The Roaring Twenties and the Bentley Blue Train
The Europe of the 'Roaring Twenties' was recovering from a terrible war. Car ownership grew, although the cars and infrastructure were not yet ready for long journeys. And the British empires all went full time to the French Riviera where they first fled only the winters. To welcome the flood of wealth, luxury hotels were built such as the Carlton of Cannes, rumored to be the two domes shaped after the breasts of courtesan Caroline Otero, nicknamed "La Belle Otero."
The blue train
To reach the Mediterranean coast, the English had the 'Train Bleu' or the 'Blue Train'. This line connected the Calais ferry terminal with Ventimiglia in Italy. The line was opened in 1886. In 1922 the train was nicknamed 'Train Bleu' after modernization and the use of blue and gold wagons. The Blue Train offered its passengers two particularly luxurious attractions: the luxury dining car and the bar. The train stood for everything that was fast and worldly.
Bentley and Barnato
Walter Owen Bentley was a talented technician from a rich family. WO's approach was "To build a good car, a fast car, the best in class." Bentley was more technical than business. Bentley Motors Ltd got into bad weather and WO, got upside down from his board. The company was purchased and rescued by the wealthy heir, investor, playboy and driver of a South African diamond mine consortium, Joel Woolf Barnato. Barnato had previously bought a three-liter Bentley and had fallen in love with that car. He belonged to the group of rich youngsters who made the nightlife, public roads and circuits unsafe under the name 'the Bentley Boys'.
Two extra cylinders
Under the inspiring leadership of 'Babe' Barnato, Bentley added two extra cylinders to a three liter block. During a test drive with a prototype, the Bentley driver met an also camouflaged Rolls Royce with an equally fanatical test driver. The men competed, and the Bentley won only because the Rolls-Royce pilot's hat blew off.
That man dropped out to pick up his hat again. Dissatisfied with the performance of its prototype 6 cylinder, 1926 decided to increase the bore of this engine, bringing the total cylinder capacity to 6,5 liters. The Bentley 6.5 was born. However, the extra power could not match the extra weight. In 1928 a number of adjustments followed, including the addition of an extra carburetor, the Bentley 6.5 changed to the Speed Six. And that was a success, rewarded with a victory over Le Mans in 1929. The Speed Six engine with 4 valves per cylinder and an overhead camshaft supplied 140 hp.
The final Speed Six stole Barnato's heart. He had about six of them and used one with a HJ Mulliner bodywork for his daily transport.
And then there was that train story
Barnato was talking with some friends about cocktails that there were two people who had proven that they could get to Cannes from Calais by car with a car: Dudley Noble with his Rover Light Six and EJP Eugster and his Alvis Silver Eagle. Barnato's friends kept talking about it. That annoyed Barnato so much that he would bet, that he would not only be earlier than the train in Calais, but that he would be in London even earlier than the train would be in Calais.
A smart plan
He had already thought about it and, also because of his experiences in the 24 hour at Le Mans, he had a strategic plan where the route deviated somewhat and where he had enough locations to refuel. For the night stops, he contacted a pump attendant near Lyon. He then arranged for a gas truck at Auxerre around 04.00 hours. To be sure, he filled the boot of his Bentley with jerry cans. The bet was reportedly over 100 pounds, more than a British average annual salary in 1930.
As a co-driver he asked his friend and Bentley owner Dale Bourne
Bourne was also a navigational aid and helper in the event of a tire failure. So far for the plan. At the end of the afternoon, the two men enjoyed a cocktail in the Carlton bar. The car was ready. She also. They waited for the Blue Train to leave in turn. At 17: 54 hour the train has just left the station. The men quietly drink their cocktails and board the Speed Six
To make a long story short
They are more likely to be in London with the Bentley Blue Train than the Train Bleu is in Calais. But the French overhead imposed fines on Barnato for racing on public roads. And those fines were very high. Moreover, Bentley was excluded from the Salon de Paris of 1930 due to illegal racing on public roads.
Only a year later is the Bentley that we now know as the original 'Bentley Blue Train' ready. It is the fastback made by Gurney Nutting with chassis number HM2855. He gets his name as a tribute to the ride that he himself never drove. He gets his reputation because of a romanticized 'action painting' that Terence Cuneo made. The real record car was a black saloon that was built at Mulliner on the 1929'er Speed Six chassis number BA2592. The car had a folding roof, which didn't make the ride any better during bad weather.
But what should we do with 'recreations'?
I think we can respect that. After all, at the time it was the case that the car manufacturer sold the rolling part to the customer and the customer had a bodywork set up there at a bodywork builder. And there has been a trend for years to rid 'boring' Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of their bodywork and then, with the authentic chassis and technology as a basis, to allow a rebirth of a 'more exciting' specimen to take place. It all goes considerably further than putting a polyester Bugattiko foot on a Beetle chassis. Because all work is done just as lovingly in the traditional way and with the most old-fashioned craftsmanship. Such a 'recreation' is just a dream that is not a fraud.
Thanks to Gallery Aaldering, Brummen
We found this unique Bentley Blue Train at Galley Aaldering in Brummen. This Bentley Blue Train recreation is made by the recognized Bentley specialist "Racing Green". That company builds its cars by hand to as far / as much as possible original specifications, but with the color to the wishes of the customer. The official year of the stunning beauty is 1953.
And there are less than 1.000 km on the clock. The truly beautiful specimen in the rare 'Blue over blue' color scheme. The colossus is in new condition and has the famous Bentley B80 8 cylinder engine in combination with a manual 4 gearbox.
For the buyer it is a case of 'buying, starting and driving'. The buyer will then notice that this sports car feels and drives like a serious delivery van. And he does sound serious too. Just have a look on youtube. And whoever wants to know the price of this masterpiece, they simply don't have the money for it.