REVIEW: Spark Bentley Speed Six LeMans Winner 1930 (and 1929) •

REVIEW: Spark Bentley Speed Six LeMans Winner 1930 (and 1929)

It is well known that Bentley won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race many times back in the day when fame for endurance counted in sales because motorcars were still somewhat unreliable. Many people wrongly associate the 1930 victory with the more famous and more spectacular Blower Bentley. However, Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin´s supercharged Blowers (financed by Dorothy Paget) did not even finish the race, dramatically battling Rudolf Caracciola in his supercharged Mercedes SSK that also failed to cross the finishing line. W.O. Bentley had always been opposed to supercharging an engine and famously maintained that if you wanted more power, you needed more displacement. So instead of the spectacularly howling supercharged Blowers of the Birkin/Paget team, Woolf Barnato, Chairman of Bentley Motors at the time, took the victory in the same naturally aspirated 6 ½ litres Speed Six that had already taken the Le Mans victory for the Bentley works team in 1929, bearing the # 1 and therefore nicknamed “Old Number One” in 1930 when it crossed the finishing line now marked as  #4. Instead of Birkin, who had shared “Old Number One´s” 1929 victory because the Blower wasn´t ready then, Barnato was co-piloted by Glen Kidston in what was Bentley´s last Le Mans race in the 20th century.

So the model that Spark gives us here in 1:18 sealed resin (as usual for them) represents the 1930 LeMans winner, but is also the 1929 LeMans winner, thus killing two birds with one stone. Is the model a winner, too?

Now, judgements on how accurately the model replicates the original car are rather difficult because the original race car hasn´t survived and only black&white photos and film coverage exist. Spark seems to have modelled the thing on a 1:1 “replica” so that our 1:18 scale is best compared to pictures of that:

The body of the racer is in British Racing Green, partially in matte, partially in a shiny finish. Spark has finely replicated the protective mesh on the giant radiator and the huge headlamps so delicately that you would not want and touch those. The Bentley wings on the shiny chrome radiator shell are very well done and the coolant quick release filler cap even finer than the Minichamps Blower and Gurney Nutting Coupe. The mudguards on the wheel and particularly the finer parts front of the radiator look a bit plasticky, toyish and lacking refinement because they are moulded from one piece instead of being separate pieces like on the old Minichamps.

The wire wheels are as fine as on the Minichamps Blower, the tyre tread very different from the Blower, but remarkably absolutely true to the 1:1 replica´s and historic photographs of the LeMans winning car. A little bit of neglect seems to be on the knock-on-off wheel nuts in that the “wings” are simply as green as the wheels instead of black and the centre just around the chrome cap, not a poly-angular nut-shape.

The bonnet´s sides convincingly achieve the effect of open louvres, while I doubt that they are. The bonnet straps and buckles, however, although the 1:1 aren´t very rugged either, look a little too flat and clean, especially in comparison to the Blower on display right next to it that sports real leather.

The rear looks very true to the 1:1, again including the toyish dominance of green, although the mesh protecting the gas tank lacks depth and seems more like the tank´s own structure than an application to its outside. In contrast to the 1:1, the underside has not been protected by Spark and the fuel pipes on both sides at the top look a little too rigid as if they were a metal bar. The quick-release-filler-cap seems like a prime-suspect, too, but turns out to be not, to be fair. The rear lights look tiny, and so they are, but Spark has only replicated the rearward lenses of the lights, not the sides. What I like a lot is the exhaust pipe.

The outside leaver on the driver´s side is too flat and disappointing, just short of being moulded into the body like the armrest, and does not do the real handbrake sufficient justice IMO. That the only door on the passenger side does not open does not matter on this open race car. The instrument cluster on the dash has been stunningly replicated from the photograph of the 1:1, including the labels to explain the functions. Even the hands of the centre clock are in the absolute same position. The steering wheel may look toyishly uni-black and could only have been given more realism by adding the little lever at the wheel´s centre and the little push-button on one of the spokes. Down in the footwell, the wooden floor looks rugged, but a little too shiny, the gear lever has more refinement despite its awkward position than the handbrake lever, and you are wondering how Barnato must have threaded their legs past it to reach the pedals.

And that´s about it because as much as anyone would want to see the 6 ½ litre engine, there is no getting around the fact that a sealed model will deny you just that.

So, is this model as much of the winner as the real car was? Yes and no! To be fair, the real thing never got as much public attention as the Blower that always stood out more, so that´s something you cannot blame on the model. For a Bentley-  or LeMans-themed collection the model is a must-have because of its historical role as a legend, but any other collector may be forgiven to give this as a pass. The 1924 LeMans-winning Bentley by Tecnomodel looks more refined on photos, but is 60 Euros more expensive and IMO not as much of a legend. Yet, 160 Euros seem pretty steep for this Spark, particularly when compared to their own recent Donkervoort and something like the upcoming giant 1:18 MAN TGX diecast truck both costing the same money. Spark seems to exploit the Bentley legend here at least as much as Bentley themselves have always been doing.

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18 Responses to "REVIEW: Spark Bentley Speed Six LeMans Winner 1930 (and 1929)"

  1. DS Team says:

    Not perfect, though a decent effort. We must say the Bentley Speed Six is easy on the eyes, such a lovely piece of history.

  2. Jonathan Gould says:

    Lovely model. Would be nice to have seen a bit more texture to the leather on the body. But a good effort.

