TIME FOR A VICTORY LAP
In 2021, Mulliner Classic embarked on its most ambitious and challenging project to date: the resurrection of a truly legendary coachbuilt Bentley, the 6½ litre Bentley Speed Six works racing specification. This was the car that won the 24 Heures du Mans in 1929 and 1930 – the final Le Mans victories of Bentley’s golden age.
A series of just 12 cars will be built as part of the Speed Six Continuation Series.
A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME
Starting with the original Bentley blueprints, the team studied every detail of the Speed Sixes that raced at Le Mans in 1930, before forensically analysing and digitally scanning one of the few original cars to survive from that era.
Together, these activities have made it possible to create the first ever digital models of the cars. The next stage involved making new components using the original blueprints, to match those of the actual cars. Using authentic hand tools, the team will now assemble the first new Bentley Speed Sixes to be built in more than 90 years.
A TRUE POWERHOUSE IN ITS DAY
Introduced in 1928, the Speed Six factory racing specification was the most successful racing Bentley of all time. The racing version was tuned to deliver 200 horsepower at 3,500 rpm – a phenomenal power output for the time – and its top speed was 125 mph (201 km/h).
The Speed Six chassis was available to customers with a choice of wheelbases, including 138 inches (3,505 mm), 140.5 inches (3,569 mm), and 152.5 inches (3,874 mm), with the lighter, short chassis option proving the most popular.
182 Speed Six models were built between 1928 and 1930.
A RACE THAT WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
By the time the 24 Heures du Mans was held on June 21, 1930, the Great Depression had already taken hold. Few car makers could afford the investment involved in racing and consequently, only 33 cars were entered – of which just 19 made it to Le Mans.
Of the 17 cars that started the race, five were Bentleys. Two were Blowers – the famous supercharged 4½ Litre models created by the Bentley Boy, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin. The other three were fielded by the Bentley works team. Each was a Speed Six Le Mans – a high-performance variant of the renowned Bentley 6½ Litre.
The field eventually narrowed to just two Bentley Speed Sixes, competing head-to-head for first and second place. After a prolonged duel, the car driven by Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston proved victorious, cementing Barnato’s reputation as the most successful racing driver in Bentley history.
Two cars have been used as reference points for the Speed Six Continuation Series.
‘Old Number 3’ was the third of the three Speed Sixes entered into Le Mans in 1930. Immaculately preserved and still raced by its owner, it has been a valuable source of information. Bentley’s own Speed Six (GU409) is a 1929 sympathetically restored road car built to the original racing specification. It has provided benchmark performance and handling data for the continuation cars, with a full power and torque curve for the 12 new engines to match.
THE SPEED SIX IS BACK
Production of the first new Bentley Speed Six cars in 92 years is now underway. The process began with the creation of a test and development car for the project, known as Car Zero. Twelve customer cars will follow, after which no more will be built. All the new cars are destined to become collector’s items, just like the originals on which they are based. Car Zero will be retained by Bentley, lining up alongside the Blower Car Zero as the forbears of all their respective Continuation Series descendants.
To make enquiries about the next car to be recreated by Mulliner Classic, please talk to your Bentley dealer or contact us directly on +44 (0) 1270 653 653.