It is extraordinarily difficult to explain in words or writing the exact fascination of a big, fast car of the type so ably represented by the big Bentley speed model. The Autocar on the Bentley Speed Six, September 5th, 1930.
Although the 6½-Litre had been conceived as a touring car to compete with Rolls-Royces New Phantom, in Speed Six form it proved admirably suited to competition: in 1929 Barnato/Birkins Speed Six won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race ahead of a trio of 4½-Litre Bentleys and Barnato/Kidston repeated the feat in the following years Grand Prix dEndurance at the Sarthe circuit ahead of similarly-mounted Clement/Watney. Small wonder then, that the fast yet refined 6½-Litre Speed Six was W O Bentleys favourite car. Walter Owen Bentley established Bentley Motors in 1919 in the North London suburb of Cricklewood, though deliveries did not begin until 1921. The first model, a 3-litre car, was powered by a four-cylinder, single overhead camshaft engine with four valves per cylinder. It was a mechanical theme perpetuated in the greatly refined six-cylinder 6½-Litre model of 1926. The need for a larger car had resulted from Bentleys customers specifying bodies of a size not envisaged when the 3-Litre was conceived, a factor only partially addressed by the introduction of the Long Standard chassis in 1923. The 6½-Litre was produced for four years, during which time 544 chassis were completed, 182 of these to Speed Six specification. According to Michael Hays authoritative work, Bentley The Vintage Years, this 6½-Litre car was originally fitted with Weymann saloon coachwork by Gurney Nutting. Its first owner is recorded as one J H Watson, of Beith, Ayr in 1929, but this is some time after delivery to Gladstone Motors, so it may well have been used as a demonstrator. Bentley Drivers Club maintenance records up to 1936 show that work undertaken included engine de-carbonisation, two changes of pistons, change of inlet valve guides, radiator repaired and chromed, two changes of rear axle crown wheel and pinion/ratios and a new silencer fitted. In 1936 the car was still in Scotland. MD 2474s post-war history is unknown until 1972, when a well known vintage car enthusiast discovered the incomplete chassis in Motolympia vehicle dismantlers at Welshpool - a well known haven for old-car enthusiasts seeking spares. The duplicate logbook issued to him at that time records the type of body as ambulance so, although not confirmed, this may well indicate that the Bentley had been commandeered for war service. The engine, number WT 2264, although originally fitted to chassis number WT 2262, was manufactured in the same year. No record of chassis WT 2262 exists after 1938. The vehicle first came into the vendors hands in 1978; he and Paul Bentley, who was well known for trading and competing in vintage Bentleys, were close friends and the vehicle passed into Mr Bentleys ownership for a short period of time, subsequently passing back to the vendor in 1980. A long-time member of the Bentley Drivers Club, the vendor commenced a reconstruction of this car to what he considered the ultimate vintage Bentley specification, which included having the 12 6 chassis carefully altered to the more desirable 11 wheelbase of the Le Mans cars. The engine was entrusted to marque specialists D H Day for a full rebuild, which included up-rating it with new Cosworth/Day 6.25:1 pistons, BM 7032 (Speed model) camshaft and triple SU carburettors. A detailed list of the engine work carried out is available, although no bills exist, together with a photographic record of the chassis rebuild from ground up. The latter included new wings, Vanden Plas-style tourer coachwork to a very high standard, and full interior trimming. The vehicle was completed in 1987 but has not been driven on the road since 2004 due to its owners advancing years and deteriorating health. Nine accompanying expired MoTs for the period 1987 to 2002 indicate approximately 1,200 miles covered in that time and the total mileage since completion will not have exceeded 1,300. The car remains in excellent condition, having been started regularly and run up to temperature, and thus will require only a full and thorough service before returning to the road. It is offered complete with duplicate old-style logbook, Swansea V5 and V5C documents, detailed list of engine work by D H Day, assorted minor invoices and photographic record of the rebuild.