To begin with, the car in the photo is not the original “Blue Train” from Bentley, which exists in a single copy. The original Blue Train appeared in 1930 and was based on a Bentley 6½-Litre Speed Six commissioned by millionaire, playboy, philanthropist, owner of diamond and gold mines in South Africa and simply a great international sportsman Wolfe Barnato.
As a famous “Bentley-boy”, he became the head of the company in the late 1920s and in 1928 and 1929 he won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a British car. But the point is different: the legend says that Barnato in an earlier and less-powerful Speed Six beat the Blue Train from Cannes to London in the race, which was a great achievement at the time.
True or myth, only history knows, but the Blue Train coupe, built for the occasion with a streamlined shape and a down-to-earth roof, became world famous before World War II. The stunningly beautiful body was created by body shop J. Gurney Nutting. Of course, many wealthy people wanted a similar car, so other companies began offering copies of “Blue Train”. But the most high-quality, authentic and elaborate allusion to the “Blue Train” was the body by Bob Petersen Engineering of Beaworthy Mill, in England.
Bob Petersen Engineering created only five such Blue Train Specials and one of them was delivered to Gary Wales, a car enthusiast who simply adored unique versions of the Bentley.
The car is built on a lowered frame, its body is lined with synthetic leather inserts, and as the hood is painted black and varnished repeatedly – to protect against small stones. The real decoration of the exterior is the Marchal lamps, as well as the central “driver’s headlight”.
The Welsh car is notable because it uses components not only of the Bentley brand, but also Rolls-Royce. Thus, the frame was borrowed from the Phantom II and in-line eight-cylinder engine B81 – from Bentley. And of course, it must be said that only this specimen of the five was fitted with a ‘blower’, that is, a compressor – as on the racing Bentley Barnato. The car’s engine was later fitted with four SU carburetors and its power reached 180 horsepower.
A compressor protrudes from under the grille, and a small, angry bulldog – the car’s mascot (in the previous picture) – is mounted on top of it. The stern has the typical shape of those years, with a separate luggage compartment. Each door handle is made from a single piece of aluminum and is decorated with a “winged V”. This motif is continued on the footrests.
Under the hood of the car, as almost 90 years ago, everything is in pristine condition. Maximum elegance and simplicity of the engine look is another of the features unique to Blue Train.
No less impressive is the interior, where coexist natural leather, a pair of comfortable seats, a panel of brushed aluminum and a variety of instruments. In the drawers along the walls of the conventional back row there are glasses and other utensils, which are preserved from that time.
Wales sold his brainchild in 2006, and eight years later the Blue Train joined Orin Smith’s Rolls-Royce and Bentley collection. The car remains in fully original condition, with only 8,653 miles on the odometer. Orin Smith only freshened it up a bit at the Vantage Motorsport workshop in Miami and installed two stylish cases on the empty rear shelf.
Orin Smith only freshened it up a bit at the Vantage Motorsport workshop in Miami and installed two stylish cases on the empty rear shelf.
This “Blue Train” Special was exhibited at the 2014 Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, and was also featured at that year’s Ocean Reef Club Vintage Weekend.
Few could argue that Bob Petersen’s work for Gary Wales is a true masterpiece and a historical milestone. A car with a story. Big and picturesque, and its name is associated with the race from Cannes to London – Lucius Beebe would definitely love this Bentley. How much the rest of us will like it – we’ll find out at the Amelia Island auction this March.