£2,750,000 - £3,750,000
1931 Bentley 4½ Liter Supercharged Birkin Le Mans Replica Coachwork in the style of Vanden Plas Chassis no. MS 3942 Engine no. MS 3950 (see text) 4½ Liter SOHC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine - 4 Overhead Valves Per Cylinder Amherst Villiers Roots Type IV Supercharger (#142) 182bhp with 10 lbs Boost at 3,900rpm 4-Speed 'D' Type Close-ratio Gearbox 4-Wheel Drum Brakes *Brooklands Race Winner *Ex Fred Simeone and Virgil Millett *Continuous history, with Clare Hay Report *Superb example of one of the most iconic cars of the twentieth century *Eligible for Mille Miglia and more THE SUPERCHARGED 4½ LITER BENTLEY The "Blower" Bentley is one of the most masculine, muscular, and sporting motorcars ever built. Where some companies hid their superchargers behind the radiator grill, the Bentley wears it right out front, and that statement alone says it all about the car and its creators. First shown at the 1929 London Motor Show, it was developed as a private venture by 'Bentley Boy' Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin in order to extract more performance from the proven 4½-Liter model. Tim Birkin had taken his personal 4 1/2 to the Nurburgring in 1928 and even though he was able to complete the race, he was hopelessly outclassed by the larger and more powerful SSK fielded by Mercedes-Benz. His aim was to produce a British car that would enable British drivers to continue to win races as spectacularly as the 4½-Liter that had won the 1928 Le Mans 24-Hour race. The supercharger installation was engineered by the brilliant Amherst Villiers, who modestly claimed that it was 'recognized in engineering circles as a definite landmark in automobile construction.' W.O. Bentley never supported the development of the supercharged car and was quoted as saying how much he 'disliked the easy short cut provided by the supercharger,' preferring to increase engine capacity, as evidenced by the 6½-Liter and 8-Liter cars. Fortunately, 'W.O.' did not control the purse strings at Bentley Motors, and the influence of Birkin, backed by the fabulously wealthy Honorable Dorothy Paget and Woolf Barnato, saw the Supercharged 4½-Liter Bentley come to fruition. Its potential was emphatically demonstrated when Tim Birkin took 2nd place in the French Grand Prix at Pau with a supercharged 4½-Liter tourer amid a field of monoposto GP racers. The production Blower Bentley was intrinsically linked to Le Mans, quite simply due to the fact Bentley Motors built the 50 production supercharged 4½-Liter Bentleys to support the homologation of five Birkin team cars. When Birkin campaigned his Blower at Le Mans in 1930 his car retired after 138 laps and almost 20 hours of Racing. Yet, in an incredibly heroic effort he passed the leading 7-Liter Supercharged Mercedes driven by Rudolf Caracciola on the Hunaudieres Straight. The pass at over 125mph shocked Caracciola and caused him to over stress the Mercedes engine in efforts to keep up with the Bentleys. This effort and the continual Bentley pressure caused the Mercedes to fail and withdraw from the race with a blown gasket. Birkin therefore eased the way for the Works Speed Six to win the marque's final Le Mans victory until this century. It should be noted that Birkin set the Fastest Lap in the Race and broke the Lap Record at 89.696mph in his No. 9 supercharged 4½ liter Bentley. His time of 6 min. 48 sec. was never beaten on the 10.153-mile circuit. The fifty production cars were fitted with Roots type with twin paddle rotor Amherst Villiers Mark IV Superchargers which drew mixture from twin SU carburetors and were driven off the front of the crankshaft. The latter having been substantially strengthened to accommodate the increased power. With 9½ lbs boost at 3,500rpm the blown Bentley developed 175bhp, a healthy increase over the production 4½-Liter's 110 horsepower, while with 10lbs boost at 3,900rpm, 182bhp was produced. The Birkin Team cars with tuned engines, heavy duty connecting rods, and larger carburetors were said to develop well over 200hp. Despite representing the epitome of 'Boys Own' motoring and providing the heart and soul of the hobby, selling the requisite fifty cars that had needed to be built in the dire economic climate of the late 1920s proved hard work for Bentley Motors. As a result, though it may seem improbable today, over half of the blower Bentley chassis were unsold at the time Bentley went into receivership. Among the few cars that were capable of over 100mph on the open road, Blowers have always been regarded as the Supercars of their era. In period, the British magazine Motor Sport spoke of the Blower's 'remarkable acceleration' and 'ancestry of well-tried racers' calling it 'a car for the connoisseur of sporting cars...' - Nothing has changed today! THE MOTORCAR OFFERED This particular Blower 4 1/2 is one of the 50 factory blowers built by Bentley Motors in order to homologate for the Le Mans race. The chassis was completed in March of 1931. It was purchased as stock for London Bentley Dealer Jack Barclay who ordered it bodied by Vanden Plas. The particular Vanden Plas body that was ordered was a particular devastating two door design with flared wings, the same as MS3941, the Blower Bentley owned by the REVS Institute. Vanden Plas built three bodies to this pattern and many consider them to be one of the most attractive designs produced by the firm. It was also fitted with special pattern racing seats, and the larger 25-gallon gas tank. The original color as noted by Vanden Plas records was egg shell black with mottled grey leather upholstery. Jack Barclay was able to sell MS3942 in December of 1931 to Mr. David Baker of Letcombe Manor. According to the Clare Hay report and Bentley Motors records, a five-year guarantee was issued on December 14, before the Bentley Motors reformulated its guarantee policy that no guarantees were issued to supercharged cars. For some reason Mr. Baker did not keep the car long and returned it to Jack Barclay's in January of 1932. The car was then sold to French & Foxwell in February 1932, a firm based in Burgh Heath and Surrey, and were presumably agents for Mr. Bantoft, the cars second owner. In 1933 the service record indicates that a Cambridge water temperature gauge and a six-inch rev counter were fitted. The car was offered for sale by H.M. Bentley and Partners