At the end of World War I, Walter Owen Bentley gathered a small group of dedicated and skilled artisans to create Bentley Motors. The first Bentleys appeared in 1919, a group of three experimental 3-liter cars. In the following decade, the 3-liter gave way to the 4 1/2-liter, the 6 1/2-liter, the Speed Six, the 8-liter, the supercharged 4 1/2, and finally the subdued 4-liter.
The 6 1/2-liter Bentley was introduced in 1926, but work soon began on an upgraded version with increased horsepower to handle heavier coachwork, and to become more competitive on the racing circuit. The original 6 1/2-liter Bentley was powered by a 6,597-cc engine with a single Smith’s five-jet carburetor.
The upgraded 6 1/2 became known as the “Speed Six,” with a higher compression ratio. The OHC inline six had four-valve heads, twin S.U. carburetors, Bosch magneto, Delco coil dual ignition, and a four-speed transmission. The front of the chassis was supported by a solid axle and leaf springs, and the rear suspension via live axle and semi-elliptic rear springs.
The four-wheel mechanical drum brake system with Dewandre servo assist is surprisingly effective at bringing this massive chassis to a smart stop. The system is designed to stop a car at speed, so it’s still relatively easy to take out the back wall of your garage. However, when braking from a speed of 70+ mph, it stops quite nicely.
SB2773 was delivered in December 1929 to Forrest Lycett, one of the founders of the still-active Bentley Drivers Club. In an excerpt from the Bentley Drivers Club Review, published in the Bentley Bedside Book, Lycett recalled, “It was in Spain on the Speed Six where I first attained a genuine 100-mph on a public highway.”
Lycett’s Speed Six was powered with the new single-port 180-hp engine, with a five-gallon oil sump. It was fitted with a four-seat touring body by Cadogan, and unlike most Vintage Bentleys, this example has retained not only its engine, but also its original one-off coachwork. Three Speed Six Bentleys carried Cadogan coachwork; the other two were closed saloons.
Registered as UW 6686, this 1929 Speed Six Cadogan 4-Seater was restored in the late 1980s in the U.K. In 1992, it was brought to the U.S. and received the CCCA National First Prize in 1994. Subsequent awards include a CCCA Senior award in 1995, and first place at the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National Meet in 1997.
A complete mechanical rebuild was then performed by Robert Jefferson. This well-traveled Bentley was driven on the 2004 tour from Seattle to Monterey, and in 2005 it was driven to Connecticut for the Bentley Drivers Club/RROC meet, where it again received a first place award in the touring class.