Gear Head Tuesday – 1930 Bentley “Train Bleu” Recreation

Gear Head

Hat tip to “Shirl” for sending this!

This post is adapted from The Whole Car

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If you’re looking for a luxury car without the distractions of modern life, look no further. Who needs silly optional extras like GPS, seat heating or seatbelts, when you’ve got stuff like matching liquor cabinets with a decanter and crystal glasses?

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Besides that, you’re looking at a car with an extraordinary history. This recreation was built by Bob Petersen Engineering to commemorate an infamous race between a solid piece of British Engineering and a world famous train.

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We begin our story 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, of course, didn’t abide by this shameless blemish on their proud cultural heritage. However, playboy millionaire Captain Joel Woolf Babe Barnato (If you’re a millionaire you can have as many names as you wish apparently) was prepared to wager £100 that he could do it again in his Bentley Speed Six. Mind you, this is 1930 – the average yearly income in the UK was around £165 at the time, so it’s not like we’re talking small money here. The race would be run in reverse this time, presumably because Barnato wanted to celebrate his predicted victory with pals in London.

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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.

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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 unauthorised race. However, that didn’t prevent the car and the story from becoming legendary.

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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. If you’re interested in this recreation of a legend, check out the listing for RM’s upcoming sale at Amelia Island.

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Le Train Bleu

Le Train Bleu took its name from the blue sleeper cars (les wagons-lits) used on the train serving Calais on the coast of le Manche (the English Channel) to the Mediterranean. Le Train Bleu operated from 1886 until 2003. At Gare de Lyon in Paris, a restaurant taking its name from the train opened in 1901 and is in service to this day. When I lived in Paris, I ate at this restaurant twice. It was a grand experience!


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One Comment

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  1. Son Mark decided the car was for a traveling theapist. the bench at the rear was for the ‘short’ patient.

    A beautiful auto and train. THANKS! Lotta company here to read today. Good entertainment.


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