Racing driver and “Bentley Boy” Sir Tim Birkin figured out that more power can be extracted from the Bentley 4½ Litre by adding a roots-type supercharger instead of increasing the engine displacement. As a result, the power was up from 130 bhp to 240 bhp in race tune. He even persuaded Bentley’s then Chairman Woolf Barnato, also a “Bentley Boy”, to produce 55 supercharged 4½-litre Bentleys, with 5 allocated for racing.
Only 4 original ‘Team Blowers’ were built for racing by Birkin, in the late 1920s. Birkin’s Team Car No. 2, registration UU 5872, made its debut at the 1930 Irish Grand Prix with Bernard Rubin at the wheel, while Birkin drove Team Car No. 1, UU 5871. Rubin finished 8th and Birkin 3rd. Rubin was also at the wheel of UU 5872 in August at the Ulster TT, where he rolled the car and was lucky to escape without injury.
Following Rubin’s crash, UU 5872 was rebuilt with a new chassis and bodywork in time for the Brooklands Double Twelve race in May 1930. Tim Birkin and Jean Chassagne shared the driving until a cracked chassis frame forced their (temporary) retirement.
For the 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans, Birkin’s team entered three Blowers, headed by Birkin himself in the Team car No. 2. UU 5872’s final team outing was the Brooklands 500 race in October 1930, when Dr. Dudley Benjafield and Eddie Hall drove it to second place at an average speed of 112.12 mph (180 km/h).
By May 1931, UU 5872 and the other remaining Blowers were put on sale with each one guaranteed to reach 125 mph (201 km/h) in racing trim. However, the car No. 2 was restored in the 1960s and has been owned by Bentley Motors since 2000.
As part of Bentley’s 100 year celebrations, Mulliner team will reverse engineer Birkin’s car to create 12 new Blowers. The car will be disassembled to its individual components before each part is catalogued and scanned in 3D to create a digital model of the entire car. Using the original 1920s moulds and tooling jigs, and an array of traditional hand tools alongside the latest manufacturing technology, 12 sets of parts will then be created, before Bentley’s skilled technicians assemble the new Blowers.
Bentley said that the 12 continuations will be identical wherever possible to the original – mechanically, aesthetically and spiritually – with only minimal hidden changes dictated by modern safety concerns. The original car will then be reassembled, with the heritage team to complete a detailed inspection and mechanical restoration if required.
The new Continuation Series cars will feature a 4,398 cc 4-cylinder 16-valve engine with an aluminium crankcase with cast iron cylinder liners and non-detachable cast-iron cylinder head. The supercharger will be an exact replica of the Amherst Villiers Mk IV roots-type supercharger, helping the 4½ engine to develop 240 bhp at 4,200 rpm.
The car’s structure will be a pressed steel frame, with half-elliptic leaf spring suspension with copies of Bentley & Draper dampers. Recreations of Bentley-Perrot 40 cm (17.75-inch) mechanical drum brakes and worm and sector steering complete the chassis.
Bentley said that it’ll take Mulliner approximately two years of meticulous work to complete the 12-car series. Prices will be shared with the applicants. If you remember, a piece of Birkin’s car was used on the special edition Bentley Continental GT No. 9.
As we continue to commemorate 100 years of Bentley, we are combining a look to our past with the very latest digital technologies and techniques to create something truly extraordinary. The four Team Blowers are the most valuable Bentleys in the world, and we know there is demand for genuine recreations that can be used, enjoyed and loved without risk to the prized originals. – Adrian Hallmark, Chairman and Chief Executive, Bentley
“The twelve new Blowers will not only be an homage to our heritage, they will be a celebration of the outstanding skills of our Mulliner craftspeople. This is a new challenge for Bentley, but with the incredible success of the recent restoration of our 1939 one-of-one Corniche, we wanted to go one step further and make something even more special. Twelve lucky customers will soon be able to own a unique tribute to Bentley’s history,” added Adrian.