Oldest Bentley lost in 7m pounds blaze at car restorers

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SEVEN Bentley cars worth about pounds 7m, including the world's oldest, were destroyed in a barn fire yesterday.

Two men, owners of a company specialising in the restoration of Bentleys, suffered burns trying to rescue the cars.

One of the vehicles - built in 1921 with the engine from the first production Bentley - was worth more than pounds 1m; the others, all in pristine condition, were together worth pounds 6m.

The fire, near Solihull in the West Midlands, was in a restored barn owned by Excel Engineering, where the classic cars were being repaired and restored.

Jim Pike and Graham King, the company's owners, tried to save the cars but were beaten back by the ferocity of the blaze. Both were treated for shock and minor burns to the hands and face at Solihull hospital.

Last night the two, former Rover workers who founded the company 15 years ago, were said to be distraught. James King, 18, son of Graham King, said: 'He and Jim are very, very upset. The cars were very valuable and two of them were very expensive. My father is too devastated to speak. We do not know how the fire started.'

The most valuable car was owned by Julian Mazjoub, a Midlands businessman. Besides the engine of Bentley One, it had the chassis of Bentley Five. Bill Port, secretary of the Bentley Drivers Association, said: 'There were experimental models before it, one of which is still in Britain in Hungerford. But this car is the oldest production Bentley in the world.'

Firemen are investigating the cause of the fire but it is not thought to be suspicious. Highly flammable oxygen and acetyline cylinders were used inside the building, half of which was


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