1929 BENTLEY 4-LITRE SUPERCHARGED FOUR SEATER TOURER
COACHWORK: VANDEN PLAS REPLICA
Former UK Registration No. UW24
Chassis No. KL 3599
British Racing Green with black leather interior
Engine: four cylinder, overhead camshaft, supercharged, 4,398cc, est 180bhp at 3,900rpm; Gearbox: (C-Type) four speed manual; Suspension: semi elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: drums all round. Right hand drive.
By 1926 the 3-litre Bentley was losing its competitive edge and, although the 6-litre was selling well, the Bentley enthusiast was looking for an improved big four cylinder car. W.O. Bentley set about developing such a model using, where possible, 3-litre and 6-litre components. The first series of 4-litres was launched in late 1927 following the success of the prototype car at Le Mans, when it broke the lap record prior to the White House Corner disaster. These early cars used the 10ft. 10in. 3-litre chassis and the engine was a larger version using 6-litre con rods. Eloquent road tests by the motor press of the day established the new 4-litre as a very special Bentley and, with its outright victory at Le Mans in 1928 and subsequent Brooklands competition successes, it soon established itself as the worthy successor to the 3-litre. To many Bentley enthusiasts, the big four cylinder 4-litre, with its familiar burbling exhaust, long-legged gait and whine of the straight cut gears, symbolizes the very best of W.O. Bentley creations. A standard Vanden Plas tourer was capable of a genuine 90mph with 110-115bhp. The supercharged version first seen at the 1929 London show wore its Amherst Villiers blower and twin SU carburetors between the front dumb-irons and, with 182bhp, speed rose to well over 100mph without any loss of flexibility.
The 'Blower' Bentley was the idea of Sir Henry Birkin, perhaps the most famous of the 'Bentley Boys' in his quest for more speed and his ultimate aim of winning at Le Mans. Birkin persuaded Bentley Chairman, Woolf Barnato, to employ the engineer, Amherst Villiers, to supercharge the 4-litre car against the wishes of W.O Bentley. In order to achieve entry into Le Mans, the Automobile Club de L'Ouest insisted at least 50 supercharged cars had to be produced for homologation purposes. In total 55 were built, five of which were for Tim Birkin and the remaining 50 were offered to the general public.
The 'Blower' Bentley quickly became a racing legend and their speed, handling and aggressive looks established these rare machines in the history books.
With only 55 supercharged cars built, it is not surprising that, when a genuine and original car comes to the market, it is much sought after by collectors and can command strong prices. In August 1995, Christie's last offered an original open Mayfair bodied example which achieved $717,500. This price itself can easily be eclipsed by a factory works car or examples with significant racing history. It is not surprising therefore that a few 'Blower' Bentleys have been built up in recent years by owners who desired the real item at a fraction of the cost. Bill Lassiter, himself, decided to commission the conversion of a standard 4-litre to Blower specifications.
This W.O. Bentley started life with saloon coachwork by H.J. Mulliner and was first sold to Mrs. Agabeg in December 1929. It is believed that by 1950 the car had reached Ireland in the hands of a Mr. K. Hemmingway and in 1958 was purchased by enthusiast, Mr. David Dunne. Mr. Dunne recalls that he was just 21 at the time and paid a mere 210 Great British Pounds! He believed the car was probably re-bodied as an open tourer just post-war. As a keen member of the Vintage Sports Car and Bentley Drivers club, Mr. Dunne actively raced this heavy crank engined 4 for many years. In around 1980 he fitted a new all aluminum touring body, which had been built by a craftsman in England and is a very faithful copy of the famous style of Vanden Plas. In 1989 after much negotiation (and near failure owing to last minute buyer's remorse!), Bill Lassiter was able to acquire UW24.
Shortly after Mr. Lassiter decided to convert his Bentley to Blower specification. He purchased the majority of parts from the well known English engineering firm, John Bentley & Sons (no relation to the original family), who produced a limited run of very professionally built replica superchargers and ancillary parts needed for the conversion. The parts included new supercharger, carburetors, crank case, camshafts, pistons, con rods, cam followers, oil pumps, new front dumb irons, front cross member, large ribbed brake drums and a pair of heavy front springs and chassis support rails. In July 1994, Bill Lassiter commissioned the specialist firm of Ben Diener Fabricating, Inc. of Davie Florida to install all the above-mentioned components. This work was completed by early 1995. Modifications to original specifications included an electric fan, fuel pump and a modern oil filter system.
The finished article is extremely pleasing to the eye and could easily be mistaken for an original 'Blower' Bentley. Naturally the supercharger dominates the front of the car and immediately makes its statement. As on the racing examples, it comes equipped with stone guards to the nickel finished radiator, headlamps and carburetors. The coachwork is in the classic sporting four seater Vanden Plas touring style, with right hand drive, outside handbrake, fold flat windshield, cycle wings and twin bonnet straps. Since completion this Bentley has had very limited use and indeed the engine still needs to be carefully run in. If you have ever aspired to emulate the famous 'Bentley Boys' (as the works drivers affectionately became known), here is your chance. Undoubtedly, this 'Blower' Bentley would be welcomed at Bentley Drivers Club and many other classic car events.