  3. Georg Hämel says:

    Does the model have the correct dimensions? Spark’s 1/43 model of this car features the Blower Bentley’s wheelbase and is to short for a Speed Six. They corrected it on their model of the 1929 car.

    I was going to get one of these but am not sure about the dimensions and very much dislike the thick green area around the cockpit which is far less pronounced on the real cars and while the protection grilles on the headlights are lovely, the detailing on the chassis (especially on the rear) is rather crude. Maybe the 1929 version will be better.

    The Tecnomodel 3-litre Bentleyis much worse than this, though. The details are crude and there are a lot of inaccuracies on the model.

    • Karsten says:

      Well, I can tell you the measurements of the model:
      length over all is 24cm, width including wheels 9cm, height (at top of the glass wind shield) 7.5 cm, wheelbase 17.3 cm. Next to the Minichamps Blower total length and wheelbase look the same.
      Now, whether that is historically correct is hard to say without the real car surviving. From my sources length would be 5mm too short, width 6mm too narrow and wheelbase 13mm too short. So the question is where to find reliable data on the original.

      As for the hope that this be corrected in a future release: I don´t think so, it´s the same car and Spark won´t go through retooling it completely when all they have to do is paint a different number on it. Actually, I´d feel cheated, especially if they carried on with it while knowing they got it wrong from their 1/43.

      Glad I haven´t bought the more expensive Tecnomodel. Have you got it and could write a review for us?

      • Georg Hämel says:

        So, as it was the case with the 1/43 this also is too short. Such a shame. Well, they completely retooled the 1/43 for the 1929 version so there is hope for a better model in 1/18 as well.

        I do not have the Tecomodel Bentley. 200 EURs are far above what I would be prepared to pay for such a disappointing model.

        • Karsten says:

          Well, this is sold out in most shops now in Germany and sold for 190 to over 200€ in Italy. If they really release a #1 1929 version, I´ll let other people buy first and find out whether or not it has been changed. For now, it joins a Bentley 1930 line-up alongside the Blower and Gurney Nutting. I have no regrets having bought this.

  4. Vitaliy D says:

    Ahh, guys, I’m looking at this model and crying… Please check out a similar (not exactly, but similar) model by Franklin Mint in 1:24 scale, made more than 10 years ago:
    Let me tell you that the parts of this Franklin Mint’s model that look like leather are either leather or leatherette in reality.
    And it is a fully openable and well-detailed 1:24 model.
    And now, in 2021, we are having this sealed resin model in 1:18 scale…

    • Karsten says:

      Well, the Franklin is a Blower once again, not a Speed Six. Minichamps made the ultimate Blower Bentley in 1:18 back then. But they don´t do models like this anymore. Looking at Norev´s Bugatti T35, they are no remedy either. The only remaining diecast manufacturer whose portfolio it would fit and from whom you could expect a good Bentley Speed Six is CMC. But they don´t seem to be into Bentleys.
      That´s how it is and I believe, this Spark will remain the only 1:18 model of this Bentley for a long, long time. Mine is now sandwiched between the Minichamps Blower and Gurney Nutting Speed Six.

  5. MLB says:

    Unfortunately there is a lot that is wrong with this model. It’s really the only game in town for a bigger than 1:43trd model of any of the Speed Six factory team cars, so I briefly considered buying one of these but there is just too much that’s wrong which would bother.

    • Karsten says:

      You´d be the last person I´d expect to consider this model, let alone buy one. You´re the man to fill the gap and make the perfect model yourself! Question is: Will you? (And if so, what would it cost if we´d want to buy it?)

      • MLB says:

        Well… I do like vintage Bentley’s, and a have a few in my model collection. The Speed Six Le Mans team cars are really very significant. I have the Minichamps Blower, so this would have gone well with that…IF… it were a better model. I’ve got so many future ltd. edition projects in the works now, I can’t see adding another. And being in the midst of scratch building a 1:12 model of “Old No. 2” a sister factory LM team car… I don’t think I would want to do any other Bentley after I finish it!! :-)

  6. flathead says:

    Great pics! Great review! Thanks!

  7. Pier Paolo says:

    Comparing the model with the photographs of the real car, it seems to me that the wheels have too thick spokes.

  8. Charlie says:

    I am stunned Spark missed something as simple as the number/roundel on the right hand side of the car! If they aren’t going to correct this, They are in for a world of hurt from collectors. Here’s the evidence:

    • David says:

      Ree the #4 missed from RHS of car. Spark have zero interest in correcting this and they claim Bentley asked for it not to be put on. Hard to believe if true! Hell of a lot of cash to be so wrong ….

    • Will de Boer says:

      As David says Spark has no interest in fixing such a simple issue. While I’ve had spare decals sent, I emailed one of the top guys at Spark and I found him very rude. He got very defensive when I tried to talk about why the number roundel was missing and claimed that Bentley requested that it stays off, as David says. This guy has lost my respect and the experience has left a very sour taste in my mouth.

  9. David says:

    Folks …. having read the excellent review I started looking ever closer and cannot find any period photo with a protection mesh over the left side headlight. It seems only the right side was protected. It’s still the best option for a 1930 winner in the collection though.

    • Karsten says:

      I´ve noticed the one-sided mesh (and the string weaved into the radiator on the same side on most photos), but as I cannot find a period photo showing the condition at the start of or prior to the race, I believe that it´s all damage sustained during the race. These features, however, could certainly be “modified” into the model by thoose who insist.

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