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The Fast Lady

The Fast Lady

When I saw this photograph, I have to confess the eyes were immediately drawn to my heart-throb from the ‘60s, Julie Christie. We see her here in 1962 posing with her co-star of the film ‘The Fast Lady’ – a 1927 Bentley  4.5 litre Red Label Speed short chassis speed model with Vanden Plas fabric body, painted of course in British Racing Green.

Julie Christie rose to fame with her performances in such films as Doctor Zhivago, Darling and Far from The Madding Crowd and the Bentley also enjoyed fame. The film company had bought the car for filming, and at the wrap party offered it to actor Leslie Philips for £500 – he said No !

The car was sold in 2010 for £550,000 amidst great fanfare. Who could resist it after seeing this marketing video? And who can resist Julie Christie after watching her in this sequence with Terence Stamp in Far from The Madding Crowd?

(Text Robin Batchelor, photo courtesy


#3 2014-08-18 10:27
Chester - Thank you for your reply to 'The Fast Lady' story and we bow to your accurate knowledge of Bentley lore.
We have enjoyed exploring the history of this car so we can all agree what's what - and we do try and report details accurately whenever we can.
The current owner, George Dodds, sent this letter to Robert McLellan of vintagebentleys .org and gives us the whole story;

Dear Robert,

It is many years since you purchased our 3 litre FY7290 which I am pleased to see that you still own, and you have this fabulous web site for fellow enthusiasts.

I frequently visit your web site and noticed last week that you had a little article on the Bentley known as The Fast Lady (TU5987). As we have owned this lovely machine for the last few years, I thought that I would let you have some more details of its specifications and brief history as many people ask what makes it tick. It is a bit of a tale...

TU5987 Chassis number ML1505, known as The Fast Lady started life in 1927 as a Vanden Plas sports tourer (Red Label Speed model). The chassis and body still match, the fabric body is very crazed (some would say, "just like its owner"). The Bentley Motors Body brass doorplate with their number is still insitu. Now, here is where the fun starts.

At some time during 1946 / 1948, the following was done... All the parts from a 1930 four-and-a-half (KL3586) were fitted as follows: Radiator, Head lamp pillars, Perrot brake shafts, Engine, Front and Rear Axles, Gear box, complete Steering column, inc wheel, Switch plate, Dynamo, Carbs, mags, Plate clutch, and Alfin brake drums etc. The resultant being a very quick machine, which can frighten one, if driven in a lively Birkin moment!! So the Bentley is actually more a four-and-a-half than a three-litre mechanically, but still an original, VDL, with a four-and-a-half Rad. A three-litre rad was put on a few years ago, by a previous owner but this I rectified as the Rad has been four-and-a-half since 1946/8!!

The car was owned by Harry Charnock, the author of motoring books. The car is mentioned in his book titled, "Mind over Motor" in which he states, "In 1949 the SS plus a small bag of gold was exchanged for a "real" Bentley, a 1930 four-and-a-half motor, box and axles in a 1927 red label chassis with standard VDP body. For me, this car represents a sort of journey's end — a final compromise between the ideal I have been seeking all my life and the deadline of what I can afford. The performance is too well known, as are the snags, to need repetition and the general handling is good enough to be very safe but not so good as to make you forget the job in hand". His words are true today as they were then. The car he called "Behemoth" at this time. Due to health reasons he sold TU5987 to a chap who then sold it to the film studio, United Artists and the film called The Fast Lady was produced and released by the Rank Organisation in 1963.I still have the old brown Log Book with United Artists as owners written in it. It is apparent that many major enthusiasts regard this film with great affection, having seen it either in the cinema or on TV many times. The film is still funny with lots of stars such as James Robertson Justice, Leslie Phillips, Stanley Baxter, Julie Christie and just about every action the films at that time.

We use The Fast Lady a lot as it is such a wonderful machine to drive. For the record the car runs on Castrol R which gives that lovely aroma of speedway and motor racing of times past. I try to keep The Fast Lady in good fettle and in original used appearance. For the record, when I had a new four-and-a-half Rad made, the new Rad has still no stone guard, but is one and three quarter shorter, as the old one ran up-hill towards the front and did not look aesthetically pleasing.

Harry Charnock set up the BDC list of members and their cars and The Fast lady was the first car on the list. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting his son Tony and he was kind enough to let us his and his father's photographs to copy for the History file. We have also visited The British Film Library in London where they let us have copies of "stills" made during the filming of The Fast Lady. We have also bought film posters in all different languages.

Kind regards,
George K. Dodds

29th Dec, 2009
#2 Jeroen Booij 2014-08-18 10:07
Quoting Chester McKaige:
It ain't a Speed model and it ain't a Red Label. He would probably find the "label" i.e. radiator badge inlay black as opposed to red. Rather surprised this one slipped through the net.

It may not be a red label, but the label clearly is red... See that delightful marketing video.
#1 2014-08-18 08:47
I think the writer was more captivated by Julie Christie as he got his facts wrong regarding the Bentley.There is no such thing as a 4.5 litre Red Label Speed short chassis speed model (bit of a mouth full). If it was a 3 litre, then it would be a 1927 3 litre speed model Bentley or even a 1927 3 litre red label Bentley but as its a 4.5 litre Bentley, it ain't a Speed model and it ain't a Red Label. He would probably find the "label" i.e. radiator badge inlay black as opposed to red. Rather surprised this one slipped through the net.

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