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The outstanding George Daniels Motor Car Collection to be sold by Bonhams at Goodwood Festival of Speed
The ex-Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin 1929-32 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Single-Seater. Photo: GPL.

CHICHESTER.- The outstanding collection of motor cars owned by the famed watchmaker George Daniels is to be sold by Bonhams at auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday 29th June 2012. The seven motor cars and two motorcycles are expected to realise in excess of £8,000,000.

George Daniels CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (1926-2011) was one of the few modern watchmakers who could conceive, design and hand-make a complete watch from blank sheet of paper to finished, ticking, utterly supreme timepiece. This master of his art-cum-science is perhaps most famous for creating the co-axial escapement (the device that drives a timekeeping mechanism) which has been described as the most important horological development for 250 years.

As a specialist watchmaker, during his lifetime he created less than 100 pocket watches and wristwatches, each of which would typically involve 2,500 hours of work. His love of engineering also led to his abiding interest in fine motor cars and he accumulated an impressive collection over the years. He took part in numerous vintage car races until he was politely ‘warned off’ by the RAC Motor Sports Association on grounds of age. In 2010 he was awarded the CBE, and he is the only watchmaker ever to receive the honour of ‘Master Watchmaker, for services to Horology’.

The jewel in the crown of the George Daniels Collection is the ex-Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin 1929-32 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Single-Seater which set the Brooklands Outer Circuit Lap Record at more than 137mph in 1931. Daniels once wrote that, “For all its inconvenience it is a most exhilarating car to drive both on the road and track.”

George Daniels was a huge fan of the legendary ‘Bentley Boy’ and ‘tween-wars boy’s hero ‘Tim’ Birkin, and enthusiastic bidding is also expected for another Birkin car, the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Long Chassis Touring Spider. It formed part of the 1932 Le Mans Team Car entries with Birkin sharing driving duties with his great friend Earl Howe for the endurance race. Once its competition career came to an end this stylish Italian classic – which has a supercharged straight-8 cylinder twin-overhead camshaft engine - was subsequently re-bodied in period by Pinin Farina and owned by the Mussolini regime’s Air Force Minister and ‘heir apparent’ to Il Duce, Marshal Italo Balbo, who is reputed to have delivered rousing political speeches while sitting on its bonnet. “It doesn’t have the thundering majesty of the Bentley at speed nor the sweet burbling exhaust note when idling, but one has to concede that when introduced in 1930 its technical specification was much in advance of the Bentley,” said Daniels.

Other highlights of the collection include:

• The ex-1908 French Grand Prix and 1910 Brooklands All-comers Plate winner (fastest lap at 101.8mph), 1908 Itala 100hp Grand Prix Car. Daniels revered this car for a long time before purchasing it – “while I have long been an admirer of this car, ownership could only be seen as a heady dream. Yet suddenly, and without warning, came the opportunity to acquire it and I did so without hesitation. It is a giant among motor cars with a colossal stride propelled by its four-cylinder, twelve litre engine.”

• The ex-Frank Taylor of Taylor Woodrow Construction 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback by H.J. Mulliner, a “great favourite” of Daniels, with only three owners from new and with extensive service history.

•The ex-Maharaja of Bhavnagar 1929 4½-litre Bentley Tourer by Vanden Plas. Daniels was a life-long Bentley enthusiast, saying, “to me they represent the best in motoring.”

• The 1907 Daimler 45hp Roi-de-Belges Tourer originally built for the Earl of Craven. Daniels once said of this Daimler, “allowing for its idiosyncratic behaviour and its occasional bouts of sulking and refusing to cooperate, it is my favourite car. The car I would keep if allowed only one. With its hissing carburettor, exposed valve gear and whirring chain drive to the wheels it has all the uncomplicated charm of the primitive creation the very essence of the horseless carriage. For that most enjoyable of all motoring experiences – just meandering through France with nothing to do more urgent than eating and drinking – it is the perfect carriage.”

James Knight, Group Head of Motoring at Bonhams, comments, “We are immensely proud to have been selected to handle the George Daniels collection. It promises to be one of those landmark collection sales that will be talked about for years to come.”

Malcolm Barber, CEO of Bonhams, comments, “George and I were colleagues many years ago, so it is particularly poignant for me to be able to work with the Bonhams motoring team in bringing his fantastic collection to the international market place.”

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