This Bentley Mark VI “Hemi V8” Special is the only one of its kind in the world. It’s a one-off British hot rod of sorts based on a modified Mark VI with power provided by the mighty Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 Hemi V8.
In Britain there’s a long tradition of building “Bentley Specials,” they typically start out with a shortened and lowered Bentley chassis which is then fitted with an uprated engine, transmission, and sleek 1930s motorsport inspired bodywork.
Fast Facts – The Bentley Mark VI “Hemi V8” Special
- This car was built over a period of years in two distinct stages, it’s called the Bentley Mark VI “Hemi V8” Special and it started life as a Bentley Mark VI Standard Steel Saloon from 1949.
- In the late 1970s it was acquired by experienced Bentley Special builder John Edwin Thomas of Hartfield, Sussex. Thomas shortened and lowered the chassis and then fitted the Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 liter V8.
- Before he was able to finish the car he suffered from a heart attack, unfortunately this meant he was unable to complete the car (though he had completed two Bentley Specials prior) and so he offered the car for sale.
- It was bought by Tim Trevithick who then completed the car, a process that included adding the all-new alloy bodywork. Once finished the car proved to have surprisingly good handling, and it’s even been called a “a Lotus 7 on steroids.” High praise indeed.
The Bentley Mark VI
When you first see a Bentley Mark VI in all of its stately proportions, high-performance isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. The Mark VI is now often used as a wedding car along with its Rolls-Royce stablemate the Silver Wraith, and what they lack in outright speed they make up for with elegance, dignity, and opulence.
Due to the relatively high production numbers of the Bentley Mark VI, with over 5,200 produced between 1946 and 1952, their values have remained relatively sensible and as a result they have become a popular target for conversion into “Bentley Specials.”
For the uninitiated, a Bentley Special is a car that started life as a Bentley, often a Mark VI, that then has its chassis shortened and lowered. A new more sporting body is usually fitted on top, possibly influenced by the Bentley Le Mans racers of the 1920s and 1930s, and new engines and transmissions are frequently fitted for a more sporting driving experience.
In essence, Bentley Specials are hot rods for the kind of people who fly in that part of the plane behind the cockpit but in front of all the riff raff, and are on a first name basis with all the Ritz-Carlton concierges from London to Los Angeles.
When delivered to customers most of the Bentley Mark VIs that were made were fitted with steel coachwork with four doors, and they were powered by either the 4.3 or 4.6 liter straight-six sending power to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual gearbox.
The Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 V8
The Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 V8 engine is perhaps not as well known as it should be. It was designed by legendary British engineer Edward Turner in two forms that look remarkably similar from the outside – the 2.5 V8 and the 4.5 V8.
The 2.5 V8 was produced in far higher numbers as it was fitted to both the Daimler SP250 sports car and the Daimler V8 250 four-door sedan. Surprisingly given the difference in displacement the external dimensions of the two engines are fairly close, the 4.5 is slightly wider, longer, and deeper.
Turner had made a name for himself designing motorcycle engines for Ariel and then Triumph earlier in his career, including the famous Ariel Square Four, the Triumph Speed Twin, the Triumph Thunderbird, and the Triumph T120 Bonneville.
In 1959 he designed the two automotive V8 engines for Daimler, using a very similar design for both engines, which included hemispherical combustion chambers and an overhead valve cylinder head design influenced by his earlier work on high-performance Triumph motorcycle engines.
The V8 has a 90º vee angle, an iron block with sandcast aluminum-alloy heads which contain two valves per cylinder actuated with pushrods from the camshaft which is located high in the block. The design of the engine has been praised by many over the years, including Jay Leno, however the fact that it was most famously fitted to the Daimler SP250 sports car – a vehicle that was not at all well-received – did dampen its reception somewhat.
The 4.5 liter version of the V8 was fitted to the Daimler Majestic Major, a large and luxurious four-door sedan with a curb weight north of 4,000 lbs. The engine was said to produce 220 bhp and 283 lb ft of torque however this has been challenged in intervening years as the Daimler dynamometer was somewhat antiquated and was unable to produce readings above 220 bhp.
Whatever the actual power of the engine was it was prodigious, it was capable of propelling the hefty Daimler Majestic Major to a top speed of 120 mph, almost unheard of in such a vehicle at the time, and it gave the car performance that could rival many sports cars of the era.
The Bentley Mark VI “Hemi V8” Special Shown Here
The car you see here is one of the faster Bentley Specials that we’ve come across in recent memory, thanks in no small part to its lightweight aluminum alloy body and the no-nonsense Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 V8 that’s sitting under the hood.
We don’t often see this engine chosen for cars like this, not because it would be unsuitable but because it’s relatively rare, and it was never originally offered with a manual transmission. This means that mating one to a manual box requires a custom sandcast bell housing and a slew of other bespoke parts that simply make it too hard for most.
Fortunately one man who was capable of the task was British engineer John Edwin Thomas of Hartfield, Sussex. Thomas had built two Bentley Specials before this one and he’d become somewhat of an expert. He purchased a Bentley Mark VI and removed the body from the chassis, then shortened and lowered the chassis for more sporting proportions.
The original engine and transmission was removed and replaced with a Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 V8 which was mated to a Jaguar 4-speed manual transmission which sends power back to the live axle rear end. Unfortunately a non-fatal heart attack sidelined Thomas, so he sold the incomplete car to Tim Trevithick who completed the job and added an attractive aluminum body.
After completing it and enjoying it for a time Trevithick sold the car along to Russell Mishcon whose father Victor co-founded the law firm Mishcon de Reya, who later represented Princess Diana amongst many other high-profile clients.
The car has been owned by a small number of people since and it’s been very well taken care of, with many tens of thousands of dollars spent to keep it at its current level. It’s now being offered for sale by H&H Classics with a guide price of £50,000 – £60,000 which works out to approximately $65,000 – $78,000 USD.
If you’d like to read more about the car or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of H&H Classics.
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