November 1, 2005 It reads like a story from a “Boys Own Annual.” In 1930, devilishly handsome and independently wealthy playboy and international motor racer Woolf Barnato accepted a bet whilst cruising on the French Riviera to race the fabled "Blue Train" to London. "Le Train Bleue" was a national symbol of technological prowess for the French, being the quickest, most luxurious transport available at the time, traveling from Cannes to Calais, crossing the English Channel by ferry to its final destination at London's Victoria station. Barnato won the race in his custom 6.5 litre Bentley Speed Six, pulling up outside his London club four minutes before the train reached Calais, having had to cross France on two lane public roads and the ferry to Dover into the bargain. The details of the story follow, but the gist is that Bentley Motors and its coach building division Mulliner are celebrating the anniversary with a powerful, distinctive and luxurious grand tourer based on its flagship four-door saloon: the Arnage Blue Train Series.
Three quarters of a century is a long time in any field of endeavour, but as the following story illustrates, the world had very different values way back then.
Woolf Barnato's father was Barney Barnato who, with Cecil Rhodes, became fabulously wealthy by developing the Kimberly diamond mines in South Africa. While sailing home to England, Barney Barnato mysteriously disappeared overboard. His son Woolf became a millionaire at two years of age and lived a fabulous life of devil-may-care adventure, devoting his youth to wine, women, song and motor racing while his enormous wealth grew thanks to a successful career as a financier. Phillip Powell of About Classic Cars tells the story in detail.
Barnato’s privileged position no doubt assisted his motor racing career, but it must be said that three wins in the Le Mans 24 Hour race underline his abilities as an elite driver with a distinguished place in automotive history beyond the folklore of the Blue Train Race.
It’s now difficult to sort fact from fiction, though the UltimateCarPage reports - “To commemorate this event (his win over the Blue Train), he nick-named the Speed Six, that he took delivery of a couple weeks later, 'Blue Train Special'. Gurney Nutting was responsible for the design of the lowline fastback. Inside there was room for three people, with the rear seat fitted sideways because of the low roof. Extra equipment installed for Barnato included a cocktail cabinet.”
In specification, the Blue Train Series Arnage features the 450bhp version of Bentley’s remarkable 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine, allied to the chassis and suspension set-up of the refined and supple Arnage R. With a 0-60mph acceleration of 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 168mph the Blue Train Series Arnage has the performance to satisfy the most demanding of drivers. A mountainous 645lb ft of torque (875Nm) available at 3250rpm means that the Bentley’s performance is instantly accessible.
Externally, the Arnage Blue Train Series is distinguished by its 19” seven-spoke alloy wheels, sunroof, chrome radiator shell, chrome mirror caps and quadruple exhaust tailpipes. Both front and rear bumpers are designed specifically for the Arnage Blue Train Series, with stainless steel matrix mesh to the front bumper cooling ducts. In homage to the slatted bonnet of the original ‘Blue Train’ Bentley Speed Six, Bentley’s design team has specified vertical slatted vents, painted in body colour, behind the trailing edge of the front wheel arches.
The Blue Train Arnage
The Blue Train Arnage will carry the black winged ‘B’ inside and out, as the distinguishing mark of the most powerful and performance-focused Bentleys, and will also have Blue Train badging on the front wing and door aperture treadplates. A ‘privacy’ rear backlight may also be specified, another feature which echoes the coachwork of Barnato’s 1930s coupé.
The interior is equally distinctive. All instrument and dial faces are black, and the centre console features a subtle Bentley Blue Train badge. Mulliner’s meticulous craftsmanship is evident in the veneer waistrails, which feature chrome inlay with winged ‘B’ badges, and the ‘Blue Train’ embroidered headrests, in a coordinating thread colour. Other special elements of the interior specification are the wood and hide steering wheel, additional wood veneer panels on the doors and contrast piping on the seats.
A limited number of the Blue Train Series will be produced, the majority being intended for the USA, and all orders have already been filled.
“I am delighted with the Arnage Blue Train Series,” said Derek Davies, Brand Director, Arnage and Mulliner, “The engineers and craftsmen of Bentley Mulliner have created an exceptionally desirable car, and a fitting tribute to Woolf Barnato's amazing achievement. In doing so, Bentley Mulliner has created another unique chapter to the Bentley story.”
Earlier this month, the first model in the series joined the original ‘Blue Train’ Speed Six, now owned by Bentley enthusiasts Bruce and Jolene McCaw, along with other historically significant Bentley cars in a 75th Anniversary tour from Cannes to London, following Barnato’s original route. Participants enjoyed a more leisured approach to the journey than that taken by Woolf Barnato, with attractions such as wine-tasting, overnight stops and gastronomic meals at chateaux en route.