1951 BENTLEY MKVI LightweightView vehicle description
The Bentley Mk VI was prototyped in 1939 and refined throughout the war years to go in sale at last in 1946 and remained in production until 1952 when 5201 had been built.
Although a standard form, it was both Rolls Royce’s first all steel bodied car and the first model available as a factory finished vehicle ready for the customer to drive away, many were still sold as a rolling chassis to be completed by the coach builder of the client's choice.
The Mulliner lightweight was clad in aluminium coachwork so significantly lighter than standard, and although sharing the same 4257cc or 4 1/4 litre straight 6 F head engine, producing ‘Sufficient’ power, performance was noticeably enhanced. The claimed top speed was 94mph, impressive for a 2-ton behemoth, but whilst in Africa this car was claimed to have topped ‘the ton’, with the driver’s son watching the speedo for the magic 100mph!
The cars came with a 4 speed all synchromesh manual gearbox, the lever mounted to the right of the driver's seat, or column mounted on LHD versions.
The chassis is coil sprung in the front and leaf sprung in the rear, with hydraulically adjustable rear dampers, the ride controlled by a switch on the steering wheel.
This Bentley MkVI has had a life of adventures that would put the boldest of explorers to shame but thanks to many years of care and some recent restoration work looks utterly splendid.
The car started life living in Essex yet around the early 60s it was spotted by a Bentley expert and bought passed into the possession of a career diplomat. It was a time when Foreign Office Commissioners were expected to drive British when abroad, so the MkVI traveled to East Africa. He awaited the car in the port of Dar-es-Salaam; however, the ship was diverted to Mtwara and then Mombasa in Kenya. The drive back was eventful as the road ran out several hundred miles short and the Bentley negotiated bush tracks and dry river bed without complaint.
Over the next few years, it was transport for several big game tours, out running charging elephants and photographing lions from the sunroof.
It was in Africa the colour changed from blue over grey to black over yellow and gained the nickname ‘the Wasp’.
Following an engine rebuild at 118,000 miles back in England, it was driven and shipped to a new posting in Cyprus. It's unclear, but likely that the car followed to later postings in Cameroon, Equador, Spain and Chile.
Between 1990 and 2010 the Lightweight lived in New York City before finally returning to the UK.
The current owner has only had the car around 18 months in his collection of exceptional Bentleys; despite loving the car, he has decided that he now has too many and ‘The (Blue) Wasp’ deserves a new home where it is used in the way those at Crewe intended.
On the Outside
This is a truly imposing machine with an awe-inspiring presence. Thanks to a 2019 full bare metal, wings off re-spray in beautiful two tone sparkling metallic blue and silver grey, the car almost glows in the sun. The colours are modern Bentley tones but take it closer to the original shades after it’s stint in the ‘Wasp’ colourway. The paintwork is flawless and walking around looking for imperfections will bring up a very short list. All we could see were tiny marks from the boot latch and very little else. When the car was stripped there was little to rectify, just an old repair to a damaged wing from many years ago which was re-done.
The chrome work is exceptional and satin silver parts such as bumpers and hubcaps are also flawless.
The car wears recent matching Bridgestone radial tyres with tall walls, narrow width and deep tread.
Turn signals have been wisely added on top of the bumper corners; they look a little modern but are a valuable safety addition.
On the Inside
Open the doors - rear hinged in the back, and you are greeted by chrome tags from builder H.J. Mulliner and dealer Jack Olding. In 2016, whilst in the care of the previous owner, the interior was re-trimmed in pewter coloured Scottish hide at a cost of £6,000; with few miles driven since then it remains looking superb and undamaged and the well-padded seats are very comfortable. The headlining was also done in matching mohair and looks beautiful, yet is sagging slightly over the rear seat.
The carpets are older and although generally in good condition have worn in a couple of spots, notably where the drivers foot scuffs the side when climbing in and out and the piped edging has age related cracks.
The wood dash and door cappings are original, not worn or cracked, with just a pleasant patina of age.
The details are interesting and beautiful; the interior light lenses are art-works in themselves, there are tray tables in the seat backs and ash trays in the door caps of the rear doors and the driver's window has a one-pull action. One of the chrome pull handles on the rear seat arm has detached but otherwise all is present.
The cars hidden underside is as impressive as the visible topside. The chassis is coated in fresh black underseal and the leather gaiters visible from peering under are in good condition.
Lift either side of the long centrally split bonnet and you are greeted with an engine which is virtually mirror finished and surrounded by pristine bulkhead and inner wings.
The boot is in fine shape, as expected, and the spare tyre has new looking tread and the tools are concealed in a compartment under the floor, possibly the only corner of the car which has escaped being painted or polished.
The recent history with the car is extensive, many small items are covered as well as the big-ticket interior work, there aren’t receipts for the exterior but the quality is plain to see as is how fresh it is.
Older history is perhaps anecdotal and there are no service records from its time abroad as much was done by the then owner who sounds like he was very hands on, but the fascinating history of his time with the car up to 1975 makes great reading.
As it is almost 70 years old it is MOT exempt and drives perfectly but we would always advise obtaining a test for your own peace of mind and safety.
What We Think
This car is worth buying for the stories alone, add in the superb condition, and then the lightweight aluminium bodywork and this has to be the most desirable MK VI on the market today. This is a truly stunning example of an already imposing car and should command a value of £29,000 – 39,000.
Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the seller in Pulborough; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
This vehicle is not with us at The Market’s HQ near Abingdon, which means we have had to rely on the owner’s description of it, in conjunction with the photographs you see here, to compile the listing.
With this in mind, we would encourage potential bidders to contact the owner themselves and arrange to view the car in person, or to arrange a dedicated video call in which they can view the car virtually and ask questions.
If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and an array of regional providers for transporting it.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.
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