Bentley set to recreate Speed Six

Riley Riley

Bentley is heading back to its roots with news it will recreate 12 examples of the famous Super Six.

Each will be mechanically and aesthetically authentic to the Bentley racers that won Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.

The ‘new’ Speed Sixes will become just the second pre-war continuation project in the world after the Blower – both created by Bentley Mulliner.

Speed Six is regarded as one of the most important Bentleys of all time.

It not only reinforced the marque’s world-beating performance credentials, but also proved the concept of Grand Tourer – a fast car that remained comfortable and luxurious, and capable of covering huge distances with ease.

Every Bentley that followed has embodied the same ethos.

The 12-car series has been designed, and will be developed and built, by the same team of Mulliner specialists that created the Blower Continuation Series – the first pre-war continuation project in the world.

This acclaimed run of 12 new 4½ litre ‘Blower’ Bentleys sold out instantly.

It was based on the company’s own 1929 Team Car #2, the most famous and valuable Bentley in the world, which raced alongside the Speed Six in 1930.

The same is true of the new Speed Six continuations, with all 12 cars already reserved by lucky customers around the world.

The Speed Six Continuation Series was announced at the Goodwood Festival of Speed by Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Adrian Hallmark.

The Mulliner team will once again be supported by an incredible array of artisans from a number of automotive heritage specialists across the UK.

They will deliver recreation parts that are not only physically identical but in many cases are crafted using the same techniques used in the 1920s.

This dedication to complete and total authenticity is integral to the success of such a complex project.

A high-performance version of the 6½ Litre, the Speed Six became the most successful racing Bentley, winning Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 at the hands of Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and Glen Kidston.

The Speed Six was an improved version of the 1926 6½ Litre Bentley.

W.O. Bentley believed that the best way to increase power was to increase capacity, as opposed to Tim Birkin’s faith in supercharging.

He therefore developed a new, larger engine to succeed the 4½-litre.

With a bore of 100mm and a stroke of 140mm, his new straight six had a capacity of almost 6.6 litres.

In base form, with a single Smiths five-jet carburettor, twin magnetos and a compression ratio of 4.4:1, the 6½ Litre delivered 147 bhp (110kW) at 3500 rpm.

A total of 362 examples were built at Bentley’s factory in Cricklewood, north London, on a variety of chassis of different lengths depending on the body style requirements of individual customers.

The Speed Six chassis was introduced in 1928 as a more sporting version of the 6½ Litre.

The engine was modified to liberate more power, with twin SU carburettors, a higher compression ratio and a high-performance camshaft, responsible for an increase to 180 bhp (135kW).

The Speed Six chassis was available to customers with wheelbases of 138 inches (3505mm), 140.5 inches (3569mm), and 152.5 inches (3874mm), with the short chassis being the most popular.

A total of 182 Speed Six models were built between 1928 and 1930.

The racing version of the Speed Six had a wheelbase of 11 feet (132 in; 3353mm) and a further-developed engine running a compression ratio of 6.1:1 and developing 200 bhp (150kW).

Two wins at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 cemented the Speed Six’s place in Bentley history, with the 1929 victory setting a new benchmark for dominance at the race.

Driven by Woolf Barnato and Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, a Speed Six led from the first lap until the chequered flag, followed by a procession of three other Bentleys.

A new lap record of 7:21 had been set by Birkin, taking 46 seconds off the previous best and requiring an average speed of 83 mph (134km/h), and in covering 2844km a distance record was also attained.

Such a dominant performance by one manufacturer was not seen again at Le Mans for nearly 30 years.


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