BY DR. CLARE HAY
Our Bentley 6 ½ Speed Six is one of only 24 built with the longest wheelbase of 12' 8 ½" (3.87 m) at the time. It was one of the last cars to leave the assembly halls of Bentley Motors Ltd. on 30.12.1930. The original body was a "Gurney Nuttin Weyman Saloon". It was sold to Mr Neil McNeil who owned it until 1939. The other vehicle owners can be found neatly documented in the records.
From the summer of 1948 the conversion to the sportier 11' chassis took place (shortening by about 50 cm). This corresponds to the wheelbase of the Le Mans winning cars of 1929 and 1930. This also included the conversion to the current Sports Tourer body. The engine also received special lightweight pistons and a bronze timing chain. The standard 21 inch rims were replaced by 19 inch rims and the car was lowered. The conversion lasted until approx. 1968, from this time there is a photo of the owner at that time Dr. C. C. Evans, when he visited a vehicle exhibition with the nearly finished Bentley.
Even after now 90 years it starts reliably and takes one immediately in its spell. Thanks to the small number of units, its uniqueness and the high potential for value appreciation it is also a highlight of any collection.
Despite scoring two consecutive victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1927 and 1928, W.O. Bentley and his star driver Sir "Tim" Birkin found that these victories were too close to call. The only way to continue the series was to build a faster and more powerful car for 1929. The 4½-liter model that won in 1928 may have crossed the line first. However, it did so with a cracked chassis, a leaking radiator and an overheated engine. Seeking more speed and durability, Birkin suggested making the 4 ½-liter even lighter and adding a supercharger. W. O. Bentley, however, was skeptical of supercharging the engine and felt that the flagship 6 ½-liter could be developed into the next winner.
Bentley's instincts proved correct when the new 6 ½-liter Speed Six "Old Number One" took victory at Le Mans in 1929. Many detail changes distinguished the Speed Six from the standard version, most notably the shorter wheelbase. Under the hood, the big inline six cylinders received an increase in compression and two carburetors instead of one, boosting output from 147 hp to an impressive 160 hp. Further revisions came in 1930 in the form of new cylinder block ports and manifolds that increased power to a full 180 hp. Handling was improved with the addition of hydraulic dampers on the rear axle. Depending on the bodywork, a top speed of up to a then breathtaking 180 km/h was possible. The Speed Six was thus a true supercar of its time and is today one of the most sought-after of all creations of the era under W. O Bentley.