1930 Bentley Speed Six 6 1/2 Litre Le Mans Replica
Registration no. See text
Chassis no. LR2777
Engine no. LR2783
"All the products of Bentley Motors Ltd. have that nicety of control which is seldom if ever met with on cars emanating from factories which have never had a racing chassis under their roof". Praise indeed from the motoring correspondent of The Sphere, writing on 17th March 1928.
With characteristic humility WO Bentley was forever amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Ltd and it is testimony to the soundness of his engineering design skills that so many of his products have survived. Some five years after WOs 3-Litre model had first fired up in the garage of a Baker Street Mews, it was obvious that there was a demand for more power both for the sporting motorist and also to cope with the ever grander coachwork fitted to the more formal cars. A new 4 1/2 litre car was developed and the prototype, The Sun, was first driven by WO with A F C Hillstead, for the trip to Le Mans in June 1924.
On that occasion WO had the opportunity to compare his new car with the Rolls-Royce prototype, the New Phantom, also on test, and a decision was taken there and then to increase the engine size of the new model to a mighty 6 1/2 litres. Feverish activity saw the new chassis and engine developed in time to launch the 6 1/2 litre car on Stand 224 at The Olympia Motor Exhibition in October 1925. The straight six engine actually had a capacity of 6,597 cc, the chassis was very similar to the 3 litre but with enhanced braking, a more substantial differential and a plate clutch replaced the rather Edwardian cone clutch of the 3 litre. The new car had 3mph to 80mph flexibility in top gear, comparable with Rolls-Royce equivalents, and went on to be developed into the more sporting Speed Six which positively shone in long distance endurance racing. Woolf Barnato and Tim Birkin stormed to first place at Le Mans in 1929 at an average speed of 73.62mph and in 1930 the fearless Barnato, this time accompanied by Kidston, repeated the performance in the same car with Clement and Watney finishing close behind in second place. A legend was born and the Speed Six has a unique place in motor racing history.
This Speed Six was erected in 1930, first registered GK 90, and Messrs J Gurney, Nutting & Co Ltd were commissioned to design and build the original coupé coachwork for the first owner, Lord Brougham & Vaux. It had a further six owners in pre-war years and then a further six or so known owners recorded after the war and at some stage the registration number was changed to AXX 890. It is known that in 1970 the original Gurney Nutting coachwork was no longer with the car. In the 1970s the car passed to its new Swedish owner. In more recent years the car has been furnished with its present Le Mans Replica Vanden Plas-style coachwork, with fabric covered body and blue livery. The blue leather upholstery is complemented by blue carpets and the car is superbly equipped with Lucas bulls-eye headlights, centre spotlight, fold-flat windscreen with twin aero screens/wind deflectors, swivel spotlight incorporating rear-view mirror, B motif doorstep plates and of course the essential fishtail exhaust outlet. Full weather equipment of hood, tonneau cover and side screens is provided and the car proudly sports the traditional Bentley Flying B radiator mascot and the obligatory twin bonnet straps.
This magnificent and arguably most desirable Bentley model has not been used for two years or so and will require the usual careful recommissioning before using its smooth turbine-like power to its full potential. The car comes from Swedish ownership, is exceptionally well documented and comes with copies of its history file from the Bentley Drivers Club. We feel that reregistration in the UK will be a straightforward formality with the support of a relevant club.