June 15, 2015

Drivers’ Club – The Story Behind the Pieces…

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Anyone lucky enough to have visited the Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club, the sumptuous and glamorous private members’ club located in Bowcliffe Hall, can’t fail to have noticed the exquisite motoring artefacts nestled inside its elegant mahogany panelled walls. Original artworks sit alongside rare antiques, motoring memorabilia and specially commissioned, bespoke pieces.

What many people don’t realise is the story behind the pieces, how they came into being and the history surrounding them.

The Bowcliffe Drivers’ Club is the brainchild of irrepressible entrepreneur and Chief Executive, Jonathan Turner. A lifelong motoring enthusiast, Jonathan purchased his first classic car at just 21 years old, and has pursued his passion at every possible opportunity, whether racing from Peking to Paris, or, collecting and restoring beautiful and iconic motoring pieces.

The Bentley Boys

Jonathan’s favourite period in motoring history has always been the glamorous 1920’s, the so called Golden Age of Motoring, when motor racing was dominated by the Bentley Boys, a group of wealthy British motorists who raced Bentley sports cars to victory at Le Mans and Brooklands in the 1920’s and 1930. Little regard was paid to safety, with drivers chancing death for the opportunity to become the stuff of motoring legend.

To Jonathan, it seemed only natural that the Drivers’ Club should be dedicated to this magical era and over a four year period he painstakingly collected or commissioned everything on display in the Drivers’ Club today. Every piece has been curated and chosen because of its importance to motorsports from days gone by and each one has its own unique story to tell.

Over the next few months we’ll be looking at the story behind many of the artefacts in the Drivers’ Club. This month, we start with the story of Jonathan’s three personal favourites; the Jaguar above the entrance to the briefing room, the bespoke Bentley light fittings and some of the original artwork on display.

The Jaguar above door from the Drivers’ Club into the Briefing Room

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The leaping Jaguar figure synonymous with Jaguar cars was created by Frederick Gordon Crosby, an automotive illustrator widely accredited for glamorising motorsport in the 1920’s. Crosby was known for exaggerating the excitement and atmosphere of the great races he covered and despite numerous modifications, the leaping Jaguar remains one of the most instantly recognisable mascots and logos in the world.

Bowcliffe Chief Executive Jonathan Turner came across this large and particularly magnificent ‘leaping Jaguar’ entirely by accident, spotting it in a shop through a taxicab window whilst travelling down Kings Road in London. After much negotiation, Jonathan left armed with a piece that has since become a key focal point of the Drivers’ Club.

During the two years spent sitting on Jonathan’s office floor whilst the Drivers’ Club was being developed – he eventually decided exactly where he wanted the commanding cat to go. And so it was that the builders – who thought him a little mad (!) – were tasked with creating a hole between the Drivers’ Club and the Briefing Room where the Jaguar stands in an elevated and commanding position.

 

Bentley Light Fittings

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The unusual, numbered light fittings adorning each corner of the Drivers’ Club are all completely bespoke. Commissioned by Jonathan and inspired by his favourite Bentley hipflask (pictured below – far right) which was created by Ruddspeed in the 1960’s.

BENTLEY-FLASK

Each light fitting is inscribed with a different number, and those numbers directly correspond to the number on a selection of winning Bentley cars – driven by Jonathan’s childhood heroes, the Bentley Boys. 

Jack Dunfee Artwork in the Drivers’ Club Briefing Room

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Some years ago Jonathan got a call from an antique dealer he knew, saying the granddaughter of one of the Bentley Boys, Jack Dunfee, had been into the shop saying she no longer wanted the paintings of her grandfather which had been created by pre war illustrator, Bryan De Grineau – and was he interested in buying them?

De Grineau worked for one of the top two motoring publications ‘Motor’ prior to the war and was regarded as a huge star to connoisseurs of motoring art. Jonathan jumped at the chance and purchased five of the works. They now hang pride of place in the Briefing Room in the Drivers’ Club.

Which is your favourite piece in the Drivers’ Club? We’d love to know!