16th Mar, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Lot 84

1929 Bentley Speed Six 'Le Mans'-style Tourer

Sold for £438,750

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: UU 5911
Chassis No: BA2587
MOT: Exempt

  • One of just 182 6.5 Litre cars completed to Speed Six specification
  • Supplied new to Ernest Taylor Esq and first issued with the London registration number 'UU 5911' in June 1929
  • Entrusted to renowned marque specialist R.C. Moss for maintenance and improvement work during the current nineteen-year ownership
  • Much enjoyed on the 2005 Rallye des Alpes, 2006 Bentley Tour of Aquitaine and Bordeaux, 2007 The Jewel that is Jordan III, 2008 Eighth Autumn Ramble, 2009 Ninth Autumn Ramble and 2010 Summer Saunter to Ireland etc
  • Beginning life as a HJ Mulliner bodied Close Coupled Saloon on the 11ft 6in wheelbase, chassis BA2587 was extensively restored during the 1990s / early 2000s
  • The front axle is from a Bentley 4.5 Litre 'Blower' model

‘Verily, the car was alive, time after time it seemed to laugh, gather itself together and jump from the banking at a pace that really thrilled, as wild a ride as ever Valkyrie dreamed’ (S.C.H. ‘Sammy’ Davis recounting his drive to second overall at the 1929 Brooklands 500-mile race aboard a Bentley Speed Six).

Introduced in October 1928 as a high-performance variant of the existing 6½ Litre model, the Speed Six twice won the Le Mans 24 hours as well as distinguishing itself at various Brooklands meetings. Although the factory racing cars sat on an 11ft wheelbase, their production siblings could be had with 11ft 6in, 11ft 8.5in and 12ft 8.5in wheelbases. Hailed as marque founder W.O. Bentley’s favourite creation, the Speed Six was powered by a 6597cc straight-six engine that developed 160bhp (later 180bhp) and well over 400lbft of torque thanks to a ‘hotter’ camshaft, higher compression ratio and twin SU carburettors. Capable of over 100mph (depending upon gearing) and with nearly twice as much power on tap as a Rolls-Royce Phantom I, the Bentley has some claim to being Britain’s first supercar.

Thanks to the efforts of the Bentley Drivers’ Club and numerous marque specialists, the Speed Six has long been valued as an events car proving its mettle on long distance endurance rallies such as the Peking to Paris, Colorado Grand and 1000 Millas Sport not to mention at race meetings including the Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival and Monterey Historic. Only in production for two seasons, just 182 Bentley 6½ Litre cars were completed to Speed Six specification with values of the factory team cars running into eight figures!

According to Dr Clare Hay’s definitive work, ‘Bentley – The Vintage Years’, chassis BA2587 was built on the shortest production Speed Six wheelbase (11ft 6in) and fitted with Close Coupled Saloon coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. Granted the London registration number ‘UU 5911’ and delivered in June 1929, the car’s first owner is recorded as Ernest Taylor Esq. of Heath Lodge, The Bishop’s Avenue, Finchley; an address on what is today known as ‘Billionaire’s Row’. The ‘Mr Taylor’ in question is thought to have been none other than Vice Admiral Sir Ernest Augustus Taylor KCMG, CVO who served as a MP after retiring from the Royal Navy. Well known in society circles, he was photographed with the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.

The Bentley’s second keeper, Peregrine Philip Saillard Pratt Esq., gave his address as the Naval & Military Club of Piccadilly, W1; an august institution whose past members have included HRH Prince Philip, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Ian Fleming, David Niven and Rudyard Kipling. A wealthy gentleman with a passion for speed, Mr Pratt also owned a De Havilland Gipsy Moth biplane which he kept hangered at Brooklands Aviation. The car’s accompanying copy service record contains entries up until August 1939 and reveals that a new front axle bed and nearside stub axle were fitted three years earlier at an indicated 76,010 miles.

The Speed Six’s post-World War Two history in unclear albeit a letter on file from Brian Fenn, then chairman of the Bentley Drivers’ Club’s Eligibility Committee, to the DVLA dated 24th May 2004 states:

‘So far as we can ascertain, about twenty-five years ago the car was in a collision which damaged the chassis and was immediately garaged and not used or repaired. It has now been completely renovated using the existing components’.

Among a barrage of W.O. Bentleys amassed by the Kamper family in Cambridgeshire, the Speed Six passed to renowned marque enthusiast William Sykes during 1995 at which time it was assessed to comprise the following usable Cricklewood components: engine bearer crossmember (BA2587), steering box (BA2587), Type ‘C’ gearbox (6015), rear axle (MD2561), rear axle nosepiece (BA4003) and front axle (SM3923). Interestingly, the latter is understood to have been first fitted to a 4½ Litre ‘Blower’ Bentley.

Mr Sykes had the chassis refurbished using new side rails and sourced a ‘Le Mans Replica’ body from H&H Coachworks of Henley, Oxon. The engine was assembled using a new crankcase allied to an original block, cambox, throat and three-throw gear with the former being stamped up as ‘BA2589S’ so as to give the appearance of a factory service replacement unit (the car’s original engine – BA2589 – was apparently transplanted into chassis BR2359 but subsequently failed). Still a work in progress when the vendor acquired it in 2003, he lost little time in entrusting chassis BA2587 to renowned marque specialist R.C. Moss of Bedfordshire; the same company that restored the ex-Works Bentley Speed Six ‘Old Number 3’ to Pebble Beach concours winning standards.

Tasked with preparing the Speed Six for long distance rallies and tours, Graham Moss of R.C. Moss removed the ‘Le Mans Replica’ body and went right through the chassis fettling the steering, suspension and brakes. He also fabricated a dashboard to the seller’s requirements, installed a new high ratio 3:1 crown wheel and pinion, had the Carl Zeiss headlamps renovated, overhauled the three throw mechanism, rewired the car and had it painted and trimmed etc. The associated bills total some £75,800 and start with a labour rate of £28 per hour.

Reunited with its original London-issued registration number – ‘UU 5911’ - by the DVLA on 3rd June 2004, the Bentley has since been enjoyed by the vendor on the 2005 Rallye des Alpes, 2006 Bentley Tour of Aquitaine and Bordeaux, 2007 The Jewel that is Jordan III, 2008 Eighth Autumn Ramble, 2009 Ninth Autumn Ramble and 2010 Summer Saunter to Ireland etc. Returning to Graham Moss in between times for maintenance and improvement, he last serviced the Speed Six during August 2021 at a cost of £5,568.40 and has described it to us as ‘a fantastic driving car’. The vendor echoes this opinion and is only offering the car for sale due to his advancing years.

Starting readily upon inspection and sounding wonderful, ‘UU 5911’ rewards detailed inspection. Sat on an 11ft 6in wheelbase, much of the detailing mimics that of the factory team cars which twice won the Le Mans 24 hours including the placement of the side-mounted spare wheel, various quick-release filler caps, skimpy three-door fabric covered body and shovel-backed lightweight front seats etc.

Currently valued for insurance purposes at £1,200,000 and eligible for a host of prestigious and exciting events, this splendid Speed Six is seemingly ready for yet more adventure! Offered for sale with the V5C registration document, copy of factory service records, numerous R.C. Moss Ltd invoices, assorted photographs and entry packs for various past events.

For more information, please contact:
Mike Davis
07718 584217


Auction: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, 16th Mar, 2022

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Imperial War Museum
CB22 4QR

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Tuesday 15th March 2022 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 16th March 2022 from 9am

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