and formidable personalities in their own right. Their links to Bentley are valuable endorsements of its caché and traditions.

Cindy Crawford and her black Continental GT are a familiar site in Los Angeles, and she and her husband Rande Gerber are both charming, and smart business people.

Actress Kim Cattrall has spent a lot of time at the wheel of various Bentleys, and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her off-screen, and she’s smart, business-savvy and a sophisticated lady.

However, possibly the most impressive was Diana Barnato-Walker, MBE. She was the daughter of Wolff Barnato, who became Chairman of Bentley and the man who not only won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a few times, but he raced The Blue Train from Cannes to Calais, and beat it! Actually, he arrived at his London club before the train reached the French coast!

I knew Diana well, and she was a game girl. During the Second World War she changed from party girl to pilot. She got her wings at 18, and joined the Air Transport Auxiliary, a group of pilots who ferried newly-built fighters and bombers from the factories to the squadron which would fly them in wartime combat.

She flew well over 100 different types of aircraft, in all weathers, and never damaged one. She delivered 260 Spitfires, and in 1963 piloted a RAF Lightning fighter jet at 1262mph, breaking the sound barrier! Of course she was a Bentley driver! What a girl!

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