Kenneth Bear

Kenneth Bear

0/0/1907 - 27/4/1949

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<font face="Tahoma" size="2">Kenneth Wilfried Bear was just 24 years of age, when he bought his first Bugatti second-hand in 1931. He made his living in the insurance business that he had entered as an office boy at the age of 19, and later was to become a principal. He had clearly caught the Bugitis virus, an incurable disease that would ultimately kill him. 44266 was his fourth Bugatti, and he was co-founder of the Bugatti Owners Club (BOC), member no 6. He has owned a large number of Bugattis, none of which he bought when new. He usually bought them in bits, from people who despaired of putting the bits together again. According to an article in The Motor in 1948, his rule in those times used to be £1.- for the makings in a box, £5- for a non- runner and £10.- for a runner.

He was a very enthusiastic organizer and participant of Bugatti rallies. With this car he enjoyed a number of victories, such as the Monte Honiton Carlo Rally in 1933, the Victor Ludorum Challenge Cup (twice) of the BOC (the best aggregate performance for the year) in 1935 and 1936, the Chalfort and Joel Park Hill climbs, Lewes speed trial and many others. (The Prescott meeting did not yet exist: this first saw the light in 1938.)

The years 1935 and 1936 were his best; the car had a good karma for him, in spite of the absence of a compressor. He enlarged the engine though from 2997 to 3257 cc by replacing the cylinder blocks with those of a 49, increasing the power from 90 hp to 100 hp, and he changed the rear differential ratio from 12 x 50 to 14 x 54. In addition he removed the rear doors and seat and shortened the chassis about 18 Inch (50 cm) in June 1935, thereby making the car 600 Lbs lighter. The car became considerably faster with these modifications. It had a documented acceleration from 0 - 60 Mph in 9.5 seconds, and a top speed of 95 Mph, almost identical to the figures achieved by the 43, which of course had a supercharger.

With this configuration he experienced one victory after the other. For instance during the Monte Honiton Carlo Rally on May 17, 1935, he beat two 43's and a 55 on his way to victory.

However he still felt the looks of the car did not match its performance, so in the year 1936 he had the GP style boat-tail made. However the latter cosmetic modifications did not resulted in further victories, except from  being the fastest unsupercharged car at the Shelsley-Walsh meeting on June 21, 1937. According to his mechanic, Mr. E.A. Stafford East he sold the car to Albert Raven in 1938.

From an onlookers point of view, a sad note regarding Kenneth Bear stemmed from his love of power (horse power that is). He first drove the Type 50 regulation Le Mans tourer, (50143), with which he had a number of successes, and then he went on to the even more powerful Type 59 (59121). However this became his ultimate fate, as the T59 skidded into a wall as he entered Le Marquand's Corner during the main practice session for the Jersey International Road Race, on the night of 27 April 1949. The shunt also took the life of thirty-eight-year old Dr. F. J. O'Dowd, and an unnamed police sergeant passed away the following day of wounds suffered in the crash. Four marshals were also injured.

It was the same car that had killed the Earl of Grafton eleven years earlier. Kenneth Bear left behind a wife and two daughters aged 10 and 12.

The Le Mans car has recently been auctioned but remained unsold in the UK, and as of 2004 was still owned by Bear's mechanic Mr. E.A. Stafford-East.

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