In 1955, my uncle Tom Hendee, searched for the right car to be a surprise 50th birthday gift from my aunt to her husband, Carl Mueller, a longtime member and eventually president of the US Bentley Drivers Club.
They already owned a 4 ½ liter Bentley MPH 100, and an 8 liter saloon; I think one of Ginny’s reasons for the purchase was so she didn’t have to share MPH 100 with Carl!
Tom’s search led him to 6 ½ liter GF 8507 “Old #2” in which Frank Clement and Woolf Barnato won Brooklands in 1930, and was second at Le Mans with Frank Clement and Richard Watney driving. It was shipped from the UK to Milwaukee in 1955; on the big day our family convened at the railroad station, where a large wooden crate appeared when a boxcar door was opened. The side of the crate was opened and Carl was astonished by the contents—GF 8507 chassis #HM2868.
The car was extremely original, and Carl took every opportunity to enjoy it in Bentley club outings and competition and he personally did all the maintenance, keeping it original on his watch. His favorite trick after a family dinner was to take me out for quick drive: he would blast along dark Wisconsin rural roads and then turn off the headlights. He taught me how to drive it when I turned 16.
When Carl died in 1974, Ginny sold GF 8507 to an enthusiast in Iowa for as I recall $150,000, a princely sum in the day. He enjoyed the car until 2004 when it was auctioned at Christies Le Mans for €3.8 Million, a staggering $5,123,922, setting a new record for a Bentley sold at auction (Buying power today: about $27.3 M). It has since been shown by the new owner at various events on both sides of the Atlantic, Peter G. Livanos of Switzerland (formerly NY), former owner of Aston Martin.
The Telegraph on 11 July 2016 listed Uncle Tom’s birthday present as one of the 20 greatest classic cars.
My father, who thought spending $5,000 on a car in 1955 was “completely ridiculous” had to eat his words when I pointed out to him the return for every year from 1955 to 2004 was 19%!