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Lot 578: Bentley 6½-Litre Speed Six Tourer

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

It is extraordinarily difficult to explain in words or writing the exact fascination of a big, fast car of the type so ably represented by the big Bentley speed model.' The Autocar on the Bentley Speed Six, September 5th, 1930. Although the 6½-Litre had been conceived as a touring car to compete with Rolls-Royce's New Phantom, in Speed Six form it proved admirably suited to competition: in 1929 Barnato/Birkin's Speed Six won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race ahead of a trio of 4½-Litre Bentleys and Barnato/Kidston repeated the feat in the following year's Grand Prix d'Endurance at the Sarthe circuit ahead of similarly-mounted Clement/Watney. Small wonder then, that the fast yet refined 6½-Litre Speed Six was W O Bentley's favourite car. Walter Owen Bentley established Bentley Motors in 1919 in the North London suburb of Cricklewood, though deliveries did not begin until 1921. The first model, a 3-litre car, was powered by a four-cylinder, single overhead camshaft engine with four valves per cylinder. It was a mechanical theme perpetuated in the greatly refined six-cylinder 6½-Litre model of 1926. The need for a larger car had resulted from Bentley's customers specifying bodies of a size not envisaged when the 3-Litre was conceived, a factor only partially addressed by the introduction of the Long Standard chassis in 1923. The 6½-Litre was produced for four years, during which time 544 chassis were completed, 182 of these to Speed Six specification. According to Michael Hay's authoritative work, Bentley The Vintage Years, this 6½-Litre Speed Six on the 'SP2' (11' 6") chassis was originally fitted with saloon coachwork by Gurney Nutting. Its first owner was one C Bruce Gardner of Burton House, Stafford. Supplied via Jack Barclay, the Bentley was originally registered 'UU 6922', then '70 CPF' and finally 'JSO 100', its current UK registration. Damaged 'by enemy action' during the war, the Speed Six received a new Vanden Plas-style tourer body circa 1971 when it came into the possession of Lord Doune's collection in Scotland. We are advised that the car retains matching chassis/engine numbers. In the late 1990s the Speed Six was purchased by German collector Helmut Karbe, who had it specially prepared for the 'Around The World' rally, an 80-day marathon run between 1st May and 18th July 2000. Modifications made for this most arduous undertaking included installing a roll bar, under-tray, special seats and safety belts, altered exhaust system (to enable the car to ford rivers) and twin fuel tanks of 150 litres each. Despite being the oldest car in the rally, the Speed Six successfully completed the event having covered more miles in 80 days than most modern Bentleys do in a year. All parts removed prior to the rally, including the seats, come with the car, which is still being used regularly for Alpine events. Offered with technical appraisal (dated 20.11.2012), valid German Fahrzeugbrief and TüV, this magnificent Bentley Speed Six has to be the ideal acquisition for the enthusiast driver wishing to undertake long-distance rallies and touring events in true Vintage style.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number578
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€720000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€828000
Condition rating1
Registration number
Chassis numberBA2580
Engine numberBA2584
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors