The second great car that Bentley produced (after the 3-Litre of 1921) was the Bentley 6½-Litre (Standard) which appeared in 1926-27. With a more robust chassis and longer wheelbase than the 3-Litre, the 6½-Litre boasted considerably increased capacity with its new straight-six engine.
The whole construct was principally intended to accommodate more substantial coachwork with closed or limousine bodies to engender a more formalised style. However, the discerning Bentley clientele still hankered for sportier performance, and shortly afterward the classic Speed Six version of the 6½-Litre arrived on the scene. That model maintained Bentley’s already established reputation for reliability and smoothness while superseding the Standard’s performance without unduly stressing the engine. This approach chimed with W. O. Bentley’s firm belief that for more power you simply increase capacity. [The contemporary of the Speed Six, the supercharged 4½ litre ‘Blower’ Bentley, W. O. disliked intensely believing it to ‘pervert the design and corrupt the performance of its engine’.]
The Speed Six is particularly synonymous with the exclusive British Racing Drivers’ Club too as it became the most successful racing Bentley of all. As well as victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1929 and 1930, the Speed Six also set a fastest lap time of 126.09 mph at the BRDC 500-Miles race at Brooklands in 1929.
Chassis no. BX2413 on display here was originally a saloon owned by the legendary Bentley Boy, Woolf Barnato. In 1980 the car was restored by R. C. Moss when a Vanden Plas open tourer body was built; the chassis was also shortened to 3.35 metres. And six years later a new crankcase was cast for the engine to replace the original which was damaged beyond repair. In recent years, the car took part in the 2014 Flying Scotsman, the 2017 Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial and was displayed at the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Concours d’Élégance.
Engine: In-line, six-cylinder, 6,597cc producing 180bhp at 3500rpm (vs. Standard’s 147bhp) Single-port cast iron block, two SU carburettors, compression ratio of 5.3 : 1
Suspension: Beam-axle, semi-elliptic corded leaf springs, friction type dampers
Brakes: Mechanical front and rear drum brakes, vacuum servo
Number built: 545 : 363 Standard ; 182 Speed Six
Bentley Centenary Celebration
This car is the third of five Bentleys to be displayed in the Club’s rotunda across June and July as the Club celebrates the manufacturer’s centenary year.
Displayed courtesy of Ms Katarina Kyvalova from Monday 8th July to Sunday 14th July 2019.