I’ll be honest: I haven’t really been watching Downton Abbey, and if I have seen it at lately it’s been mostly to watch that old Dowager Whatshername get all dry-Mean-Girls on someone—or for the glimpses of old cars. Well, the DTA crew must have decided to go heavy on the latter, because there’s just been a whole episode packed full of vintage race cars.
I thought it might be fun to go through the episode and identify all the great vintage cars I saw, but as I started I realized holy hell, identifying 1920s-era British racing cars is alarmingly difficult, even for a pastily pathetic automotive geek like me. Still, I’ve wasted so much time on this already, I may as well keep going. So let’s see what we’ve got here.
There’s two main cars in this episode, and they’re both Bentley 3 Litres. This one, the black one, has some novel little ship-like air intakes on the cowl, which I really like.
Here’s the other Bentley, in a classic British Racing Green that looks pretty black here.
Speaking of black, as in any color you want as long as it’s, here’s a humble little Model T watching the Bentleys practice.
If all the race cars at Brooklands are considered guest stars on the show, this 1924 Sunbeam is one of the regular cast. It was probably hitting on the Bugatti between takes.
The track scenes at Brooklands are well-done, and it’s great to see all this archaic ironwork barreling around the track, all spindly and dangerous and making their drivers look so vulnerable in this era of leather helmets and fuck-all-level seat belts and other safety equipment.
That red brute on the right is a 1913 Vauxhall Viper, in all its 11.7-liter V8 glory.
There’s a Bugatti Type 35, looking like a fast little blue grasshopper. It’s not often you see those with lights.
This one took me a while to figure out, but I’m pretty sure it’s a 1924 Alvis ‘200 mile’ racecar.
Based on the vaguely aquiline-beak-looking grille, I think this is a Reilly Brooklands, appropriate for the legendary track. I like those crazy wing-like fenders, or, as the British would say, fender-like wings.
I thought this might be a Napier, but I’m just not sure. Here’s a better image of it:
Oval badge? Looks like it says *SC*M*T, but it’s not Schmit? I’m stumped on this one.
Not to be a spoiler, but there is an ambulance involved. I’m pretty sure this is a Thornycroft ambulance. I should research when ambulances became white and noticeable instead of black and stately.
Number 6 there is killing me. What the hell is that? It’s not a Bugatti, despite the tombstone grille. Number 8 there is another Bentley, but I’m listening if anyone has any idea about number 6.
This is just a good shot of the Viper there.
Who isn’t a sucker for a good vintage speedo shot, too?
Hot Bentley-on-Bentley action.
All in all, it looks like about a dozen or so teens-and-’20s-era cars were used on the track, all running and driving around. That’s a pretty great thing to see no matter the context, so I’m delighted this sort of thing is reaching a pretty likely non-gearhead-dominated audience.
Now help me ID those other cars, please.