1929 BENTLEY SPEED SIX OPEN SPORTS TOURER
COACHWORK: VANDEN PLAS REPLICA
Former UK Registration Nos. UV 7986 & LGC 983
Chassis No. FR 2648
Engine No. KR 2676
Black with red leather interior
Engine: straight six, single overhead camshaft, 24 valves, triple SU carburetors, 6,597cc giving c165bhp at 3,500rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: front beam axle, rear live axle, half elliptic leaf springs all round; Brakes: vacuum assisted four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
Upon the announcement of Bentley's big six-cylinder model in September 1926, The Autocar compared the four-cylinder Bentley Three Litre, a fierce little car.....which does its work thoroughly at full power. to the new six-cylinder which was, in contrast, always working well within the power range, noiselessly and without effort, so that the great car is utterly deceptive in speed.
When he designed his brilliant 3-litre of 1919, W.O. Bentley took as his inspiration the 1914 Mercedes and Peugeot Grand Prix Cars. The result was a delectable, if rather expensive, sporting car. It was fast and strong and it rewarded drivers skilled in the use of the close-ratio gearbox. It was a great success, but its merits encouraged owners to have the chassis encumbered with weighty touring bodies instead of the light sports shells Bentley intended. Thus equipped, the 3-litre was robbed of much of its performance and character. Capt. Bentley bowed to the inevitable, adding litres and cylinders, thereby initially producing a smaller straight six of 4.2 litres which continental testing suggested hardly gave the necessary performance edge over his competitors. His subsequent six cylinder design of 6,597cc initially offered close to 150bhp. With its 24-valve cylinder head and near silent three-throw eccentric drive for the camshaft, it provided a unique combination of power, flexibility and mechanical silence. Installed in a chassis with powerful brakes and unrivaled handling, the result was one of the grandest of all grand-touring cars.
The Speed Six was a high performance development of the 6-litre, the specification including twin carburetors, higher compression ratio, different gearing, and a handsome parallel sided radiator. In competition the Speed Six was outstanding, especially in the long distance races, including the works entries winning the GP d'Endurance at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 and the Double Twelve Hours at Brooklands in 1930. The 500 Miles race at Brooklands in 1931 was won by a private entrant in his Bentley at 118.39 mph average speed.
This vehicle was delivered new in September 1929 to Capt. E Smith and was fitted with saloon coachwork by Maythorne. It is recorded that at a later stage Maythorne rebuilt the body as a drophead coupe. According to the U.K. log book, this Bentley returned from Malaya in early 1950 and was owned by Capt. Reginal Arthur Reid Hoare. It is documented that this car was fully restored and rebodied by its owner in the early 1960s. At the 1963 Bentley Drivers Club Concours at Kensington Gardens this vehicle was runner up in the Champion's Class. The B.D.C. Review No. 70 of October 1963 pictured the car and John Binns favorably commented on it, John Marshall-Andrew's Speed 6 in black, with unshortened chassis was another "own workshop" rebuild, and very well worth studying by those who wonder what to do with the enormous space between front seat and petrol tank on these long-chassis cars, some very interesting and beautifully executed joinery work here, and a beautiful engine room too. By 1963 the last recorded owner was still John Marshall-Andrew of St James' Park, London SW1. No further U.K. owners are listed and it is thought that around this time the Bentley was imported to the USA and became the property of the late renowned collector, Arthur Lieberman. He showed the car in class H at Pebble Beach in 1979 and it was also a First Prize Winner in the Classic Car Club of America.
Mr. Lassiter acquired the Speed Six in 1984 from Mr. Lieberman, and it has remained one of his favorite touring cars since then. The triple carburetor and manifold set up is believed to have been fitted by the specialist U.K. firm, McKenzie-Guppy, and certainly helps boost performance. While representative today of an older restoration, this car has a superb 'driver's' feel. The leather has a well used patina. The coachwork includes a rear trunk rack, cycle wings, aero and full windscreen, fabric body and a nickle finished radiator (the radiator has recently been replaced). As a concession to safety, seat belts have been discreetly fitted. The car has been enjoyed on several long distance trips, the most recent of which was the 1,000 mile FIVA Rover Centenary Rally throughout Great Britain in 1996. A new owner would undoubtedly be welcomed by the Bentley Drivers Club who organize many events and offer technical advice where necessary. It is also highly eligible for the Classic Car Club CARavan tours. A Speed Six Bentley is often regarded as one of the ultimate vintage cars and this impressive example is one of the stars of the Lassiter Collection.