1930 Bentley Speed Six “Blue Train Special” Minichamps - 436139500 (diecast)
Introduced in 1928, the Speed Six came as a more-sporty version of the Bentley 6½ Liters. Although very similar, the Speed Six differed from the 6 ½ Liters because it had an extra carburetor. At the time, the car left the Bentley factory as a rolling chassis with an engine. The body used was the responsibility of the new owner, who chose the coachwork of his preference.
The Speed Six had an inline-6 engine, longitudinally mounted. With cast-iron block and cylinder head it displaced 6597 cm³. As was the norm at the time, it had SOHC but with 24 valves. Fed through two SU HVG5 carburetors, it delivered 180 hp to a four-speed manual gearbox. The chassis was a pressed-steel ladder frame, with a rigid axle at the front and a live axle in the rear. It was a big car, 4,749 mm long and 1,740 mm wide, weighing 2200 kg. In spite of the huge dimensions, the Speed Six was a pretty fast car for the times. It could go from 0-100 km/h in 14 seconds and reach a top speed of 161 km/h.
By 1929, Bentley already had four wins at Le Mans. That being so, their cars had earned a solid reputation as fast machines. On the evening of March 12th, 1930, Captain Woolf Barnato (then chairman of Bentley Motors) was having dinner at a hotel in Cannes, France. At the dining table there was talk that both Rover and Alvis cars could go from Cannes to Calais faster than the Le Train Bleu. That didn’t sit well for the Bentley chairman. So after the consumption of alcohol (just a whiff, certainly), a £200 wager was made. Barnato would drive from Cannes to Calais and then take a boat over the channel. He would then drive on to his “Conservative Club” at St. James Street in London. He would win if he arrived there before the Calais-Mediterranée Express (the Blue Train) arrived at Calais.
On the following day, at 5:45pm, the Blue Train left the Cannes train station. And Woolf Barnatto, driving his “Gurney Nutting Saloon” Speed Six with Dale Bourne as a copilot, left the hotel. It was a rough trip for the Bentley, with bad weather and a flat tire and than a mad dash from Dover to London. In spite of all the difficulties, Barnato and Bourne enter the Conservative Club at 3:20pm. Four minutes later the Calais-Mediterranée Express arrived at Calais. So, Barnato won the £200. However, he only kept £40, because later on French authorities fined him £160 for “racing in public roads”. With that, this Speed Six became forever known as the “Blue Train Special”, the Bentley that won the train race. Or better – it was known as the Bentley that won the train race…*
A clunker. A Bentley clunker. But a très cool Bentley clunker. I always liked the story behind this car, even after I found out that this is not the actual car that raced the train*. And since Minichamps made a gorgeous model in scale, this one was always a target of opportunity. On eBay they’re not very common, but I lucked out and found one locally for a great price. It’s an adorable model, and even though it’s not THE car, it’s cool enough to be part of the W-143 Garage.
*In 1999 it came to light that the actual car that Barnato used was his personal company car. Speed Six chassis #BA2592/engine #BA2594 was a black Speed Six Saloon with Mulliner coachwork. Nothing special, no race preparations, just a company car. The Gurney Nutting Saloon Speed Six (chassis #HM2855/engine #HM2863) was specially commissioned by Barnato as a celebration to the race. He received the car two months after the race and called it Blue Train Special. After he got the Blue Train Special he even sold the Mulliner saloon. So with that, everyone assumed (erroneously) that the Gurney Nutting Saloon was the actual race car.