Car dealer Jack Barclay: a historical profile
Mis à jour : 24 oct 2018
Originally published in The Mayfair Magazine
John Donald ‘Jack’ Barclay began his career trading Rolls-Royce and Vauxhall cars at the Barclay & Wyse partnership, which was set up in 1922 in Great Portland Street. As any astute businessman would, in order to promote the company, he began racing professionally.
Barclay scored no less than eight world records in the International Three Litre Class, a type of chassis manufactured by Bentley. After he beat Woolf Barnato, the millionaire racer, in 1924, he was welcomed into the ‘Bentley Boys’ club – a notorious group of moneyed sportsmen who took the marque to great heights during the 1920s.
Although he did not inherit any wealth himself, Barclay became something of a celebrity after he survived a 100mph spin in a race at Brooklands, and still managed to take first place. However, his career as a sportsman came to a halt in 1926 after his mother bailed him out of a substantial casino debt on the condition that he ceased competing. He subsequently chose to focus on business, and launched a firm under his own name. In 1927, Barclay opened the doors of the establishment that would eventually grow into the world’s largest Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealership.
Barclay's charisma made him one of the finest salesmen in the automotive trade
Due to its success, the business moved from Hanover Square to Berkeley Square in 1953. Selling some of the world’s most exclusive vehicles, Barclay expanded his influence and became known as one of the finest salesmen in the trade, thanks to his charisma and a large network of contacts. He developed his work ethic with what he called “service after sale”, maintaining an elite clientele through long-term, friendly relationships with customers.
At the turn of the century, Jack Barclay was bought by Britain’s motor dealer H.R. Owen, and is this year celebrating its 90th anniversary. Proud to still be operating under the founder’s philosophy, it boasts an impressive 60 per cent increase in year-on-year sales, an expansion towards the commerce of Bugattis, as well as new venues throughout the United Kingdom.
Yet the dealership remains emblematic for its Bentleys. According to general manager Mark Brown, “customers come from far and wide to buy their Bentley here, just to have that famous name on their number plate”. It seems you just can’t put a price on tradition.
Jack Barclay Bentley, 18 Berkeley Square, W1J, jackbarclay.co.uk