Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin was a prominent, very keen and capable racing driver of the 1920s and early 1930s. He was one of W O Bentley’s ‘Bentley Boys’ which comprised a group of wealthy British men, both drivers and mechanics with a need for speed. They drove Bentley automobiles to victory in several races between 1927 and 1931, including four consecutive wins at Le Mans. As a result of this success, W O Bentley developed the Bentley 4 ½ litre car on a sports car chassis in 1927, with assembly at Cricklewood in North London. Tim Birkin, who W O Bentley named the greatest British driver of the day, saw the potential benefits of getting more power from a lighter model of the car by using a supercharger. He set up his own engineering works in Welwyn Garden City in 1928 and the Bentley Blower was born, despite the disapproval of W O Bentley, who thought it corrupted his original design. With team-mate Jean Chassagne, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin entered his supercharged Bentley Blower in the 1930 Le Mans race as number 9. The pair managed 138 laps to come in 11th, while a second Bentley Blower Car No. 8 driven by Dr Dudley Benjafield and Guilio Ramponi completed 144 laps to come in 10th. Both cars were sponsored by Team Miss Dorothy Paget. The same year, Tim Birkin entered the French Grand Prix and went on to finish second. Of the 720 Bentley 4 ½ litre cars built between 1927 and 1931, only 50 were converted to Blower Bentleys. Though the supercharged Bentley’s competitive performance was not outstanding, it did set several speed records, including a famous performance at Brooklands in 1932 when it recorded a speed of 138 mph.
Our 1:76 scale model of Sir Henry Birkin’s Blower Bentley No. 9 as raced at Le Mans is painted in characteristic dark green and sports the race No. 9 in white on the sides. Bonnet straps are finished in tan. The tonneau cover is black, seating dark green and the dashboard is finished in silver with black dials.
Sir Henry Birkin claimed he never raced to win, just enjoying the thrill of the sport at the same time raising the profile of British motoring. He certainly succeeded as far as the Bentley name was concerned, which we once again epitomize with our evocative little replica. Sadly he died in 1933, two years after W O Bentley had been forced to sell the Bentley name to Rolls-Royce, due to the Great Recession.
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