Weekly Motor Fix: 1931 Bentley 4.5L

25 February, 2015


Despite my knowledge being a bit rusty when it comes to cars that are nearly 100 years old, I’ve always been a fan of old race cars. Previously I’d been scared to the point of tears at the thought of being inside one of the modern-day race cars, which was an oddity considering I was always surrounded by them and adored them, yet the thought of being inside one seemed like imminent death. With safety regulations and changes over the years, I really didn’t have a lot to worry about. Roll cages are now standard practice and the quality of safety never ceases to grow and expand.

However the race cars that I wasn’t scared of were the classics. They reminded me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the thought of flying around the world. When I popped down to Caffeine and Classics on the weekend, I expected a quiet Sunday morning wander before lunch, but what I ended up seeing was quite beyond that. Seeing many Mustangs and little Minis, I had a good idea of what the majority of cars in attendance would be. I met up with a few friends and had a wander around the show, spotting a few oddities, and spotting a big green thing at the back by itself. Getting closer, a friend of mine said, “Check out the Bugatti over there!” The closer we got, the closer we realized the ‘B’ was for Bentley, not for Bugatti.

The front-mounted supercharger stood out like a sore thumb behind the headlights and horns. Working our way back through the engine, the bonnet strops, and into the cabin, it’s a remarkable sight, and a piece of engineering carefully restored and maintained to ensure it’s keep at such a high standard. It had grabbed my attention so strongly that I had to have a quick Google, which allowed me to figure out what I was looking at — a Bentley 4.5L Blower. Having once raced at Le Mans on an unsuccessful journey, the Bentley 4.5L Blower was renowned as being one of the first race cars to ever install a supercharger and, although not successful, it managed to create a stir in the circuit.

Driving one of these pre-World War II cars comes with a little more footwork than a modern car. With the accelerator situated in the middle of the floor and the brake off to the right, you’ve got to think a little harder than usual to ensure you’re not speeding up instead of slowing down. Then there’s the engine. What came as a surprise to me is that the 4.5(4)L engine is a single overhead cam straight-four, much like that of say a Honda D13B. Unlike a Honda however, there’s said to be around 40 Blowers left in original condition around the world with the market changing and the cars ageing. The owner was leaving as I was arriving however; strapping on his helmet and goggles, the man was all prepared for the journey ahead. It’s definitely not as easy as being in a modern-day car, but pedalling the Bentley beast around would certainly be an amazing piece of work to be associated with.


Travelling companion

It’s easy to see why the Morris Minor Traveller was one of the best-loved variants of the Morris Minor. Introduced in 1953, it was equipped with the same independent torsion bar front suspension, drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering as its saloon sibling but, with their foldable rear seat increasing versatility, many Travellers were used as trade vehicles, says Derek Goddard. Derek and Gail Goddard, the owners of this superbly restored example, have run Morris Minors since before they were married in 1974.
“Our honeymoon vehicle was a blue Morris Minor van — it was a rust bucket,” says Derek.

Super Leicht Gullwing

It’s fair to say that nothing much in the classic Mercedes world gets past Mercedes-Benz Club stalwart Garry Boyce so it wasn’t surprising to learn that around 15 years ago he had sniffed out an extremely rare 300SL lightweight Gullwing as well as a 1958 300SL Roadster hiding away in the Waikato. The cars were not for sale but Garry eventually managed to persuade the owner to allow him and his restoration team to take a look at the Roadster. They discovered a very distressed but largely unmolested car. The car was so original that the body had never been off the chassis, meaning most of the parts and fittings were still present and correct, as they had been fitted by the factory.