The Bentley Boys were the diverse and often changing team of unpaid, and nearly all amateur drivers that in the 1920’s helped put Bentley in the forefront of European racing and solidified the marque’s reputation for combining high performance with ruggedness and reliability.
They were as well known for their glamorous lives off the track as they were for their skilled driving. In the autobiography of W.O. Bentley, the engineer and designer behind the marque, he writes of the Bentley Boys, “The public liked to imagine them living in expensive Mayfair flats with several mistresses and, of course, several very fast Bentleys, drinking champagne in night clubs, playing the horses and the Stock Exchange, and beating furiously around the racing tracks at the weekend. Of at least several of them this was not an inaccurate picture.”
These men were serious about their play, whether that meant flying airplanes, competing at steeplechase, boxing, yachting, skiing, racing speedboats and motorcycles, or playing golf or cricket. Under the leadership of W.O., they were no racetrack dilettantes, but a highly disciplined team. British, French, and Australian, doctors and journalists, heirs and bankers, aviators and aristocracy, they all worked together as a dedicated and tightly coordinated group on the track. The proof is in their race results and speed records, including the glory years of 1927-1930, when the team famously scored four consecutive victories at the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans races.
Featuring the 1930 Bentley Speed Six
Walter Owen (W.O.) Bentley was a man obsessed with speed and the determination to go faster. His first offering was the legendary 3 Litre chassis in 1919. The car would prove itself in hill climbs, at Brooklands and the Indianapolis 500 before capturing the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924. Despite the success of the 3 Litre, W.O. Bentley was not satisfied. His hunger for speed remained unsated and in 1924 he began developing a bigger, faster 6.5 Litre model. It was this car that gave birth to one of the most glorious eras in the company’s history: that of the Bentley Boys and their domination of Le Mans. This fraternity of motorists, all playboys and socialites, captured 4 consecutive titles at Le Mans from 1927 to 1930.
The Speed Six is a more sporting version of the 6.5 Litre. Of the 545 6.5 Litres produced, only 171 became Speed Sixes, the car that was W.O. Bentley’s favorite. The owner of this Speed Six corroborates Bentley’s choice, saying, “One drive is all it takes.”
Model Speed Six; 160 horsepower, 6.6 litre, in-line six-cylinder engine.
Wheelbase: 140.5 inches.
Weight: 5,000 pounds
Cost new: £1,800 (approximately $8,500).
On Loan from Norman and Molly Shanklin