HAMILTON v Verstappen, Ali v Frazier, Messi v Ronaldo, Coca-Cola v Pepsi, Batman v The Joker – all celebrated rivalries of the modern era, and there’s one dating back way further – Bentley versus Rolls-Royce.
And while Bentley clearly have the upper hand at present, especially in terms of sexy-looking product and sales success, the Crewe crew are probably content to sit on the fence when it comes to another great rivalry, the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones.
That’s because members of both bands are part of the Bentley roster of Extraordinary Customers, which started with the company’s very first patron the wealthy peer, playboy and racing driver Noel van Raalte.
The story goes that Stones guitarist Keith Richards had a brainwave at a point in 1967 when the group were awaiting the infamous Redlands drug bust court case.
He announced: “Let’s jump in the Bentley and drive to Morocco.”
The Bentley was a dark blue S3 Continental Flying Spur, one of a limited edition of 87, and known as Blue Lena in honour of the singer Lena Horne.
As Keith says in his autobiography Life: “Blue Lena had carried us on many an acid-fueled journey. Modifications included a secret compartment in the frame for the concealing of illegal substances. It had a huge bonnet, and to turn it you really had to swing it about.
“You got to know your car, no doubt about that. Three tons of machinery. A car that was made to be driven fast at night.”
Aboard were Richards, fellow Stone Brian Jones with his (soon to be not) girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, American actress Deborah Dixon and driver Tom Keylock.
Jones fell sick with pneumonia near Toulouse, Dixon exited the party following a mini riot in Barcelona during which the Bentley was pelted with stones and that left Keith and Anita to take a serious fancy to each other ‘somewhere between Barcelona and Valencia’.
Meanwhile back in Britain, what became known as the Beatles Bentley was a 1956 S1 model in the care of Chelsea boutique owner John Crittle who commissioned a trio of artists to give the car some psychedelic design before selling his Dandie Fashions business, including the car, to Beatles company Apple in 1968.
One of Apple’s aims was to fund creative ideas and businesses and the Bentley soon became the party car for shifting rock icons like Jimi Hendrix, Roger Daltrey and Brian Jones – as well John Lennon – in and around the King’s Road.
*Keith Richards eventually parted company with Blue Lena in 1978 and the car had three more owners before being auctioned for £763,100 in 2015.