Watch the Birkin 1929 41/2Litre supercharged blower Bentley …

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Watch the Birkin 1929 supercharged blower Bentley the world s most expensive car

Bonhams set several records at its Festival of Speed auction on 29, headlined by Tim Birkin s 1929 supercharged blower Bentley seater. When it sold for  million (with premium £5,042,000 or it became not only the world s expensive Bentley, but also the expensive British car ever at auction. The auction s $34,500,000 makes it the largest old-car ever held in England, and I Bonhams biggest old car auction.

The at Bonhams are so proud of the fact they ve done a special with head of department Night, showing the genteel, yet and electric tent, and providing interesting analysis of the bidding. It s not clear to me if the bidder was on the phone Rupert Banner ; in the room; or by someone else. Bidding is in Sterling.


(If the video isn t properly, you can also view it on s website .)

From the Bonhams description:

Amongst all Brooklands of the 1920-30s, perhaps the most and charismatic of all the historic Motor s racing celebrities was the diminutive Baronet, Sir Henry Ralph Tim Birkin. He combined his Bentley Boy image with a fearless talent and here we offer the Blower Bentley Single-Seater in he shattered the Brooklands Outer Lap Record in 1931.

For an entire of British motor racing Tiger Tim s militarily-moustachioed, be-goggled in his neat wind cap, with a polka-dot scarf in the slipstream, personified an English This so-British hero the absolute epitome of Imperial speed and daring

But Tim Birkin in embodied far more than celebrity just flirting motor racing. He was in fact competitive, a born sportsman who racing for racing s sake, to maximizing his chances on track, and whole-heartedly to making the absolute of whatever natural talent he

Despite the contemporary press of him as a fearlessly courageous daredevil, Sir described himself as being small, and I do stammer in business does not interest me, I am hopelessly and inefficient but on a subject in which I am just as hopelessly talkative and .

With fellow enthusiast/racer Couper, Birkin Couper Ltd was at Welwyn where it produced the 4-1/2-litre Blower Bentley in the of 1929. W.O. recalled: would lack in their all the experience we had built up in (our racing department over 10 I feared the worst and looked to their first appearance anxiety .

Birkin ran his prototype car in the Brooklands 6-Hour race on 29,1929. The car retired. At Dublin s Park race two weeks the two supercharged Bentleys finished 3rd and In the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards in Bernard Rubin s Blower while Birkin, who had challenged to act as his riding mechanic (the s founder accepting), placed a second overall and won his class.

The Blower , meanwhile, broke its

Birkin then retired the Brooklands 500-Miles and the entire retired from the Double-Twelve at Brooklands in May 1930. W.O. – one must remember – by the collapse of his – summed it up as follows: The supercharged never won a race, suffered a series of mechanical failures, the marque Bentley disrepute and cost Dorothy Paget a sum before she decided to withdraw her in October 1930 .

W.O. the sting in the tail: Tim managed to Barnato to allow him to enter a in the 1930 Le Mans (in which survived) and we were obliged, in to meet the regulations, to construct no than fifty of these for sale to the public .

W.O. that the Blower Bentley won a race is wrong. The car offered is the exception – and it would not only a multiple Brooklands race but also holder of the Outer lap record there.

Birkin had disappointed by his failure at Le Mans and then decided during summer to make a firm for the BRDC 500-Mile race at using a car with the future to break the Outer Circuit lap there.

Bentley Motors had been in the deepening recession when Tim became attracted, unlike Bentley himself, to the notion of the 4-1/2-litre Bentley. Those the great years of Bentley with consecutive victories in the Le 24-Hours race, but Birkin for greater power and more as W.O. explained: Tim had a constant to do the dramatic thing, a characteristic I suppose had originally brought him racing.

His gaily vivid, personality seemed to be always him on to something new and spectacular, and unfortunately our car was one of his targets Tim used all his charm and to induce first Amherst to build a special blower for his next Woolf Barnato financier as well as leading driver to give it his blessing, and the Hon. Dorothy Paget to put up the for a works at Welwyn just of London and to buy and modify the chassis .

At his Couper Ltd works in Welwyn, special track-racing Blower was then developed alongside the endurance sports cars. later Lt. Colonel Clive was largely responsible for the new track-racing while working under his on the project were foreman

Jennings, the Champion English walker Whitcombe who was Tim Birkin s mechanic, Logan and Newcombe, who successively Bentley s chief fitters; Browning, the chief fitter, and Billy Rockell, the supercharger fitter.

