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The feeling of driving a brand new 92-year-old Bentley Blower

“Vivid” doesn’t even begin to describe this; “damn” neither. The throttle is pinned to the firewall, the hands behind the glass in the 10 dashboard dials are twitching and dancing, the turbocharger gauge is nailed to the locking pin, and the throttle is green bold is shivering with the ripples of concrete strips. Think World War II aircraft over the North Atlantic – I even stuffed a picture of my wife in my bra pocket this morning…

I would grin, but the freezing cold wind on the leather bonnet makes me wince like rictus. There’s a lot to do in this 92-year-old supercharger Bentley when its fishtail tailpipe blows up seals’ indifference in an unremarkable shoal supercar flutter in its awakening; at 100 mph, it is maneuvering at its highest peak.

They don’t make them the way they used to, and I used to think that was certainly true of this car: Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin’s Bentley Blowing Car. This was his favorite Blowers of the five Blowers built at the Welwyn mill between 1929 and 1930. It was banked by Dorothy Paget, the Whitney family heiress and horse owner. racers and gamblers serial operator.

How famous? This car, called Number Two, was imported in the 1930s Le Mans 24 hour race. Birkin drove it like a bat out of hell in the early stages of the race with the tacit approval of the Bentley factory, which has joined a fleet of “6 1/2 liter” naturally aspirated cars and is looking for for the fourth Le in a row. Mans win and fifth overall win for the brand.

They used the Birkin and this lovely old machine as a “hare”, testing its potential and reliability. Mercedes-Benz operating supercharged, 7-liter SSK driven by Rudolf ‘Rudi’ Caracciola (ironically Paget also owns one of these rare and exotic beasts). The agile and courageous Birkin was sent out to poke a stick at the German trump card – it was like poking a wasp’s nest. Twice Birkin passed Caracciola at more than 120 mph at the end of the leg Mulsanne/ Hunaudieres straight, with one wheel on the grass and the rear tire down to its tarp. By all accounts Caracciola was startled simply because he couldn’t believe that anyone would actually surpass him.

Legend has it that in pursuit of Birkin, Rudi Caracciola damaged the engine by using too much of a supercharger, the turbocharger could be interrupted, but the truth is more nuanced. Birkin driving his The car was too difficult, so he had a puncture twice and had to go down the pit early. He continued his attack on Mercedesbut the other You Finally took up the challenge. After a fierce battle at night, the Mercedes’ lights started flashing and died when a wire was lost from the engine and flattened. the battery, in the 85th lap, the big car finally had to be retired. Two Blower Bentleys, including the Birkin, were also retired due to engine problems, and at teatime the next day it was Woolf Barnato / Glen Kidston’s own 6 1/2 liter Bentley 6 1/2 liter won. flagship for Bentley’s fifth Le Mans win.

So Birkin made the difference? Almost certainly, though perhaps not as many stories will have it.

What a silk thread. It inspired Ian Fleming so much that he gave his super spy hero James Bond a Blower Bentley in his books. Complete with elephant breath gray, Bond rammed his Blower during an ambush by villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1955). In more modern times, Bentley likes to call one of the color gray elephant’s breath in tribute, but be warned that American buyers might think it’s actually painted with real elephants.

Bluemels steering wheel jerks when Birkin’s Quixotic steed is registered UU5872 as…

Stop! Let’s stop this now…

This car may look like a Birkin’s Blower, but it’s actually a modern clone. A copy. A forgery. It’s the engineering prototype for a £1.5 million batch of 12 ‘sequels’ cars built by VW-owned Bentley Motors, from the original Number Two Birkin Blower pictured above in all its glory. the true glory it possesses.

Controversial? You betcha. In May 2020, a group of senior owners of some of the original 55 Blower Bentleys signed a letter of protest addressed to Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark. You see, back in the 1930s, the Bentley factory built another 50 Blowers to comply with the racing rules of the time.

“We ask that you please do not waste time, money, energy and the reputation of the Bentley brand on a batch of 12 recently announced facsimile cars that are intended only to dilute the Special admiration and awe can only come from seeing and receiving genuine items. To do otherwise would ruin a glorious history,” wrote signatories including Ralph Lauren, Lord Bamford, Peter Livanos, Evert Louwman and William ‘Chip’ Connor.

It makes no difference. Bentley has sold all 12 units and a fruitful new/used car program has commenced managed by Ben Linde, the glamorous project manager (pictured below, left, with me).

