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.