‘How I keep my classic Bentley S1 immaculate – and the expert tips everyone needs to know’

Stephen Ashworth
Businessman Stephen Ashworth says that cleaning is vital to maintain his 1957 Bentley S1 - Lorne Campbell/Guzelian

Bumps and scrapes on many a classic car are often passed off as “telling their story”. More often than not, they are a story of unremarkable moments: car park scrapes or driveway clumsiness.

But some cars’ blemishes really do tell a story. This Bentley S1 is one of those few. It’s not of fame, it’s possibly of fortune, but it’s definitely of fastidiousness – 67 years of life recorded on paintwork.

It’s the one car in businessman Stephen Ashworth’s small collection he tells car cleaner Mark Elliott never to improve.

Ashworth’s day job is running a £300 million UK-wide property business, Hurstwood Holdings. But his passion is classic cars, so much so that he turned his hobby of buying, enjoying and selling them into a business too: he owns Manor Park Classics, a car and motorcycle auction house in Runcorn, Cheshire, putting around 200 cars and motorcycles under the hammer every seven weeks.

But he admits he’s sometimes not averse to raiding the sweet shop...

One such car was the 1957 Bentley. It went up for auction in April 2021; it caught Ashworth’s eye and he bought it.

“This is a special car. Just two owners – one family from 1957 to 1977, another from 1978 until 2021,” he explained.

It was supplied new in 1957 to John Jacobs & Co Ltd of London EC3, a shipping line trading since 1880. It can only be presumed, given correspondence in its provenance file, that John Jacobs himself was chauffeured in the S1.

Bentley S1
The history of this Bentley S1 can be told through the paintwork - Lorne Campbell/Guzelian

There are clues as to its usage: “This is a car that’s been chauffeur-driven, the back seats are as used as the driver’s seat. But the real clue is in the paintwork,” said Ashworth. “This is a car which has been parked outside meetings or lunches and the chauffeur has filled his time keeping it spotless: the paint has been polished down to the primer in several places and the original two-tone grey is flat, probably because it was cleaned every day of its life.

“I love it. That paintwork is completely original and tells a tale of an extremely well-loved car too. Absolutely nothing, other than things that wear out or need servicing, has been replaced.’

But it has certainly been cleaned. Valeting professional Mark Elliott, 50, of Ness Car Care, visits the Bentley and a couple of other classics owned by Ashworth every two weeks. “Even dust can be damaging to a car,” said Ashworth. “Especially if it gets under a cover, it can damage the paintwork when the cover moves around.”

Each car Elliott cleans – whether paint, chrome, interior or under the bonnet – warrants a range of approaches way beyond a soapy sponge and hosepipe. He walked me around the Bentley explaining how different parts of cars need a different approach to keeping them spruced, explaining how cars can stay looking great – no matter what the vintage or value.

A close up area, near the opening to the fuel tank filler, where the paintwork has been rubbed away
The S1, although wonderfully looked after, has been over-polished. Above, an area near the opening to the fuel tank filler where the paintwork has been rubbed away - Guzelian/Lorne Campbell


Wash the car with a nice pH-neutral shampoo, with no wax additive in it. Rinse with water and dry it down, polishing it with a natural polish.

“Some people put a wax on, but as long as you’ve got polish on there, it will protect the vehicle,” said Elliott.

“The Bentley is an old car, so back then the paint was a lot different. No lacquer, just paint. If somebody was a little bit too eager with the polishing, they could actually go down through the paint. But with modern finishes, with lacquer, you won’t get this problem.

“If any car is outside continuously, at least once a year put a form of protection on it, polish or wax. The worst thing to do is leave bird lime on it. While it’s fresh, get a microfibre cloth, warm water, pat it on and gently wipe it.


“Chrome is fairly easy to look after. There are a few products that can fetch it back and make it more presentable. Wash and dry it and put a nice layer of good quality polish on.

“Leave chrome and it will suffer – and you’ll need it re-chromed. That’s not cheap.”

Do not leave chrome to degrade, advises Elliott
Do not leave chrome to degrade, advises Elliott - Guzelian/Lorne Campbell
Chrome detailing on the S1
The chrome on Ashworth's S1 is immaculate - Lorne Campbell/Guzelian


“When it comes to glass, I’ve used a lot of products and I’m not really happy with any single one. I prefer to simply use a wet chamois leather, then dry the glass with a microfibre cloth.”


Seats take a hammering from children spilling food and drink, getting soaked by sodden rain jackets, or simply sat upon by those of us who have jobs that attract grime.

With leather seats, Elliott says use a good leather cleaner. “You’ll be amazed how much dirt a leather cleaner will fetch out. It’s always best to follow up with a nice protective balm.

“Fabric seats can be treated with a fabric cleaner, then you can get them protected with the likes of Scotchgard. After cleaning, spray it on once the seats are

dry. Then if the kids spill something, you’ll just see it running off. Wipe it straight off and it’ll be dry.”

On leather seats, use a leather cleaner followed by a protective balm
On leather seats, use a leather cleaner followed by a protective balm - Guzelian/Lorne Campbell


“What can really add appeal to a car, that is not always front of mind, are the tyres. Some people like the shine, some like a natural finish. Some guys who work on older vehicles are adamant about a natural finish, so they avoid products with silicon in them, which is the element that makes tyres shiny.”

Avoid silicon in cleaning products when maintaining tyres if you are looking for a natural finish
Avoid silicon in cleaning products when maintaining tyres if you are looking for a natural finish - Guzelian/Lorne Campbell

But which cleaning jobs give him particular satisfaction?

“The big jobs. It’s nice to get something that looks like it’s at the end of its life, then make it look as close to ‘good as new’ as possible. I take before and after pictures.”

That’s something Ashworth can confirm: Elliott completely revitalised a car from sad to sparkling, making it one of the owner’s pride and joys.

“I bought a Mercedes SL, which was a shabby car, having been parked under a tree for quite some time,” said Ashworth. “He spent a couple of days on it and he really brought it back to life. And, in doing so, he also increased its value.”

Which is significant whether we collect classics or run a family hatchback: according to vehicle valuer Glass’s, a properly cleaned car can add hundreds to its worth come sale or trade-in time.