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Little Classics News: 3 February 2015

Legendary Blue Train Bentley in Paris

Bentley Blue Train car to appear at Rétromobile 2015

Bentley Motors has announced that the legendary Speed Six Bentley, known as The Blue Train, will celebrate the start of its 85th anniversary with an exclusive first appearance at the Rétromobile Exhibition in Paris this week (4-8th February).

In 1930, Captain Woolf Barnato, Chairman of Bentley Motors, and also a true “Bentley Boy” having entered and won the Le Mans 24 hours three times, was staying in Cannes at the Carlton Hotel with his golfer friend, Dale Bourn. He accepted a wager that he could not only beat the Blue Train to Calais, as had been done before, but could be at his club in London before the train reached Calais.

Bentley Blue Train

On the day of the race, he finished his drink in the bar at the Carlton hotel when he heard the train had departed at 17.54. He had arranged for fuel stations to remain open through the night in Aix-En-Provence and Lyon, and a tanker lorry in Auxerre, and despite a puncture near Paris, he reached Boulogne with an hour to spare. He arrived at the Conservative Club in St James, London for a celebratory drink having passed the clock at Victoria Railway Station at 15.30 the next day, four minutes before the train was due to arrive in Calais, having averaged 43.43 mph driving on pre-motorway roads. He won the £100 wager, although the Automotive Club de France attempted to fine him £200 for an un-authorised race in France.

Richard Charlesworth, Head of the Bentley Heritage Collection, comments: “We are most grateful to Bruce McCaw for the loan of his legendary Bentley Speed Six. There are many exciting plans for the car to mark its 85th anniversary, including a recreation of the original run from Cannes to London.”

Bentley Blue Train

The Speed Six evolved in 1929 as a racing version of the 6½ Litre, introduced in 1926. The first car raced as No 1 at Le Mans in 1929 where it won, and returned as ‘Old No 1’ to win again in 1930. A total of 182 Speed Sixes were built between 1929 – 1930 with a variety of body styles and types from several coachbuilders. Speed Six Chassis No HM 2855 was delivered to Bentley Chairman Woolf Barnato by Coachbuilder Gurney Nutting in May 1930. Barnato had many Bentleys personally commissioned to suit his requirements, all were bespoke, ‘one off’ vehicles.

In recent years evidence has come to light that suggests that although the car appeared in the Terence Cuneo painting of the race, it may be that it was in fact another Speed Six with a Mulliner Saloon body, also owned by Barnato, that actually accomplished the feat. It remains a mystery, the truth will never be known for sure, but this unique car remains one of the most striking, stylish and famous vintage Bentleys from that era.

Bently Blue Train facts and figures

  • First registered: May 1930
  • Body: Gurney Nutting Speed Six
  • Engine: 6-cylinders, in-line; front; 100 mm x 140 mm, 6597 cc; compr 5.3:1; 180 bhp (134.23 kW) @ 3500 rpm; 27.8 bhp (20.34 kW)/L
  • Engine Structure: 4-valves, double springs; 8-bearing camshaft, 3-throw coupling rod drive; cast iron cylinder block with stainless steel jacket plates; single port block; 2 vertical HVG5 SU carburettors; two champion plugs per cylinder; Bosch magneto and Delco-Remy coil; Autovac fuel system; 8‑bearing camshaft, with damper; water-cooled
  • Transmission: rear wheel drive; sdp clutch; 4-speed C-Type gearbox, right hand change; spiral bevel final drive 3.53:1
  • Chassis: pressed steel frame 0.188 in (4.77 mm), 7 cross-members; semi‑elliptic leaf springs; Bentley and Draper friction dampers; self-wrapping, Dewandre servo mechanical brakes, front Bentley-Perrot; 15.75 in (40 cm) drums; worm and sector steering; 25 gal (113.6 1) fuel tank; Dunlop tyres 21 x 6.00, rear 21 x 7.00; Rudge-Whitworth centre lock wire wheels
  • Dimensions: wheelbase 140.5 in (356.87 cm), track 56 in (142.2 cm), length 187 in (474.9 cm), width 68.5 in (173.99 cm), ground clearance 7.25 in (18.4 cm), turning circle 47.5 ft (14.5 m)
  • Equipment: Smith & Jaeger instruments, white figures black faces, German silver parallel-sided radiator shell; Green Label badges. Zeiss headlamps; Bosch electrics; Hobson fuel telegauge; brake vacuum gauge
  • Performance: maximum speed 92 mph (147.7 km/h) – 100 mph (160.9 km/h), fuel consumption 15 mpg (18.83 l/100 km)
  • Price: Chassis £1800
  • Production: 1


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