1927 Bentley Speed Six Two-seater and Dickey
Coachwork by Markham
Chassis no. DH2206
Engine no. NH2732
Few cars have the sheer presence of a big vintage Bentley, and this stunning two-seater Speed Six has that presence in spades. It was created in 1936 by combining the chassis of a 1927 standard 12 ft. wheelbase Weymann fabric saloon by Gurney Nutting, shortened to a very non-standard 10ft wheelbase, with the engine from a 1930 Speed Six saloon originally delivered to a Miss Unwin to create one man's dream of the ultimate high-speed tourer. That individual was motor dealer Reg Mead, of Taplow, Buckinghamshire, who specialized in buying and selling high-quality second-hand sports cars - Alvis, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Frazer Nash, Invicta, Lagonda, MG and Rapier were his stock-in-trade apart from Bentley - and was thus well-qualified to create the ideal road car.
Apart from the shortened wheelbase and Speed Six engine, the changes to the Bentley included lowering the radiator and bonnet, 18 inch front wheels and a 3:1 final drive ratio. When the work was completed the car was re-registered, with the 1936 Berkshire license tag JB9020 replacing the original 1927 London registration YH451.
Paul Sydlowski, who owned the car for 26 years, confirmed the potency of the car's revised specification: "The combination of the 18 inch front wheels, the lightened coachwork and the high-speed rear axle make JB9020 on motorways between 75-90mph at well under 2000rpm a real treat. The car has proved to be perfectly stable at over 100mph and the rare burst to 120mph plus leaves a good deal of pedal to the imagination."
Though the identity of the engineer who carried out the chassis transformation is not known, Mr. Mead commissioned a distinguished local coachbuilder, Markham of Reading, to build the light ash-framed sports two-seater body still fitted to the car. Markham, founded by Arthur Markham in Reading, Berkshire, in the early 1920s, are best-known for the light two-seater body that they built on a short-chassis Squire sports car in 1935.
Despite the spectacular nature of this Bentley, its history between its creation and its acquisition by an American owner in St Louis in 1965 remains a mystery. Mr Sydlowski found the car in 1979 and recalls that "this swoopy roadster with a very powerful drive train pleased me upon first sight."
Over the winter of 1980 the engine was dismantled, the camshaft was straightened and reprofiled, the cylinders rebored and new Venolia racing pistons and conrods were fitted. The bottom end was rebuilt with new white metal and the crankshaft, dynamo and flywheel were dynamically balanced. The seat and door panels were retrimmed in red leather, some rechroming was undertaken and the car was completely resprayed.
The restored car made its debut at the 1980 North American Rolls-Royce Owners' Club Annual Meet in Newport, Rhode Island, at which the owner first encountered the Bentley Drivers' Club, a meeting that led to the establishment in May 1981 of the annual North American Vintage Bentley Meet, now in its 24th year. JB9020 has attended some 20 of the 24 NAVBM events.
JB9020 was taken abroad on many occasions, the first being participation in a French Alpine rally in 1985 when, "due to some snafus", the car was not released from Liverpool Docks in North-West England until the day before the rally was due to start on the far side of France. The car left Liverpool at noon, crossed London during the rush hour and caught the 11pm cross-Channel ferry. With only five hours' sleep en route, the Bentley arrived at the start of the rally in Megeve, some 500 miles away on the Swiss border, at 4pm the next day, in time for the welcoming cocktail party.
After that rally, the car then underwent a total rebuild at British Bentley experts McKenzie Guppy, did a 1500-mile shakedown around England and was shipped back to the USA for regular usage.
Between 1985-90, almost £50,000 ($75,000 at the time) was spent on the mechanics of JB9020, including a new induction system and three modern HD8 carburetors.
The vendor acquired JB9020 in 2005 and has carefully maintained the car since purchasing it. A nicely presented Speed Six that has carried the same color combination since 1936, it offers an excellent opportunity to own an 80 year old car that can run triple digit speeds without breaking a sweat.