Here are some of the cars Bentley's staff drive. Spoiler alert: they're all cool
What does your typical Saturday morning look like? After a long week slogging away at work, it’s probably a lie-in with a strong tea and some comfort telly.
If you work at Bentley’s Crewe headquarters, however, it might be a little different.
Roughly ten per cent of its workforce is part of the Pyms Lane Motor Club, whose occasional cars ‘n’ coffee meetings take place bright and early on a Saturday – right on the doorstep of the office car park.
That’s keenness, alright.
Far from an attempt to clamber up the career ladder, though, it’s a chance for employees to show off their passion projects to likeminded colleagues.
Photography: Tom Kahler
"The club is in its tenth year," says its founder Steve Crowe, a build quality manager at Bentley.
"It’s great for people from other departments to meet each other. And above all, it’s just great to come and chat cars. On a sunny day like this, it’s no hardship!
"I love how eclectic it is. The logo of our club is a car, bike and truck. A guy used to come with a 40-tonne Foden lorry. We’ve had a few people come here from Foden as they were built close by in Sandbach. So this club is about bringing anything – it doesn’t matter what it is."
Steve’s own car is a 2001-era Porsche 911. A 996 Carrera 2 manual with the official AeroKit, to be precise. "I’ve had this for five years," he tells me. "I had a 986-generation Porsche Boxster in the same colour before it. But I always wanted the 996 GT3 look that comes with Porsche’s AeroKit."
It looks like a GT3, but it has back seats… "I’ve run this as a daily driver for around five years, and only just stopped with the purchase of a BMW 120d coupe. It’s a big step up in fuel economy…"
Louis Tyson works in R&D and has brought along one of his collection of eight French cars, a delightfully honest Citroen DS.
"I had a Boxster before it and was getting frustrated with the bills, so fancied a change. I’ve now spent more than the value of the Boxster on parts for this and it still looks ‘shabby chic’! It was a bit of a wreck to begin with and I’ve done lots to it."
"I’m lucky I’ve got a big driveway," Louis continues.
"Pretty much every weekend I’ve been doing something – I’ve ended up with quite a few projects all at once. I spend a lot of my time at Bentley working on strategy so it’s nice to get back in touch with cars. And the DS’s focus on comfort tallies quite nicely with what Bentley does, too. The driver’s seat in here is a proper armchair."
You might have spotted something quite special in that last image. Few of the morning’s attendees turn quite as many heads as the ex-fire service Ford Transit of Andy Briggs, who works on powertrains at Bentley.
"It’s riddled with holes and history," he admits. "I converted it into a campervan for the family [he has two young kids]. In two weeks we’re going away for a fortnight in Cornwall. The children tend to play in the van, they love it. It helps that it’s got the old horn and some of the fire service switchgear left in!"
Amusingly the i20N and i30N Fastback haven’t turned up in sync. Their owners – from different segments of Bentley’s 4,000-strong workforce – aren’t familiar with each other.
"I’ve got a 2003 Elise but the i30N is my daily family car," says engineer Peter Lane. "I’ve just done 1,000 miles in Scotland on its endless flow of fun roads. At one point I saw an i30N coming the other way – we both pulled over and had a little chat."
"Every time you see another N on the road you give them a wave," adds Remi Grijol, who works in vehicle safety and arrived in the identically hued i20N. "I’d like a Veloster N, but we don’t get those over here."
Even more dazzling than the Performance Blue hot hatchbacks alongside is the Dakota Yellow BMW M Coupe of Max Wettern, who works in Bentley’s production control. "It looks okay for a 24-year-old car, doesn’t it?" he says.
The design has certainly aged well, but this example has been cherished too, its bodywork and paint attended to recently to keep it looking fresh. "I’m not a fan of modern BMWs but this, or anything made me before it, on the other hand… Show me a 507 and I’d be all over it."
Ever seen a Rochdale Olympic in the wild? You might have a better chance than you expect – of the 450 made, around 40 are currently on the road, says owner Howard Evans.
He’s the current Rochdale Owners Club chairman and says the glassfibre-bodied sportscar was pretty advanced when it launched at the beginning of the Sixties.
"It’s now a more affordable route into classic cars than a Lotus Elan or Elite. It’s only a few grand for a project; something decent is £7,000-8,000. The owners’ club is mostly a certain demographic but we’re getting younger members joining, which is great."
Howard first joined Bentley as an apprentice in 1969 and currently works in radio frequency compliance, a job that’s more interesting than it sounds – every car has dozens of transmitter devices that need to work in every territory the cars are sold in. No small feat. And he’s got strong experience in electrical architecture from other UK marques.
"I worked at McLaren on the SLR’s electrical system," he says, "making it work with the carbonfibre monocoque." He loves the ethos of this event. "It’s good that you don’t have to be apologetic to be a petrolhead here." A point proven as bombastic motorbikes rub shoulders with modified Saxos.
Andy Dowler works in exterior hardware – "sill mouldings on a Bentayga" in slightly more specific terms – and has made his first Pyms Lane meeting after nine years at Crewe. It’s the perfect weather for showing off his Honda VTEC powered Westfield.
While it sits on sticky tyres, revs to 9,000rpm and puts its 230bhp through a trick differential, his thrives on the road rather than the track. "I’m off through the Alps this summer to explore Modena to peek at some of Bentley’s competitors. There’ll be four of us in convoy, all in Westfields, with an intercom to keep in contact."
Spot something cool in the last picture? Andy parked his hardcore little sportscar beside TG’s transport for the day.
We borrowed a Volkswagen XL1 to attend the Pyms Lane Motor Club meet in style, reuniting the weird and wonderful (and decade-old) glimpse of the future with folk who’d last seen one during its development phase as they tested Bentleys alongside it at VW Group’s Ehra-Lessien test track.
One highlight of taking it along – a 480km round-trip to Crewe costs around £15 in diesel…
STORY Stephen Dobie