Bentley marks its Centenary with Mille Miglia run

The famous Mille Miglia race first ran in 1927

In 1930 the legendary Bentley Blower was due to become the first British car to compete in the Mille Miglia race.

Despite the best efforts of ‘Bentley Boys’ Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and then-CEO Woolf Barnato, this attempt was aborted before the race as the gentlemen felt there was a lack of preparation to complete a successful run.

Nine decades later, Bentley is returning to the historic race to finish what the ‘Bentley Boys’ didn’t.

Birkin and Barnato were to be the first British drivers to attempt the thousand-mile Italian test of endurance, in a supercharged ‘Bentley Blower’ known as the No. 2 ‘Birkin Blower’. According to contemporary media reports, however, “much disappointment was felt at the news of the Bentley withdrawal from the Brescia Thousand Miles Race”.

This year, two original 1930 4½-litre supercharged Blowers (the ‘Birkin Blower’ UU5872 and the ‘Demonstrator’ GH6951) are aiming to finish what the ‘Bentley Boys’ didn’t, taking on the world-renowned cross-country route between May 15 and 18. The Blowers will be driven by Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, and Head of Royal and VIP Relations, Robin Peel. They will be closely followed by a Bentley Bentayga.

The Blowers feature their original Vanden Plas Open Sports Four-Seat body. The Bentley 4½ Litre was nearing the end of its development cycle by 1928, as other manufacturers finally began to catch up with the innovative W.O. Bentley’s engine design. W.O.’s response was to increase the engine capacity, and his 6½ Litre model won Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.

However, racing driver Sir Henry Birkin wanted to apply a new supercharger to the engine of the existing 4½ Litre car instead. To W.O.’s displeasure, Birkin persuaded Bentley’s new owner and chairman, fellow Bentley Boy and British financier Woolf Barnato, to build him five supercharged Blowers for the racetrack.

And to meet the racing rules of the era, 50 production Blower Bentleys were built for the road too – all featuring the supercharger installation developed by Amherst Villiers.

Bentley has created the ultimate collector’s version of the all-new Continental GT to celebrate the company’s centenary in 2019.

The Continental GT Number 9 Edition by Mulliner features a wood insert from the seat of Birkin’s iconic 1930 No. 9 Le Mans race car, which was removed during a sympathetic renovation. This backlit piece is set in resin and situated in the middle of the centre dial of the rotating display, adding a piece of history to each car. Only 100 units will be built.


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