The ‘Bitch’ is Back – At Last!
Historic ex-Le Mans Bentley owner Bob Moggridge recounts his exceptional experiences participating in the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at its Bentley Centenary celebrations.
In restoration for 22 years, Chassis ML1501 – a.k.a. the Bitch – now has a deadline, an invitation to the 2019 Pebble Beach Concours. This long restoration has been a culmination of research backed up by countless photographs, original race programmes and numerous stories.
This was the last Works-built 3 Litre Bentley Team Car built for the 1927 Le Mans race, nicknamed ‘Bitch’ by one of the drivers, Sammy Davis, it was one of two cars that crashed in the famous ‘White House Crash’ – leaving the third Bentley ‘Old Number Seven’ to win the race. Whilst the crash was a major disappointment to W.O. Bentley at the time, the subsequent win and publicity was a major success for him.
Having raced for many years at Brooklands, VSCC and BDC events, the 3 Litre was remarkably original, due primarily to having one owner for over 50 years, but clearly very tired, so a long restoration was commenced. The deadline to present the car had been set with the worldwide 100 year Bentley celebration at this year’s prestigious Pebble Beach Concours.
Chassis ML1501 was the first car to arrive at Pebble Beach to much publicity, which was absolutely glorious and very satisfying given all the logistics involved. The car has been cleaned, checked and prepared, ready for the West Coast Tour on Thursday 15 August. The Tour is designed to show the judges that the cars are not just trailer queens, but they go as well as they look. It is approximately 75 miles on the beautiful coastal road with frequent views of the perfect blue Pacific Ocean with weather to match.
At the halfway point the judges take note that you have completed this section in order to get your green rosette, and then off to lunch in the beautiful village of Carmel. Surrounded by many Bentley friends, the atmosphere was electric and lunch was very welcome, given the early start to the day. Lunch completed and then back ‘home’ to Pebble Beach to collect the green rosette and discuss the day with like-minded enthusiasts with a drink or two.
Sunday 18 August – the big day – up at 4.30am to collect ML1501 and drive the short distance to the Pebble Beach Golf Course, about one mile away, ready to drive on at around 6.15am. The sun rose slowly and we drove onto the fabulous panoramic golf course following our own designated golf buggy, superbly organised.
We are positioned, with the other Bentley owners, alongside the Pacific Ocean – a quite magical setting in readiness for the judging. This takes place in two stages. Each stage comprises of six judges who rapidly fire questions to test your knowledge and ultimately your passion as a collector, and check everything – whether it is the equipment on the car or the car’s history. On completion, there is just time for lunch and a look around the many cars on the field – all so varied and really quite spectacular.
Judging is completed and the wait is over, ML1501 was awarded first in class at this premier Concours d’Elegance – a wonderful achievement and a testament to the many people involved, over 22 years, and the patience in dealing with an obsessive owner who is so passionate about his car.