“I’ll be at my London Club before the Blue Train reaches Calais…..” were the famous words spoken before Woolf Barnato, Chairman of Bentley Motors set out in his H.J. Mulliner bodied Bentley Speed Six. He wagered 100 pounds sterling March 12, 1930 at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes France as he scoffed at a Rover claim of it being faster than “Le Train Bleu” express………………….he said “it was no big deal.”
The “Calais-Mediterranee Express” aka, The Blue Train was a swift French luxury passenger train that operated from 1886 until 2003. It was a popular mode of transportation by wealthy and famous patrons. The Blue Train shuttled passengers between The French Riviera and Calais.
March 13.1930, Barnato and friend Dale Bourne as relief driver started the trek. They battled heavy rain, lost time in Auxerre searching for a pre-arranged refueling stop, and got hit with heavy fog in Central France. They blew a tire after reaching Paris requiring the use of their only spare tire.
The unaffected Bentley raced non-stop over uneven pavement all night on the “Routes Nationales.” They reached the coast and sailed across the Channel on a packet steamer. The Bentley was parked outside “The Conservative Club” on prestigious St. James Street in London……four minutes before The Blue Train arrived in Calais.
There was controversy recently resolved about two Blue Train Bentleys. The story of Barnato’s trek, originally, referred to him driving a fastback coupe bodied by Gurney Nutting. The rakish coupe was a strange “2 plus 1” configuration with the rear seat facing sideways. It was nick named “Ménage a trois” coupe by it carrying 3 people. But it was in fact, the 1929 H.J. Mulliner bodied saloon that is certified as the true Blue Train Bentley. Barnato didn’t take delivery of the Gurney Nutting bodied Bentley until May 21, 1930.
For 2005 Mulliner commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Train run of the 1930’s. The Arnage “T” series badged as the infamous “Blue Train Bentley” was built at a restricted pace planned at 30 units, however, after 30 LHD vehicles were produced, 6 more were built as RHD. Most of the Blue Train Bentley Arnage “T” models were sold in the US.
The Blue Train can be identified by a chrome radiator shell, chrome mirror caps, 19” 7-spoke alloy wheels, and Arnage Blue Train Series front and rear bumpers. A privacy back light was available which shadowed the coachwork of Barnato’s original Speed Six coupe. Vertical slatted vents on the front lower quarter panels mock the slatted bonnet of the original Blue Train.
The Blue Train Arnage will carry the black winged flying “B” as the distinguishing mark of the most powerful and performance focused Bentleys. The Arnage Blue Train featured the 450 bhp 6.75 litre twin-turbo charged V8 that accelerated from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 168 mph.
A dash plaque proudly displays the Barnato success………………………
……………….More controversy? One source claims The Blue Train Arnage was built to acknowledge the 75th Anniversary of the victory at LeMans. Another source says the Arnage Blue Train commemorates Barnato’s adventure from Cannes to London.