Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans is among the most prestigious accomplishments in motorsports. Two decades ago, the Breitling-liveried Bentley Speed 8 finished two laps ahead of the pack, taking the marque’s sixth victory.
To commemorate the achievement and the 20 years since that victory, Bentley has produced a limited run of 48 Le Mans Collection Continentals. Each of the Collection’s 48 Continentals keeps the Speed 8 memory alive by incorporating a piece of the 2003 race winner in each of the new vehicles.
How is Bentley doing that? It’s as unique as it gets in automotive manufacturing. After the Speed 8’s 2003 Le Mans victory, Bentley removed the 32-valve V8 from its bay and cut 24 of the valves in two. Each of these 48 half-valves is now housed in the three-way rotating visual display in each of the 48 Le Mans Collection cars.
When in a standard Continental, the three-way display features a chronograph, outside temperature gauge, and compass. In Le Mans Collection vehicles, the compass is replaced with one of the 48 race-used valves featuring the chassis number of the vehicle and the 24 Hours of Le Mans logo to create a properly unique homage.
Bentley’s Le Mans Collection comes in two variations produced by its Mulliner division. The Blackline is reminiscent of the victorious Speed 8 in 2003. The Verdant green and black paint job is complemented by a white 7 on the distinctively British matrix grille, and white-painted side skirts.
The Styling specification boasts more exposed carbon fiber, as well as a pinstripe done in a color known to Bentley as Moonbeam. Both models wear 22-inch, 10-spoke wheels that shroud newly developed carbon ceramic brakes.
Opening the doors reveals they aren’t quite like the butterfly-hinged ones on the Le Mans-winning racer. Instead when the standard doors are opened, drivers are greeted with a 2003 Wreath welcome lamp. Seemingly endless luxury follows, beginning with ample dark gray Beluga hide that extends to the black Dynamica fabric seat faces.
Those seats are highlighted by contrasting red stitching which remains prominent throughout the cabin. Carbon fiber is in surplus and adds a dose of beautiful gray-black to the unique color scheme.
The inclusion of the historical half-valve in the Le Mans Collection Continental’s display isn’t the only nod to Bentley’s time at Le Mans. The manufacturer also points to its 100-year Le Mans history with a Speed 8 silhouette drawn on the door sills next to six wreaths for Bentley’s Le Mans victories.
Don’t be fooled by the creature comforts — the Le Mans Collection Continentals aren’t performance slouches. Bentley notes each vehicle is powered by the “most successful 12-cylinder engine of the modern era.” It’s a 650-horsepower, 6.0-liter W12 that delivers over 660 lbs/ft of torque to all four wheels.
Its 3.5-second 0-60 sprint and 208-mph top speed are eerily close to the Le Mans-winning Speed 8 despite the Continental’s boat-like size. Track performance is heightened with the addition of four-wheel steering, variable stability control, and a limited-slip differential. Bentley’s big size/big power formula hasn’t changed from their century-old Le Mans racers. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Bentley didn’t mention the production split between coupes and convertibles. Of the 48 that will be produced, it will likely be close to 50/50. Similarly, no price was given and it won’t be a surprise if the price soars beyond the $300,000 mark.
Mason Bloom is a reporter for TheWeeklyDriver.com. When he is not writing about industry news, new car reviews or covering live motorsport events, he’s a sophomore at Aptos High School on the California central coast.