Bentley MK VI 'Blower Evocation'
First shown at the 1929 London Motor Show, the ‘Blower’ Bentley was developed as a private venture by ‘Bentley Boy’ Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin. This was to extract more performance from the proven 4½-Litre model, which was becoming outclassed by its rivals on the racetracks of Europe. His aim was to produce a British car that would enable British drivers to continue to win races as spectacularly as the 4½-Litre 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 ‘recognised in engineering circles as a definite landmark in automobile construction.’ Unimpressed, W O Bentley never supported the development of the supercharged car and is 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-Litre and 8-Litre cars, while reducing front-end weight by using Elektron castings. However, ‘W O’ did not control the purse strings at Bentley Motors, and the influence of Birkin, backed by the fabulously wealthy Woolf Barnato, saw the supercharged 4½-Litre Bentley come to fruition.
Its potential was emphatically demonstrated when Tim Birkin took 2nd place in the French Grand Prix at Pau with his supercharged 4½-Litre tourer amid a field of monoposto GP racers.
The production cars were fitted with an Amherst Villiers Supercharger Mark IV, of Roots type with twin paddle rotors, which drew mixture from twin SU carburettors and was driven off the front of the crankshaft, the latter having been substantially strengthened to accommodate the increased power. With 9½lbs boost at 3,500rpm, the blown Bentley developed 175bhp, a healthy increase over the production 4½-Litre’s 110 horsepower, while with 10lbs boost at 3,900rpm, 182bhp was produced.
The first production model, chassis number ‘SM 3903’, a sporting four-seater bodied by VandenPlas, was exhibited on Stand 130 at The Motor Exhibition at Olympia in October 1929 and would be retained as the Company demonstrator. Although similar in many respects to the standard 4½-Litre car, the new model was immediately distinguishable by the massive supercharger protruding at the base of the radiator.
Just 50 production supercharged 4½-Litre Bentleys were built to support the homologation of five Birkin team cars: among the few cars of their day capable of 100mph on the open road, they have always been regarded as the supercars of their era. Motor Sport spoke of the Blower’s ‘remarkable acceleration’ and ‘ancestry of well-tried racers’ and called it ‘a car for the connoisseur of sporting cars…’
The Bentley MK VI Blower Evocation offered here at Autostorico was first registered in 1952. Having been painstakingly converted over a 10 year period in the 1970’s this stunning example has been built to the highest possible standard. Work started with stripping the donor Bentley down and re-conditioning components were necessary. A replica 9ft 9in wheelbase chassis was built to house the running gear form the 1952 MK VI Bentley. A Le-Mans style fabric covered Vanden Plas body was commissioned along with a dummy supercharger. Finished in Green with Green leather interior this nicely patinated example also boasts emotive bonnet straps, twin aero screens, bound steering wheel, 21inch wheels, period instruments and lights. Powered by a 4566cc straight-six Bentley engine with a four speed syncromesh gearbox. Sensibly upgraded to include modern electrics (alternator and lighting) and also servo-assisted braking gives this motorcar the delightful feeling and road presence of an original WO Bentley whilst keeping up with modern traffic.
‘Blower’ Bentleys rarely come on the market and thus represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of these charismatic cars, at a fraction of the cost of an original car.
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