15th Mar, 2023 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

  Lot 27

1949 Bentley MkVI 'Hemi V8' Special
Entered from a private collection

Sold for £45,000

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: WFX 288
Chassis No: B421EW
MOT: Exempt

  • Featured in the Ray Roberts' book 'Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys'
  • Conversion including chassis shortening / lowering and installation of Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 litre Hemi V8 carried out by engineering firm proprietor John Edward Thomas in the late 1970s
  • Later owned by Russell Mishcon whose father co-founded the solicitors' firm Mishcon de Reya which represented Princess Diana
  • Treated to some $54,465 worth of fettling by The Guild of Automotive Restorers Inc of Bradford, Ontario and more recently entrusted to James Baxter of Tip Top Engineering

Like many of the best MkVI Specials, ‘WFX 288’ is featured in Ray Roberts’ authoritative tome ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys’. However, the two-seater is far faster than most of its siblings thanks to the fitment of a Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 litre V8 engine, close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox and Powr-Lok limited slip differential. Starting life as a Standard Steel Saloon, the Bentley’s transformation was undertaken by John Edward Thomas of Hever, Kent during the late 1970s. The proprietor of an engineering company in Hartfield, Sussex who had previously fabricated two MkVI Specials (one of which was supercharged), he shortened the chassis by approximately fourteen inches, cut down the radiator, significantly lowered the suspension and installed the Daimler / Jaguar powertrain before bodying the Special in aluminium (with the exception of its steel boot lid which had begun life on a Morris Minor MM). The Bentley’s next owner, Tim Trevithick, was an ardent enthusiast of the ‘oversquare’ V8 engines that Edward Turner designed for Daimler in the late 1950s with their alloy cylinder heads / sumps and hemispherical combustion chambers. He set about honing ‘WFX 288’ to the point that it was ‘formidably fast and had very good balance’. Relocating to Southern Spain during the 1980s, Mr Trevithick sold the two-seater to Russell Mishcon whose father Victor co-founded Mishcon de Reya (the renowned solicitors who represented Princess Diana amongst others). Mr Mishcon entrusted ‘WFX 288’ to Rees Brothers of Aldershot for an engine overhaul during 1987 – 1988 with the company apparently describing it as ‘a Lotus 7 on steroids’. Thereafter, it was looked after by motorcycle sidecar racer turned engineer Mark Nolan who revamped the interior, had a boatbuilder fabricate a new wooden dashboard, sorted the overdrive and wrapped the steering wheel with polo horse rope. Mr Nolan repainted and rewired the modified MkVI during the early 1990s too, christening it ‘Scary Mary’. Living in Windsor Great Park at the time, he vividly remembers giving an old lady who told him that her father used to own a few Bentleys a high-speed joy ride only to be told later that his passenger had been none other than Diana Barnato!

Exported to Canada by the subsequent keeper, John McKewan, he entrusted it to The Guild of Automotive Restorations Inc. of Bradford, Ontario during October 2002 for some $54,465 worth of improvements including a telescopic rear shock absorber conversion. Sold to Chris Moss by Auto Europe of Birmingham, Michigan in 2009 and repatriated thereafter, the two-seater entered the current ownership via our 5th December 2012 Newbury Racecourse auction. Forming part of a notable private collection for the past eleven years, ‘WFX 288’ was despatched to James Baxter of Tip Top Engineering for ‘a dose of looking at’. Benefiting from a thorough service, attention to the brakes and revision of the throttle mechanism (liberating almost forty percent more travel!), the Bentley was summed-up by Mr Baxter, a multiple hillclimb champion, thus: “Blimey, car is staggeringly fast, and handles well too. Steering a little too low geared for me, but fantastic fun”. Although, Daimler quoted outputs of 220bhp and 282lbft of torque for the Majestic Major’s powerplant their antiquated dyno was only rated up to 220bhp. Indeed, a Jaguar MkX saloon which had had a Daimler 4.5 litre V8 transplanted into it proved capable of lapping the MIRA test track at 135mph! Needless to say, the MkVI Special weighs considerably less than a MkX saloon which is one of the reasons that the vendor has found it to be so enjoyable for sprints and hillclimbs.

Capable of invigorating road use, this unique Bentley is only being offered for sale to help rationalise the vendor’s collection. Pleased to have been able to acquaint John Thomas’s daughter with her father’s creation and to have had contact from Mr Trevithick about its past, he feels the time is right to hand the baton over to a new custodian. A glorious sounding machine with a distinctive ‘Hemi’ V8 burble, ‘WFX 288’ is accompanied by a V5C registration document and history file.

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 15th Mar, 2023

Established in 1993, H&H has sold some of the world's most significant motorcars and motorcycles over the past 30 years. Trusted by over 75,000 clients worldwide, we are the longest established auction house of our kind in Europe. 

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Cambridgeshire. 

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Tuesday 14th March 2023, from 12pm to 6pm
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