A Blisteringly Fast 1949 Bentley MKVI 'Hemi V8' Special. Estimate £50,000 - £60,000

For Sale With H&H Classics At The Imperial War Museum, March 15th

17/01/2023     General News

1949 Bentley MkVI 'Hemi V8' Special

James Baxter of Tip Top Engineering, a multiple hill-climb champion, says of it: “Blimey, the car is staggeringly fast, and handles well too. Fantastic fun”.

If ever you have dreamed of owning a Bentley race car, this one featured in the Ray Roberts' book 'Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys', would be well worth taking a close look at given a top speed in excess of 140mph. A life that includes Goodwood and hill-climbs with the sound of that magnificent engine in your ears, beckons.

The globe-trotting Bentley has lived in the UK, US, Canada and Spain. Starting life as a Standard Steel Saloon the car’s Initial conversion including chassis shortening / lowering and installation of Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 litre Hemi V8 was carried out by engineering firm proprietor John Edwin Thomas of Hartfield, Sussex in the late 1970s.

The two-seater is far faster than most of its siblings thanks to the fitment of the V8 engine, close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox and Powr-Lok limited slip differential.

It was then sold as a running and driving but incomplete concern to Tim Trevithick who bodied it in light alloy and sorted the dynamics. Later it was owned by Russell Mishcon whose father co-founded the solicitors' firm Mishcon de Reya which represented Princess Diana. It has been treated to some $54,465 worth of fettling by The Guild of Automotive Restorers Inc of Bradford, Ontario.

The Bentley’s initial transformation was undertaken by John Edwin Thomas of Hartfield, Sussex during the late 1970s. The proprietor of an engineering company 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 suffering a heart attack that prompted him to sell the running and driving but incomplete ‘WFX 288’ to Tim Trevithick. An enthusiast of the ‘oversquare’ V8 engines that Edward Turner designed for Daimler in the late 1950s with their five-bearing crankshafts, cast iron blocks, alloy cylinder heads / sumps and hemispherical combustion chambers, Mr Trevithick has uprated more than one Daimler V8 250 Saloon with a Majestic Major unit.

Having bodied the Bentley in lightweight alloy panels (with the exception of its remodelled steel boot lid which formerly graced a Morris Minor), he set about sorting the Special 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 the aforementioned Russell Mishcon whose father Victor co-founded Mishcon de Reya (the renowned solicitors which represented Princess Diana amongst others). Mr Mishcon entrusted ‘WFX 288’ to Rees Brothers of Aldershot for an engine overhaul and other works during 1987 – 1988 with the company apparently describing it as ‘a Lotus 7 on steroids’.

The subject of a cosmetic restoration and rewiring in the early 1990s, the MkVI Special was bought by John McKewan some ten years later who exported it to Canada. It was at this point that it was treated to some $54,465 worth of fettling and improvement by The Guild of Automotive Restorations Inc of Bradford, Ontario during 2002 modifications, included 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 dispatched 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 hill-climb 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 Mk X 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 hill-climbs.

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.