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Do they still make them like that?


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'Classic & Sports Car' ran an article in their July edition on John F Duff, one of the 'Bentley Boys'. I'd often heard their exploits described as being the stuff of Boys Own stories, but I'd never delved any deeper. C&SC have enlightened me.


"Tall, hawkish and broad-shouldered, he was a stranger to fear. He skipped school to hunt boar and ride wild horses. His WWI friendly fire injury was the result of advancing too far, too swiftly. And he drove racing cars that caused even the insouciant right crowd at Brooklands to blanche.


The first was a chain-driven 10-litre Fiat S61 from 1910. The second was an older Fiat: Felice Nazzarro's fearsome Mephistopheles of 1908. Ignoring Harry Ricardo's warning he raised the compression ratio by fitting lightweight pistons, Duff was almost decapitated when the rear block of cylinders parted company with crankcase.


Imperturbable, he borrowed the terrifying 21-litre Blitzen Benz, and promptly went over the top of the member's banking, breaking his ankles. Duff began fencing to strengthen his injured ankles and by 1924 was sufficiently accomplished to finish runner-up at the British Junior Epee Championship. His fitness and bravery, allied to exceptional eyesight and speed of reaction, made Duff a formidable driver.


In September 1922, he crammed a record 2083 miles into 24 hours aboard his mildly modified Bentley 3 Litre. He competed at Le Mans in 1923, 1924 (where he could have won it) and 1925.


In 1926 he came 9th in his first ever Us race in a supercharged single seater Miller, followed by 3rd place in his next race. He then crashed after 64 laps of the 200 mile Independence Day Classic when a tyre blew. He had promised wife Clarissa that he would retire should he be injured again, and he kept that promise.


He then settled in Santa Monica and opened a fencing studio in Hollywood. He found work with the studios, sharpening actors' blade work and doubled for Cooper in Beau Sabreur."


I'd have been proud of any one of his accomplishments.

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I'm sure they are still made like that, it just that our nanny state stifles anything that they perceive to be outwith the norm, i.e. anything that incurs greater risk than fingering the TV remote. Somehow, over the past 50 years, "society" has almost entirely removed the individual's right to exercise calculated risk to their own lives. There seems to me to be an institutional inability to accept death in any form other than wasting old age or dread disease. Its going to happen anyway so what's wrong if it comes suddenly and early?
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Is anyone stopping you mountaineering, including freestyle, caving, hang gliding, skydiving, open water swimming, boxing, playing rugby, enjoying BMX or motocross, developing circus skills or racing in the wonderful Tour de France?


Protecting workers from death and injury is a completely different issue, and we've made big improvements there in the last 50y.



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