He explained to me that they removed hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead from the construction and introduced some updates such as electricity Fuel pump and better placement for the rear fuel tank. All in all, though, this is a replica of the car Birkin passed at Le Mans on June 21, 1930, complete with hastily extended headlights and a bonnet full of holes to escape the terrible heat from the enhanced monobloc. Benzene-powered engine. It could be said to be even better, because when they digitally mapped the original’s chassis, they noticed it was kinked, front and rear from long-forgotten shunts.

Bentley calls it a ‘sequel car’, which has become the nomenclature adopted by car manufacturers as they tap into the latter category and produce versions of their most famous models. Jaguar (with recreations of the lightweight C-Type, D-Type, XKSS and E-Type) and Aston Martin (DB4 GT, DB4 GT Zagato and DB5 by James Bond) used the term. Classic Car dealer tend to use the term “tool room copy”.

Either way, starting this car is something of a chore; click on the power and ignition, turn on both igniter switches, turn on the fuel pump, press the big black wooden start button and with a soft hiss the flame burns brightly and a jet of gray hydrocarbon blows back through the tonneau.

Push down on the heavy clutch, slide the blade shifter forward, and feel the gears move the grid reluctantly. You need to double the clutch up and down the four-speed box to avoid resistance. The center throttle isn’t the last word in the process, and those with big feet need to crank the throttle with the edge of their foot. Unlike the original, which is limited in age, this car has full power, 245 hp at 3,200 rpm. It leaps out of a stalemate, like a horse drawn on vacation, with the roar of the exhaust and the turbocharger groaning. It’s hard to guess, but I think if you’re not careful with the clutch lining it will probably manage to go from 0 to 60 mph in about 12 seconds.

Driving any classic Bentley is an exercise for the shoulders and upper arms, and a physical experiment unlike anything you’ll come across anywhere else. There’s no money brake; central throttle with clutch on the left and brake on the far right; high driving position; weight of 1.8 tons, and finally a Bentley Type D transmission, a device completely free of any kind of synchronicity and blessed with the temperament and biting of a Jack terrier. Russell is old.

You spin on the nimble steering wheel at low speeds, and quickly learn to move the car before turning. Accelerate and it’s lighter and has a lovely balance, but there’s still an undeniable impression of a running train. Up to the third and Blower really started to move. It’s not the instant torque we’re used to in battery-powered cars, but a fierce jolt in the rear. In the cold weather of the test day, the narrow, 21-inch Blockley tires took a while to warm up, and with a full tank in the back, the old/new Bentley was still fun. The point is knowing at what point the happy tail turns into a happy spiral.

So, who bought these dozens of copies? Linde says that most new owners are familiar with classic cars, but one in particular has only ever owned modern exotic cars. So he’ll have to get used to climbing from the passenger side, being careful not to slip the gear lever up his trouser leg, getting oil stains on his fashion shoes from the drip indicators on the top. the dashboard leaks, or his brain freezes at high speed in a sub-zero explosion.

“We’re giving him a driving lesson,” said Linde, grinning. “We have also republished the original driving handbook and we are managing expectations from the more used books to the modern; These are highly maintained vehicles. ”

And while this car is superbly designed, it overcomes the odds of modern crash safety and emissions, which means they will never be allowed to go out into public, which is the essence of enjoying these remarkable machines. The other thing is that the £1.5 million purchase price will buy you a tired 4 and a half liter Bentley and professional restoration/conversion can turn it into a Birkin replica, which you can then drive on public road.

So why on earth spend the equivalent of $1.97 million on a car you can’t drive on the road? Heaven knows, maybe that’s God’s way of telling you you have too much money. Either way, Bentley will make money from these cars, although not as much as they would like because the costs are so high. It is still enough that it is planning a series of 6 1/2 liter “sequel” cars.

Should we be glad Bentley did it? I’m just on the yes side. It’s a huge boost to the industry that specializes in serving existing owners (Bentley generously commends these trademark professionals) and it also shows a resilient spirit and a skill set. , especially at Bentley’s Mulliner Division, which decorated these cars.

However, not everyone agrees, as one owner put it: “It’s a measure of how bad the current is car design at Crewe. ”

Bentley needs to tread carefully here. These cars are an incredible tribute to Birkin’s skill and fortitude, but they’re also something of a pantomime curse; owns one of the most desirable cars in the world, but is not allowed to drive it on the road.

Not sure about you, but I think I find that almost overwhelming.

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