Amelia Island

10-11 March 2017

A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

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Lot 114

1931 Bentley "Blue Train" Special by Bob Petersen Engineering

  • Chassis no. 32TC
  • Serial no. B001BTS
  • Engine no. A7280
  • Supercharger no. BM 014

Sold for $440,000


180 bhp, 6,550 cc Bentley B81 inline eight-cylinder engine with Petersen Blower BM 014 supercharger and two SU carburetors, four-speed Bentley Mark VI manual transmission with heavy-duty Laycock de Normanville overdrive, solid front axle with leaf spring suspension, solid rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, and hydraulic front and mechanical rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 140.5 in.

  • One of five Petersen “Blue Train” Specials built; the only supercharged example
  • Beautifully crafted to authentic proportions; remarkable engineering and detailing
  • Constructed on a genuine pre-war Rolls-Royce chassis
  • Ultimate performance in the very best “Bentley Boys” tradition


The renowned gourmand and Rolls-Royce partisan Lucius Beebe once noted that “legend gathers thickly around restaurants . . . but never more so than around one frequented by the great and picturesque.” His statement could also well apply to cars, and when it comes to legends and cars beloved by the great and picturesque, few can compete with the “Blue Train” Bentley.

The original “Blue Train” was a 6½-Litre Speed Six, delivered to Woolf Barnato, well-known playboy millionaire, heir to a South African diamond and gold mine, and an international sportsman. As one of the original “Bentley Boys,” he became chairman of Bentley Motors and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in both 1928 and 1929. The legend of the Blue Train came from the famous French express train, which Barnato had succeeded in beating from Cannes to London in an earlier Speed Six. Not the feat, but the beauty made the “Blue Train” immortal; its streamlined fastback styling, carried out by J. Gurney Nutting to Barnato’s suggestions, gave it powerful proportions and made it arguably the most beautiful Speed Six ever built.

While the original “Blue Train” remains extant as part of one of the world’s finest collections, it is most definitely not available for sale, leaving enthusiasts to ponder alternatives. The obvious route is a recreation, of which various varieties have been produced over the years, by shops all over the world. None have the beautifully detailed quality and accuracy of the five “Blue Train” Specials, built by the renowned Bob Petersen Engineering of Beaworthy Mill, England.

The car offered here was constructed by Petersen Engineering at the commission and behest of Gary Wales, the renowned American “automotive mad scientist” known for his numerous creative and potent Bentley-based “specials.” True to Wales’ style, his car was specially built using as many genuine Rolls and Bentley components as possible, including a genuine Phantom I frame (number 32TC) and a Bentley B81 inline eight-cylinder engine. On the Wales car alone, among the five “Blue Train” Specials, this engine was adapted to fit a front-mounted supercharger, of Petersen’s own design but inspired by the famous Amherst Villiers “blower” used on the racing Bentleys of Barnato and others. Further, the engine was supplied with two SU carburetors, specially cast to a correct period design with a 2½-inch throat, as were used on supercharged racing cars of the era such as the ERA.

Mounted on a louvered frame, the body is finished in black with Weymann-style synthetic leather paneling, and dressed with Marchal headlamps, an off-center driving lamp, a black-lacquered stone guard, and exposed supercharger SU pots behind the badge bar, as well as a distinctive bulldog radiator mascot. The rear boasts period-correct “diver’s helmet” stopping lights and brake/trafficator lights. Each door handle is carved from a single piece of billet aluminum, in a lovely “winged B” motif, copied in the step plates. Under the hood as everywhere else is sparkling fine detail; in a collection of “jewel box” automobiles, none sparkles quite like this “Blue Train” Special.

The interior is equally lovely, with handsome veneered trim and a pair of capacious grey leather bucket seats, facing a turned aluminum dashboard carrying a plethora of instrumentation. “Cubbies” conceal pressed crystal decanters and glassware, true to the spirit of the original car and its rather colorful owner!

Mr. Wales sold his creation in 2006, and it joined Orin Smith’s wonderful Rolls-Royce and Bentley stable eight years later. It has remained well-maintained, to the same high standard as his other automobiles, and recorded 5,378 miles at the time of cataloguing. Mr. Smith subjected the car to some further improvements by the noted marque specialists Vantage Motorworks of Miami, meeting his tastes, including the impeccable crafting and installation of two pieces of beautiful fitted luggage. The “Blue Train” Special subsequently received the Grand Marshal Award at the 2015 Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, and was exhibited at the Ocean Reef Club Vintage Weekend that same year.

No one can deny that Gary Wales did not inspire the inimitable Bob Petersen to turn out a beautiful example of craftsmanship rooted in historical detail. It is great and picturesque, and the legend of a race from Cannes to London gathers thickly around it to this day.

Addendum

Please note that contrary to the printed catalogue, this car is fitted with two, not four, SU carburetors, and has a correct prewar Rolls-Royce front axle with leaf spring suspension. Further, it utilizes a Phantom I, not Phantom II, chassis.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more