in 1934 and featured in The Autocar in their issue of July 20. This is also the only currently known photograph of MS3942 in original condition. In 1937 the car passed into the ownership of Sir Westrow Hulse. At this time, it was very much as it was when it left the factory, but its flared wings had been replaced by lightweight cycle pattern fenders. A photograph of the car is available in the BRDC archive of the car at this time with both Westrow and Lady Hulse. Sir Westrow was a very sporting individual and he campaigned the car at Brooklands. Its crowning achievement was finishing first in the Easter Short Handicap on April 18th, 1938. As with many Bentleys, the records from 1939 to 1945 are nonexistent. The last entry before the war was in January 9, 1939 With petrol rationing in effect, and civilian use of cars severely restricted, almost all Blower 4 1/2 and other big Bentleys were taken off the road. After the war the car was rebuilt by BDC legend Sydney Lawrence and Vanden Plas. The results of this restoration were documented in a February 1947 issue of The Autocar , in an article titled Return to Glory , which detailed the work done. Syd Lawrence included many racing modifications such as extra dampeners and a Birkin style boost gauge during this restoration. This work was carried out for its then owner, a Mr. Victor Doland. According to historical records Mr. Doland had survived polio. He had always desired a Blower 4.5, and the car was modified to make it easier for him to use which included the fitting of an ENV Preselector gearbox. To make the car easier to handle, the chassis and original body where shortened to 9'9.5, the length of the two Birkin Team road racing cars. When the work was completed, the car was presented to Mr. Doland at a party and was christened with a bottle of Champagne. Unfortunately for Mr. Doland, even with these modifications the car was too much for him and sold it shortly after, to Mr. Tom Walker. According to a letter from Mr. Walker, the car provided an enormous amount of fun. He campaigned the car on a great amount of events, including the BDC Eastborne Rally in 1953. During this time Mr. Walker also purchased MS3945, a Blower Bentley that was being broken up for parts. Mr. Walker notes in letters that the preselector gearbox was very troublesome and he chose to refit a D Type gearbox. It was at this time that the engine and gearbox from MS3945 were fitted to MS3942. This work was most likely carried out by Mr. Walker mechanic Eddie Bowler. These two units are still fitted today. The original engine from MS3942, was fitted to Gordon McDonalds 3-4 1/2 race car chassis DE1207- this engine's whereabouts today are not known. In 1954 Mr. Walker sold MS3942 to Mr. Robert A. Wimbush in New York State. Its next owner was Robert de Graff, also in the states, and then to Mr. A Boyer in 1962. Mr. Boyer retained the car until 1973. When the car was returned to the UK, it was purchased by G.T. Tait. In the early 1980s the car was subject to a full restoration and rebuilt as a Birkin Short Chassis replica. At this time, the original body was transferred to 4 1/2 chassis Number HF3189. This body is still fitted to this 4 1/2 today. The rebuild to Birkin specification was done to a very high standard and is very authentic. After this restoration the car was acquired by famed collector Thomas Perkins and was part of his collection of various supercharged cars. In late 1988 Perkins decided to sell most of his cars. It was at this time that the car was acquired by legendary collector Dr. Fred Simeone. Dr. Simeone was looking for a Blower 4 1/2 to trade to his friend and fellow collector Virgil Millett. After some negotiation the trade was finalized, and Virgil Millett took delivery. The blower quickly became Virgil's favorite Bentley. He enjoyed the car regularly on weekends and showed the car at various RROC meets. It was also occasionally taken to meets and maintained by Steve Babinski. It awarded first place in 1994 in RROC Vintage Bentley Touring class at the National Meet. After Virgil Millett's passing, the car was carefully put into static storage on the Millett family farm, where it would remain for close to 20 years. Recently the car was taken out of storage and put through an extensive recommissioning, by a Vintage Bentley specialist. This work included, checking suspension, valve clearances, fuel system, changing all fluids, adjusting clutch, relining the clutch stop, and a full chassis inspection. A new set of proper 21-inch wheels where also purchased and installed with new Blockley tires. Today MS3942 presents extremely well, with just the right amount of patina, a testament to the quality of the restoration and work performed by Hoffman and Mountford, and maintenance by Steve Babinski. Since its recommissioning, it has been on a few test drives. It is beautifully set up and the chassis has excellent road manners. The gearbox is absolutely lovely, and the engine pulls very well. It is also surprisingly nimble thanks to the short chassis. Anyone who has ever driven a well-set blower 4 1/2 will tell you that they are an utterly seductive driving experience. They have an immense amount of torque and accelerate beautifully from a standing start. Up to 2000 rpm they are incredibly smooth, once you pass 2000 rpm and get them on boost they really come into their own. The exhaust note turns into an angry snarl and flow of power, combined with the wine of the supercharger make them truly unforgettable. It is no wonder that when Ian Fleming first wrote Casino Royal, 007's personal car was a Blower. Original factory blowers are extremely event eligible. This particular car would be very well suited for the Mille Miglia or the Le Mans Classic, or as great car for numerous Bentley Drivers Club, or various other drivers events. Furthermore, this particular example's original body is still in existence and if ever reunited with the chassis, it would be a worthy effort to restore the car to as new specification. Original factory blowers do not come on the open market that often. This superb example has been in single family ownership for over thirty years and is very well set up. A Blower 4 1/2 is a cornerstone of many collections worldwide. As this is the 100th anniversary of Bentley Motors the opportunity to add this superb factory blower to one stable should not be missed.