The Bentley selected as basis of the project was of 10 10 inch wheelbase, chassis HB 3402 while the selected number was SM 3901 .

Amherst had designed the supercharger and its configuration, the developed engine s enlarged-diameter with 90mm journals, and rods were drawn and by Villiers chief draughtsman, Tom Jamieson of later racing and ERA fame before his tragic at Brooklands as a luckless spectator in

The Villiers Roots-type supercharger for Blower Bentley Track Car a standard casing as on the sports but housing larger rotors to boost. Otherwise, according to Gallop at the time, the engine was the 4-cylinder with four valves per cylinder, actuated by a camshaft. The cylinder-head ports of course highly polished, any fitter within the Welwyn who found himself temporarily being put straight onto task. As much of the cylinder as possible was also polished, but not

Bench testing showed fuel consumption of methanol of 0.79 specific gravity be 1.2 pints per bhp/hour . On track the car s actual fuel consumption proved to be 2.07 miles per

The body initially fitted to HB 3402 was of 1-1/2-seater form, fabric skin stretched a spring-steel lattice framework. The was exposed while the supercharger, and carburettors were all partially This brand-new bodywork was in a rich mid-blue livery.

The Circuit was no minor challenge at time, in 1929. The old concrete and straights were frost-heaved, and bumpy. Fuel tank were anticipated, for the ageing Motor Course could out a fearful pounding to cars at way above one hundred miles per Consequently a fuel tank adapted from the 42-gallon Le 24-Hour race type was by means of a Le Mans-style cross-tube at the which passed through the and which was carried within a trunnion on each of the two main rails.

Clive Gallop provided a third mounting using a plate shaped to the the front end of the tank, carrying a pin that accommodated the spider of a universal joint.

A structure from the chassis then another spider which to that on the tank, thus a flexible forward mounting.

during practice on the eve the 1929 race, the nickel-steel pin attached to the sheared due to embrittlement when it had brazed into place not at Gallop emphasized. He promptly the damaged Track car back Brooklands to the Welwyn works for without mudguards, lamps and handle and with a police car him right into the factory

It became obvious that in the available overnight an adequately new support could not be provided. the suggestion of a young mechanic Hoffman was adopted, in which a steel strap packed rubber and felt was placed the front of the tank, and then to the chassis by reinforced angle welded into place.

after dawn on race Clive Gallop drove the car back to Brooklands, Birkin who was in the of negotiating provision of a substitute car Babe Barnato having warned that it was on the way. Gallop saw, and held, along the Barnet Bypass and the new car was finally delivered to the Track in time to be checked over and for the race start.

Incidentally, this rushed delivery to Clive Gallop had found the car so tractable on the public road eventually a Welwyn-to-Brooklands route was which included London traffic. If a spark plug oil up, Clive Gallop s standard would be to stop on the hill at Vale – on the stretch passing the KLG plug factory where he fit a fresh plug and then down the remainder of the gradient

When the big cars were flagged away into 1929 BRDC 500-Miles Tim Birkin in the Blower Bentley now offered here, immediately set the lapping at over 121mph. A duel ensued between Blower Bentley and Kaye Don s Sunbeam. But as it hurtled round the high-banked Motor Course, the new Bentley began to spray a mist of engine oil from its louvres, the droplets coating the screen, cockpit coaming and s head and shoulders.

Birkin found his hands slipping on the wheel rim, and his vision through coated goggles, so he into the pits to clean up. The Dunfee/ Sammy Davis Six Bentley took over the on scratch, while on handicap Amilcars and Austin Sevens the advantage. By 90 laps George s Sunbeam Cub was up into to second and after 108 laps it led overall.

Froy, partnering Kaye Don in the big also led before retiring a broken back spring the bumps offering no mercy and s Sunbeam would also a spring.

Having rejoined, Tim in this Blower Bentley then encountered further The problem of compensating for expansion and between the exhaust manifold and the body-cum-pipe had been countered by a length of flexible steel as used in HM submarines with a applied to the car body to insulate it silencer heat. W.O. had advised against such a and as the long race tore on the exhaust heat degraded the flexible pipe material and its which crumbled.

