Few cars lend themselves so well to the creation of modified and fast special tourers as the Bentley Mark VI, and no exponent of such modification is more celebrated than Syd Lawrence. Syd Lawrence was a talented engineer whose apprenticeship with General Motors was disrupted by World War One. He subsequently worked for Bentley Motors under Nobby Clark and Anzani before setting-up on his own at premises in Southgate, North London. Well known in Bentley circles, Lawrence’s workshop soon became a Mecca for those owners who had been previously struggling to keep their cars running on a diminishing stock of original parts.
Chassis B35KL was supplied new in March 1951 as a 4 ½ litre Standard Steel Saloon to a Mr P.J. Offenheimer of Holborn Viaduct, London.
Later, this fabulous example is believed to have become the first Special modified by Lawrence around a Mark VI chassis. Known as “SLO1” (being Syd Lawrence’s original prototype MkVI chassis) the Special travelled to its next owner, a Mr. Trotter in Beverley Hills California, for many years before being repatriated in the late 1980s and into the ownership of well-known British Bentley collector John Donner.
Donner embarked upon a no-expenses spared project to develop a comfortable and fast tourer to be known as ‘The Millennium Bentley’. The Special body was removed (later fitted onto another documented Special “BDP 218”) and the chassis was stripped and rebuilt by Eric Healey of well-known Healey Brothers of Irthlingborough in Northamptonshire. The engine was rebuilt, as were the gearbox and running gear. Pleasingly, and unlike many specials, period Derby Bentley splined knock-on wire wheels were supplied by Bob Peterson, which really add to the period feel of the Mark VI. Inspired by the iconic SS100 sports cars of the 1930s, a brand new alloy body was built by Nostalgia Cars of Honiton in Devon, a well-respected restorer and coachbuilder renowned for their evocations of 1950s Jaguar sportscars.
Unfortunately John Donner passed away during the extensive build, and it fell to the family to have the car completed, before ownership passed to the cousin of well-known enthusiast Earl of March, who drove the car for under 2000 miles in 10 years of ownership. In more recent times the car has been repainted, the gearbox and brakes overhauled, and period Marchall headlamps with matching side lamps fitted. The Special is recorded in Ray Robert’s standard work, ‘Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys (pages 255/256). As a result of all this hard work the car won the Patina Category in the Bentley Driver’s Club Concours in 2012.
In the current ownership the car has enjoyed a refresh by Hillier Hill, and a rev. counter has been fitted, as have a new tonneau and hood in black double duck.
Finished in Verdant Green (the colour of the 2001 Bentley Le Mans EXP8 car) with a tan leather interior, and offered with a substantial history file, this is truly an elegant and exhilarating car to be driven and enjoyed to the full. Possibly finest MKVI Special on the market today.