Bentley tour battles on

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 | Latest News | Otago Daily Times

The Bentley girls . . . Jenny Cook, of Arrowtown, and Bentley Drivers Club International chairwoman Jenny Ford, from England, with their 4.5 litre Bentleys. Even a small collision has not dampened the enthusiasm of a group touring the South Island.

Over the past week, 30 Bentleys, all built in the 1920s and 1930s, have been driven from Christchurch to Nelson and down the West Coast.

Members of the Bentley Drivers Club International were halfway through the New Zealand Vintage Bentley Tour 2008 of the South Island, organiser Adrian Cook said.

Christchurch Bentley owner and tour engineer Frank Renwick came to grief on Monday when his 1925 3-litre Bentley's brakes failed while he was trying to give way on a one-lane bridge.

No-one was injured and the car is repairable but out of the tour.

As well as experiencing the grandeur of the South Island there were plenty of hijinks. ‘‘We've had a lot of boat tours and most of the cars arrived by boat so we are having a pirate theme,'' he said.

But parrots on shoulders cannot overshadow the South Island's scenery. ‘‘Coming through the Gates of Haast was a magical experience even with the rain,'' club chairwoman Jenny Ford, of England, said.

‘‘There was mist and waterfalls appearing and the rivers were in full flow. And then there was an Otago summer waiting for us.''

Like most of the drivers, Mrs Ford and her husband Richard travelled from England - bringing their Bentley with them.

‘‘People ask how do we get them here,'' she said. ‘‘We say we put them in a box and mail them, which is basically what happens. You drive them into a container, then they are shipped over.''

Tour organiser Adrian Cook said every Bentley from 10 countries had been registered and warranted for New Zealand roads.

All more than 70 years old, they have plenty of miles on the clock, with members taking them on drives from England to Russia and a club tour of Canada and Alaska planned.

However, the 5000km around the South Island is not for the faint-hearted. Mrs Ford said many of the drivers were in their 70s and were ‘‘true adventurers''.

Driving the ‘‘very physical cars'' through extremes of cold and heat took strength, she said.
‘‘You can feel it in your shoulders at the end of the day.''

Together, the 30 cars are estimated to be worth $25 million but the organisers were reluctant to divulge the cost of the tour.

‘‘You can't put a price on a good time,'' Mr Cook said.