Bentley Speed Six Continuation Recaptures the Glory Days of Le Mans in 1930

·3 min read
Photo credit: Bentley
Photo credit: Bentley
  • Bentley’s second Le Mans–inspired re-creation made its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed today.

  • Just 12 will be made, and all are sold already.

  • It features a 200-hp 6.6-liter straight-six engine and a claimed 125-mph top speed, for the very brave.

Bentley is a brand that often tells us of its urgent desire to move forward into an electrified future. This definitely isn’t that, although it is truly glorious. Having previously produced an all-new "continuation" version of the famous Blower that drove at Le Mans in 1930, the British company is now following up with another seven-figure re-creation, this time of the slightly slower, but more successful, Speed Six that actually won the race.

When we drove the Blower Continuation last year, we emerged from the experience wearing fly-spattered goggles, and amazed that Volkswagen Group’s lawyers had allowed such a vehicle to be built in the careful age we live in. The Blower's imprecise steering and almost entirely ineffectual brakes meant it felt like a driving adventure at 80 mph—with Bentley saying it was capable of 125 mph flat out. Now a lucky few will have a chance to experience something similar with the Speed Six.

Photo credit: Bentley
Photo credit: Bentley

Bentley's Mulliner division is going to build just 12 of the new car, with each one costing more than $1.8 million at current exchange rates. Don't bother sending an appropriately Edwardian telegram or a carrier pigeon to the company's Crewe factory expressing interest: the entire allocation have already been sold.

Constructed by the same team behind the Blower Continuation, the Speed Six Continuation is based on new parts built to match carefully scanned cars that competed at Le Mans. The first of these is a genuine works car, "old number three," which competed in 1930 but crashed out after two hours. The second is a 1929 road car wearing identical Vanden Plas bodywork to those of the works cars; these were the days when you really could buy a race winner and drive it on the street. Along with original blueprints, these were used by Mulliner to create a 3D CAD model of the car, which will be used as the basis for the new dozen.

Bentley won the 1929 Le Mans 24 hours in dominant style, the Speed Six driven by company chairman Woolf Barnato and Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin finishing seven laps ahead of a chasing pack of 4.5-liter Bentleys that took second, third and fourth places. Competition was tougher in 1930 with the entry of a powerful Mercedes SSK driven by Rudolf Caracciola and Christian Werner, one that was a strong favorite before the race started. But Birkin, driving a privately entered supercharged Bentley Blower, set a pace that caused both his and Caracciola's chasing car to break. Barnato's Speed Six took another victory, with a second works car finishing in second place.

Bentley's eponymous founder, W.O. Bentley, didn’t like supercharging and so had given the Speed Six a brawny naturally aspirated 6.6-liter engine. In roadgoing form, it made 147 horsepower—at a time when the Model T Ford made 20 hp—and in race trim the 'Six was claimed to make 200 hp.

Having announced the Speed Six Continuation at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Bentley says it will be building a prototype version in the second half of the year, with the run of customer versions following behind. Just don't forget your flying goggles.

You Might Also Like