In the hallowed halls of Mulliner, Bentley’s bespoke and coachbuilding division, a significant chapter in automotive history is being rewritten with the unveiling of the Speed Six Continuation Series.
This bold venture comes hot on the heels of the completion of the final Blower Continuation Series customer car, marking a meticulous journey of craftsmanship and engineering prowess.
A Heritage Race Revisited
In the golden era of motorsport, Bentley’s Speed Six and the Supercharged 4½ Litre ‘Blowers’ were iconic competitors. The former was a Le Mans champion in 1929 and 1930, and the latter, raced by the Hon Sir ‘Tim’ Birkin’s private team. Now, under Mulliner’s roof, both legends converge as the artisans meticulously craft the Speed Six Continuation Series.
The decision to embark on the ambitious project of creating 12 Continuation Series models for both the 4½ Litre Supercharged ‘Blower’ and the 6½ Litre Speed Six was no trivial matter. Bentley, a brand synonymous with a century of excellence, tasked its team with upholding the highest standards of performance and luxury.
Since 2020, a dedicated team of Bentley Mulliner engineers, craftspeople, and technicians collaborated with British specialists to bring the world’s first pre-war continuation series to life.
The painstaking process, spanning tens of thousands of hours, resulted in Continuation Series models that authentically mirror their 1930 counterparts, adhering to historical accuracy while making necessary adjustments for legality.
Beyond recreating historic masterpieces, Bentley’s continuation projects ignited a resurgence of lost skills within the brand. Technicians and artisans, both seasoned and novice, acquired the knowledge needed to build and maintain pre-war Bentleys, securing the legacy of craftsmanship for future generations.
Farewell to the Blower: A Chapter Closes
As 2023 draws to a close, the final Blower Continuation Series customer cars have found their rightful owners. The spectrum of colours, from the traditional Napier Green to individualistic choices reminiscent of the late 1920s, adds a personalized touch. Owners exercised their freedom to specify details through a meticulous personal fitting service.
Birkin’s original Supercharged 4½ Litre, fondly known as the ‘Blower,’ was born for racing, and so are the Continuation Series models. Rigorous inspections qualified the Continuation Blower for a Historic Technical Passport, enabling participation in FIA-sanctioned events for historic vehicles. Bentley’s own Car Zero took the Le Mans Classic circuit by storm in July, embodying a nostalgic return for witnesses.
Enter the Speed Six: Crafting a New Chapter
As the final echoes of the Blower’s legacy fade, attention shifts to the next Continuation Series – the Speed Six. With the company’s own Speed Six, GU409, and the historic ‘Old Number 3’ as master models, Mulliner draws upon invaluable data to recreate the Speed Six’s glory. Generously loaned by its owner, ‘Old Number 3’ contributes insights into dimensions, materials, and components, ensuring an authentic revival.
No detail is too small in the recreation of the Speed Six. The Mulliner Classic team meticulously verified authentic period Parsons Paints at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
Over 600 new parts, including a specially cast engine block, contribute to the new 6½ Litre race-spec engine. While modern engineering could push outputs beyond the 1930 benchmark, the team aims for authenticity.
In the hallowed Mulliner workshops, a blend of modern and traditional coachbuilding skills brings two Continuation Speed Six models to life. The Continuation Series programme’s essence lies in passing on precious skills to the next generation.
Seasoned artisans mentor young apprentices, forging a legacy of craftsmanship. Each customer car, a testament to this legacy, takes a meticulous 10 months to build, with deliveries commencing in 2025.
Road to Validation: Speed Six’s Testing Odyssey
After its debut at the 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Speed Six Car Zero embarked on a rigorous test programme, simulating 35,000 kilometres of real-world driving across 8,000 kilometres of track. Incremental challenges ensure functionality and durability under the most demanding conditions.
Simultaneously, customers experience a bespoke fitting service in the Speed Six Factory Works car, guaranteeing comfort and control akin to the 1920s owners.
The Speed Six, a high-performance variant of the 6½ Litre, etched its name in history by securing Le Mans victories in 1929 and 1930. Introduced in 1928, the Speed Six chassis represented a more sporting evolution of the 6½ Litre.
With tweaks to the engine, including twin SU carburettors and a high-performance camshaft, the Speed Six reached 180 bhp. The racing version, with a compression ratio of 6.1:1, dominated Le Mans, setting records that endured for decades.
In reviving the Speed Six Continuation Series, Bentley doesn’t merely recreate history; it redefines automotive craftsmanship and passion for generations to come. The saga of Bentley’s legends continues, weaving a narrative where heritage meets innovation on the timeless road of excellence.