Bentley Mulliner brings the legendary Speed Six back to life with a new and highly exclusive Continuation Series, consisting of 12 vehicles, each mechanically and visually exact replica of the Bentley racing cars that won the Le Mans race in 1929 and 1930. The vehicles were created to celebrate the achievements of the original vehicles and to maintain and develop Mulliner's heritage of craftsmanship. The new Speed Six vehicles are the second re-edition of a pre-war vehicle after the Blower - also manufactured by Bentley Mulliner.
Continuation Car Bentley Speed Six
As the most successful Bentley racing car of its era, the Speed Six is considered one of the most important Bentleys in history. Not only was it a further testament to the excellence of the brand, it also demonstrated the concept of the Grand Tourer - a fast car that is comfortable, luxurious and capable of covering long distances with ease. Since then, every Bentley has followed the same maxim.
The 12-car special series was conceived, engineered and manufactured by the same team of Mulliner specialists who created the Blower Continuation Series - the world's first re-edition of a pre-war vehicle. This acclaimed series of 12 new 4,5 liter 'Blower' Bentleys is based on the company's 1929 'Team Car #2' - the world's most famous and valuable Bentley, which competed alongside the Speed Six in 1930 - and sold out immediately.
The same applies to the Speed Six reissue. All 12 vehicles have already been reserved by a few lucky customers in different parts of the world. The revival of the Speed Six model was announced today by Bentley's Chairman and Chief Executive Adrian Hallmark at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. He comments:
"With the Mulliner team gaining remarkable skills developing the Blower Continuation Series and with such an enthusiastic customer response to these vehicles, this tribute to the Speed Six is a fantastic step in the right direction. It is not only important to protect, preserve and develop this important part of our traditional history, but also the skills acquired while working on these classic Bentleys.
The Speed Six is one of the most important Bentleys in our 103-year history. The 12 vehicles in the Continuation Series embody the same values as the original WO Bentley vehicles. All are handcrafted with the same meticulous care, both in terms of engineering excellence and passionate attention to detail. The lucky owners can drive their Speed Six all over the world and feel like they were back in the days of the legendary Bentley Boys."
The Mulliner team is once again supported by a competent team of UK based automotive specialists. This results in components that are not only identical to the original parts, but are often also manufactured using the same methods as in the 1920s. This striving for XNUMX% authenticity is an important prerequisite for the success of such a complex project.
The Speed Six
As a powerful expression of the 6,5-liter engine, the Speed Six developed into Bentley's most successful racing car. He won the Le Mans race in 1929 and 1930, driven by Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin and Glen Kidston. The Speed Six was an improved version of the 6,5 1926-litre Bentley. WO Bentley believed that the surest way to increase power was to increase displacement, contrary to Tim Birkin's firm belief the turbocharger. So he developed a new, larger engine to replace the 4,5 liter engine.
With a 100mm bore and 140mm stroke, this new in-line six had a displacement of almost 6,6 litres. In its basic form, with a single Smiths five-slide carburetor, twin magneto, and a 4,4:1 compression ratio, the 6,5 liter engine produced 150 hp at 3.500 rpm. A total of 362 examples were built at the Bentley plant in Cricklewood, north London - with different chassis of different lengths, depending on the desired body style of the individual customer.
The Speed Six chassis was introduced in 1928 as a sportier variant of the 6,5 liter vehicle. The engine was optimized to develop even more power - it received two SU carburettors, a higher compression ratio and a high-performance camshaft, resulting in an increased output of 183 hp. Customers could order the Speed Six chassis in 3.505mm, 3.569mm and 3.874mm wheelbases, with the short chassis being the most popular. A total of 1928 Speed Six models were built between 1930 and 182.
The racing version of the Speed Six had a wheelbase of 3.353 mm and an advanced engine with a compression ratio of 6,1:1 and a horsepower output of 203 hp. Two victories at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 cemented the Speed Six in the Bentley success story for all time. The outstanding victory of 1929 set completely new standards.
With drivers Woolf Barnato and Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, the field was led by a Speed Six from lap one to the checkered flag, followed by three other Bentleys. Birkin set a new lap record of 7:21, beating the previous best by 46 seconds, at an average speed of 134 km/h. He covered 2.844 km and also set a distance record. Such a dominating performance from a single manufacturer should not be seen again at the Le Mans race for almost 30 years.
The re-creation of an icon
To create 12 new Speed Six models that faithfully recreate the design of the 1929 and 1930 racing cars, the Mulliner team first created a complete, three-dimensional CAD model of the vehicle based on the original blueprints and a detailed analysis of the vehicles of that time. Two specific models were chosen for this process.
"Old Number 3" was the third of three Speed Six models that contested the Le Mans race for Bentley in 1930. Despite a challenging race, the vehicle survived the rigors and has been preserved in impeccable condition to this day. Old Number 3 is still street legal and is still being driven by its owner today. This Bentley served as a valuable resource for numerous design details and as a reference point for the development of the new vehicles.
Alongside the Old Number 3 model, Bentley's own Speed Six (GU409) − a 1929 four-seater road car and part of Bentley's growing Heritage Collection - features the same Vanden Plas bodywork as the original racing cars and is faithful to the restored to original specifications. For the production of the continuation series, the GU409 provides important benchmark data in terms of performance and drivability, such as a complete power and torque curve, which the 12 new engines must meet - or even exceed.
The first new Speed Six in 92 years will be assembled in the second half of this year and will serve as the project's test and development vehicle. This "Speed Six Car Zero" remains in Bentley's ownership and joins the "Blower Car Zero" - as the two parents of the newly created vehicle families that they accompany in the making.
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