1930 Bentley 'Blue Train' Recreation
words by Robbe Arno with photography courtesy of RM Auctions
If you’re looking for a luxury car without the distractions of modern life, look no further. Who needs silly optional extras like GPS, heated seats (even seat belts for that matter), when you’ve got the real essentials; things like matching liquor cabinets with a decanter and crystal glasses. Even better, you’re looking at a car with an extraordinary backstory. This recreation is one of a few cars currently being built each year by Bob Petersen Engineering in England, inspired by an infamous race between a handsome piece of British engineering and a world famous train.
Now this is a recreation, rather than a replica. That means that they there aren't trying to create something that is an exact copy of an original model. Very close in a number of areas of course, but a recreation allows the builder some artistic license to include their own changes. In the wrong hands that could potentially spoil an already striking design, but some people are always convinced they can do better. Built by a dozen highly specialized craftsmen in rural Devon, England, it's a truly beautiful car. Though totally road-legal, it might prove a bit hard to describe to your local car insurance company.
"Yes, hello there. I would like to ask for a quote for an exquisitely crafted recreation of a 1930 Bentley Speed Six with bespoke coupe bodywork."
"Sir, I do not see a listing in my system for your vehicle, would you please provide any other details you might know about the car and I will take this to my manager."
"You need to know everything? Well, I guess I'll start from the beginning..."
The story unfolds in 1930, in the heart of interbellum Cannes, where some early petrol heads decided to make a bet after a heated discussion. The subject of that discussion was an advertisement by Rover that claimed its car had beaten the famous ‘Train Bleu’ from Calais to the French Riviera. The proud French could not abide by this shameless blemish on their proud engineering heritage. However, playboy millionaire Captain Joel Woolf Babe Barnato (with enough money, you can have as many names as you fancy apparently) was prepared to wager £100 that he could prove it wasn't a fluke, and do it again in his Bentley Speed Six. This is 1930 - the average yearly income in the UK at the time was around £165, so it’s not like we’re talking small money here. The race would be run in reverse this time, presumably because Barnato planned to celebrate his predicted victory with pals in London.
In the early morning of the following day, the blue train left the Riviera behind, quickly followed by Barnato and his Bentley. The 180 bhp strong car roared through quiet France, but even though he started fairly well, you can only have so much luck. A punctured tire, a desperate search for petrol in the French countryside and heavy weather made the victory less than assured. Nevertheless, even after a choppy ferry ride back to England, he reached central London minutes before the Blue Train came to a stop in Calais.
The story doesn’t end there, though. When the French authorities caught wind of the race, they were furious. They fined the millionaire a hefty sum, far more than the money he won with his bet, for racing on French public roads. Along with that they also banned Bentley from the Paris motor show that year for having advertised an unauthorized race. However, that didn’t prevent the car and the story from becoming legendary.
This beautiful black car, finished with a gorgeous red interior and highly polished walnut cabinets is powered by a 5.6l eight-cylinder Bentley engine and is perfectly detailed. While not a historically accurate copy of a 1930 Bentley Speed Six, you've got to admit it's super cool. If you’re interested in this recreation of a legend, check out the listing for RM’s upcoming sale at Amelia Island.