This the coils of metal to vibrate and opening a hole in the exhaust from which violet blasted onto the fabric skin and set it alight.

Birkin into the pits with his new car trailing flame and smoke. The was quickly doused, but that day the car race no further

For 1930, Tim then decided to attack racing seriously with the which went on to establish as one of the Brooklands Motor Course s charismatic cars, campaigned by its most charismatic contemporary

In its 1930 form, with supercharger driven from the nose and inhaling through two horizontal SU carburettors, the car s engine some 240bhp on alcohol mix, some 65bhp than a standard Blower on benzole petrol. Its rear featured a new nose piece a special pinion which a final-drive ratio of 2.8:1. flow at full throttle was as being approximately one Imperial every 74 seconds

Reid A. had been commissioned to design a new proof!) aluminium body to the flexibly-frame fabric original, and it was made for the car by A.P. Compton Co of The regulation Brooklands silencer on the car s now bolted directly to the exhaust without any flexible-pipe intervening.

Front-wheel brakes were and the car rode on 32-inch x 6.50 Racing tyres.

The first Meeting of 1930 then saw battling against his starting taking second place in the Kent Short Handicap despite a slipping clutch and supercharger casing cracks plugged just before the using Plasticene His flying lap was clocked at 123.89mph. He then the meeting s Surrey Short setting fastest lap at 124.51mph.

In the Kent Long Handicap, then had the chance to overcome his winning by one second at 119.13mph and setting fastest lap at 126.73mph. was the first race victory achieved by a Blower Bentley and Sir Henry, car owner the Hon. Paget and their supporters delighted, W.O.

Bentley distaste for supercharging was often had perhaps mixed feelings.

Easter meeting then saw campaign his single-seater before a crowd, winning the Bedford Handicap easily at 117.81mph and at 134.24!

As the late, great Boddy recalled in his definitive of Brooklands Motor Course Plug troubles foiled s hopes in the Dorset Lightning Handicap but he turned out again for a match race against s GP Sunbeam. Sadly Dunfee s car had a rod, so Birkin came out to attempt to beat Kaye Don s lap The Bentley was in grand trim, very high round the banking, dropping to the Fork in a of dust, clipping the verge by the sheds and going onto the banking each time that characteristic and disturbing snake that those who saw the car in are not likely to forget.

From the bump where the Hennebique near the end of the Member s Banking had slightly into the River Wey it some 70 feet, clear of the onto the Railway Straight. It was a sight, Birkin s scarf with the fairing behind his as he held the car to its course. The Blower certainly provided as great a for the onlookers of the 1930s as had the V12 Sunbeam and the for the 1920s .

Tiger Tim s heroic that day had seen the Bentley lap in 1 minute 13.4 seconds, beating Don s existing outright by 0.73mph. On its standing lap the Single-Seater had at 133.88mph, then completed its three laps at 134.60, and finally the new record 135.33mph.

then contested the following Long Handicap race, but his new lap record conferring an owes handicap he was unplaced, despite his new record on two consecutive laps

Sir Tim Birkin s Blower Bentley was plainly Great Britain s track racing car of that After that day s racing he flew back to Le Touquet to the dinner that Babe had promised him that morning if he break the Outer Circuit lap

At the following BARC Club the great car was off form, issuing of smoke on the startline and Birkin at a for him measly 126.73mph. The car ran poorly in that day s Racing Long before retreating to Welwyn a poor day out.

Kaye Don equaled the new Birkin Bentley in his V12 Sunbeam at Brooklands Whitsun and then shattered it by lapping at a 2.25mph improvement.

The Hon. Paget then entered to drive the Single-Seater again in the August Bank Holiday only for the fuel tank to causing his retirement from the Gold Star Handicap.

winds and the threat of rain made high speeds in the Brooklands Autumn meeting but and the Single-Seater reappeared for the BRDC on October 4. A front tyre at top speed during practice, both car and driver survived some astonishing subsequent . Birkin shared the drive George Duller but the car ran badly and enjoyed the experience, their car like a motor cycle and a tardy ninth. So the 1930 season closed, with Don and his V12 Sunbeam holding the Outer lap record

The Hon. Dorothy Paget being involved with but only if she was on the winning side. winter she withdrew her backing the Blower Bentley endurance team, but retained the successful

The BARC Whitsun Meeting in saw the great car s return to Brooklands, but Birkin s best efforts it were overshadowed, lapping at a of 128.69mph in the Gold Star then 131.06 in the Somerset Long before retiring.

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consulted George Eyston, and at his fitted a PowerPlus vane-type in place of the Villiers Roots-Type. Not that year s August would the Single-Seater return to the Motor Course, but a gusty hampered attempts by both and Gwenda Stewart in the 2-litre Miller to attack the Kaye Don lap Birkin s best attempt alone as part of a special attempt feature within August meeting was clocked at but later that afternoon in the Lightning Long Handicap he clocked an improved 136.45mph the gusty wind.

Tiger Tim s friend and fellow Bentley Boy Dr Benjafield was then entrusted the Single-Seater for the 1931 BRDC only for its engine to break a and the great car to be retired. Birkin The few days before this were not without their when I was coming off the Byfleet at about 130, the auxiliary tank caught fire and began to lick the legs of my . the cockpit certainly did become hot. So I switched off the engine and put on the but before the car stopped, I had to climb out of the and, perched on the back of the steer as best I could a crouching position.

I jumped off it was safe and put out the fire. But the cockpit and my were both burnt . The Villiers supercharger then the PowerPlus.

Come that s Autumn Meeting and in the Cumberland Long Handicap Birkin third after starting scratch, after which he for two extra laps to attack Don s lap record, yet again falling short at 136.82mph.

For 1932, the was re-sprayed red in place of its original and its engine was re-bored to 100.5mm, a capacity of 4,442cc. The new season on Easter Monday, but four prior to that meeting attacked the Kay Don Outer Circuit lap and broke it at last – raising the to 137.96mph.

In the subsequent Easter John Cobb s V12 Delage edged out the now re-handicapped Lap Record-holding to win by 0.2 sec from Birkin, whose lap was at 134.24mph compared to Cobb s of only 128.36.

Out again in the Lightning Long Handicap, nearly lost control of the car on his second lap, as it skidded under the gusty wind as it out from beneath the Members Birkin and the Bentley then won for third time at Brooklands, 122.07mph and lapping at 134.26.

The later held a 100-mile Circuit race, in which held the advantage in his heat the Single-Seater s right-front tyre and he made a pit stop, finishing He then led the Final at half-distance but until the long red car came misfiring and spluttering, took on boiled and retired a lap later the cylinder block cracked . retirement was then posted in the Whitsun Meeting,

At a special day organised in aid of Guy s Hospital, Birkin won the Gala Long Handicap and his former lap record of 137.96mph. In the Duke of York s race the threw the tread from its tyre which flailed over the heads of spectators the Members Banking

The threat of at the August Meeting persuaded not to run the Single-Seater in one race, but in the 3-lap event for 100 Sovereigns, Birkin in the confronted John Cobb in the V12 The French car was the faster starter, by 3.8 seconds completing the opening But on lap 2 Tiger Tim flashed round at and was just 1.2 seconds off Cobb s

Bill Boddy: The crowd was on its And round they came, the gaining, yard by yard, on the As Birkin hurtled off the banking the shot his car well clear of the and the padded rest on the fairing his head came adrift, to a small dark object, into the air. In a supreme Birkin caught Cobb and ahead, winning one of Brooklands intense races by a mere of a second, or about 25 yards. He 125.14mph and that glorious lap was run at 137.58mph (0.28mph below the Out again in the Hereford Lightning Handicap, Birkin swept at 136.45mph, being classified at the finish.

Despite his Brooklands in 1932, Birkin wrote of the Course: I think that it is, exception, the most out-of-date, and dangerous track in the world was built for speeds of no greater 120mph, and for anyone to go over without knowing the track than his own self, is to court The surface is abominable. There are which jolt the driver up and in his seat and make the car leave the and travel through the air . He concluded onslaught with the line If I find anything true to an attractive blur over all diseases, I would make use of it at but there is nothing at all He was a brave then, to unleash this Bentley Single-Seater there as as he did

In the sports-racing Blower Bentleys, Sir had already set a record-breaking pace at Le in 1930, and that same ran his Blower in the French Grand at Pau in southern France describing it as akin to a large Sealyham by greyhounds , yet finishing an astonishing overall. But by 1931 Bentley and the Blower project were in and Sir Henry was instead racing Alfa Romeo 8C-2300s with his friend Earl actually winning the prestigious Le 24-Hour race for the Italian But early in the 1933 racing Tiger Tim burned his arm at Tripoli in while running a Maserati 8C at in the Lottery Grand Prix. ailing with recurrent first contracted during his War 1 service this British was quickly overwhelmed by septicaemia, tremendous efforts to save him by his and loyal supporter Dr Benjafield.

And Sir died in a London hospital weeks after the Libyan on June 22, 1933 aged 36.

His former backer, the Hon. Paget, retained the Single-Seater, until 1939, resisting all from would-be buyers Bentley enthusiast Peter blew-up the engine of his ex-Birkin GP Blower Bentley at Donington and he managed to charm her into him the track car, to use its engine in the Birkin car. Then World War 2. The number one Blower was then returned to the single-seater, Robertson-Rodger decided to convert a two-seat roadster.

Bentley Bill Short did the conversion during the war, and the project was completed in the late 1940s a two-seat body designed by and made by Chalmers of Redhill. new body retained the single-seater s in side profile, complete pointed tail. Bentley and VSCC luminary John subsequently worked on the great and when Peter Robertson-Rodger in 1958 he bequeathed the Single-Seater in his to Mr Morley.

Meanwhile, boyhood fan and Bentley enthusiast Rusty had been a long-term admirer of the He recalled: I had never lost my for that car and one day I was at the Bentley Drivers Hendon driving tests when a fellow member rumours that the Birkin was going to be sold to America.

I to see John Morley who said nobody in England seemed to it. In fact, they all seemed of it. So after long negotiations we to an agreement and in the summer of 1964 I it from his garage at Colnbrook, of London, and drove it home to

It carried the 2-seat body but had also sold me the original body as part of the deal. I climbed behind that it was the realization of a dream. Ha, I was wearing a silk shirt, and by the time I got I was soaked in oil from head to

He described how he had found that the car s engine bearings were worn and its dry-sump system pump on the nose of the supercharger had re-piped to feed an oil-cooler such pressure that the oil squirted everywhere. He painstakingly the car and ran it for several years with its 2-seat body in place the single-seater aluminium shell sat on the of his garage.

Its cockpit was just too for me he recalled, and one day I climbed into it, on the floor, and couldn t get out I had to stand up, the thing like a skirt. we found that by making a modification and cutting out just one behind the seat we could about four inches, and was just enough for me to squeeze in .

this unobtrusively modified body remounted on the famous old front wheel brakes by Robertson-Rodger and some other concessions to road equipment, the single-seater emerged as a splendidly vintage motor car of the most distinction.

It remained quite for many would-be drivers to and cramped once seated Rusty Russ-Turner found the demandingly confined with the throttle and right-side brake, cockpit heat was always as hot air wafted back from the compartment. The aluminium body warms up nicely in sympathy the massive exhaust and Brooklands along the left-hand side. He the brakes excellent although one have to make arrangements approaching a corner . The car was absolutely at at anything above 70mph at it became delightfully stable .

The D-Type Bentley gearbox he as being as good as any while he owned the original track-racing which he found contained the straight-cut gears preferred by . Tiger Tim either could not or not double de-clutch and he liked to the gears straight through. called them Mangle and this explains the fantastic gear noise which was so of the car when it was being raced , he

Gearing represented 36mph per and the rev limit was set at 4,000rpm. although it can get expensive around there , he

Rusty Russ-Turner suffered a heart attack at Silverstone racing the car, after it was acquired by George Daniels, his protection and preservation ever Mr Daniels recalled how he came to buy the Jack Sears telephoned and me the Birkin Single-Seater was for sale and he it would suit me. I knew I was to have to make a hard so I eventually went down to see it and it was in all its glory. I told Jack I t afford his price but made him an and eventually he came back to me to say Rusty s widow Audrey had him she wanted me to have the car and I ve been it ever since

It is now offered as an exceedingly potent reminder of a period of British racing a machine with a unique in racing history, and the exception to the Bentley rule that the 4½ never won a race .

The Bentley with road equipment wings, an extensive history including correspondence, road-registration and large format photo

For history to be valuable it must be in proper perspective, and the Brooklands Bentley Single-Seater is one Blower suffers not at all under closer

This car is absolutely a British, and a icon.

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