Matters of moment, April 1982
• The new “Blower” Bentley
The Bentley image is that of a sporting car, whether as true sports models from Cricklewood or “Silent Sporting Cars” from Derby and Crewe. This image has been brightened by the announcement, by Rolls-Royce Motors, of the new Bentley Mulsanne Turbo. The type-name “Mulsanne” was given to the Crewe Bentley in 1980, to link-up with the Le Mans circuit where the vintage or “W.0.” Bentleys were superbly victorious on five occasions, winning this gruelling 24-hour race consecutively in 1927, ’28, ’29 and ’30. The Bentley Mulsanne has been turned into a really fast, very high-performance, four-door saloon car by turbocharging its vee-eight power-unit, with additional changes to the engine-internals and the running-gear to suit the increased power. It is rather droll that the old mechanically-supercharged 41/2-litre Poor-cylinder Bentley sports car (the “Blower 41/2”) has been recalled in connection with the Mulsanne Turbo’s announcement, for W. 0. Bentley never liked Amherst Villiers supercharging his engine to meet Sir Henry Birkin’s call for higher speed from the Bentleys he raced, and was annoyed even more when Woolf Barnato, who then controlled Bentley finances, agreed that 50 production blower-41/2-litre cars should be built for homologation purposes, so that these blown Bentleys could compete at Le Mans. Those who side with W.O. point out that the blower-41/2 Bentleys never won a major race (although the Birkin Paget single-seater twice broke the Brooklands lap-record, taking it to 137.96 m.p.h., faster than the top speed of the 1982 production blown Bentley!) Those who love these brute-force supercharged 41/2-litre cars point to Birkin bravely using one to break-up the Mercedes-Benz challenge at Le Mans in 1930 and of how he finished second in the French Grand Prix at Pau that year, pitting his two-ton “lorry”, as Ettore Bugatti is supposed to have described the Bentleys of those days, against the finest GP cars. At the risk of being defrocked by members of the Bentley Drivers’ Club, I would suggest that it was Barnato, in the fine 61/2-litre Speed Six Bentley, who broke up Caracciola’s 38/250 Mercedes-Benz in that epic Le Mans struggle and remind you that, at Pau, Birkin’s stripped blower-41/2 Bentley was opposed mainly by rather unreliable Bugattis, yet although his big Bentley finished the race 3 min. 26.3 sec. behind Etancelin’s 2-litre Bugatti, which had no doubt eased up, Zanelli’s Bugatti, delayed by much trouble and a final pit-stop, finished only 10.2 sec. behind Birkin.
And as Rolls-Royce themselves have recalled the old blower-41/2 Bentleys, it is fair to observe that not all that much progress seems to have been achieved in more than half-a-century, if one compares the 240 b.h.p. at 4,200 r.p.m. of the old supercharged Bentley engine with the 298 b.h.p. at 3,800 r.p.m. developed by the turbocharged Bentley Mulsanne engine, especially remembering that the respective capacities are 4.4-litres against 6.75-litres. . . To be honest, the production blower 41/2-litre Bentley developed only about 175 b.h.p. at 3,500 r.p.m., and the absolute power-output of the Mulsanne Turbo Bentley is deliberately restricted, to achieve a desirable torque-curve. Rolls-Royce maintain their policy of refusing to quote horse-power figures for their car engines. saying the output is “adequate”, and it was only the delvings of naughty Autocar and Motor journalists that unravelled the secret of the Mulsanne Turbo’s engine power. . . .
The new Bentley Mulsanne Turbo is very definitely a high-performance version on the “Silent Sports Car” theme, with its claimed top speed of 135 m.p.h., 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration in, they say, 7.4 sec, and the wP-Par (automatic transmission) 50-70 m.p.h. pick-up time given as 51/2 sec. A Garrett AiResearch turbocharger blows through the Soles 4AI four-choke carburetter (as Mercedes-Benz blew through the carburetter from a mechanically-driven Roots supercharger on their big vintage 33/180, 36/220 and 36.250 sports cars and their area 500K and 540K luxury cars), the axle ratio of the Mulsanne Turbo is 2.7 to 1, and it runs on new, very special, Avon 235,70 VR15 tyres. The maker’s figures for the non-blown Mulsanne Bentley are 119 m.p.h., 0-60 in 10 sec., and 50-70 m.p.h. in top in 7.8 sec on a 3.08 axle-ratio. Thus there is an exciting performance improvement from this top-luxury Rolls-Royce-built sporting saloon in blown farm and we would have been very pleased to have been able to tell you that a full road-test report on it, following its debut at the Geneva Motor Show, would be appearing in the next issue
Matters of Moment
Continued from previous page of MOTOR SPORT. Indeed, we suggested to Rolls-Royce’s PRO that, as we are still waiting to road test the Rolls-Rovce Silver Spirit, we might as well by-pass that illustrious model and get on with trying the more appropriate (to this journal) Bentley Mulsanne, with or without turbo. Alas, we gather this will not be possible for a considerable time.
During the dark days of the last World War we were permitted to drive the then-experimental Bentley Mk. V and MOTOR SPORT had good Press service from R-R in Mr. W. A Robotham’s time, but it then became increasingly difficult to obtain, for test, cars like the Silver Cloud and Silver Shadow, for which we were perhaps expected to wait with the proverbial “bated breath”. Rolls-Royce Limited have lone been rather cautious, shall we say, over the perfectly normal matter of Press road-testing. The writer remembers how, when the pre-war 31/2-Iitre Bentley “Silent Sports Car” was an exciting new model (and for the price of which you could have bought a couple of more accelerative Railtons), one was delivered to Brooklands for a day’s trial by the magazine for which he was then writing (this was in his pre-MOTOR SPORT period) by a uniformed chauffeur who announced that he had to remain with the car throughout the test and he did, even to riding in the back during the speed tests round the Brooklands outer-circuit, holding on to his peaked hat. On that note, alI we can tell you is that you can recognise a Mulsanne Turbo, if you should encounter one, by the “Turbo” badges, the painted radiator-shell, the leather trimmed steering wheel, and the two exhaust tail-pipes on the off-side rear. And that if you have £60,000 on a car you could place your order for one, for delivery about next September.
Last month we optimistically expressed the hope that Sir Geoffrey Howe, Chancellor of the Exchequer, would be man enough, and sensible enough, to resist placing further burdens on motoring, Industry, and the everyday cost of living by increasing the cost of road transport. As you now know, he has done this unwelcome thing. It isn’t only on behalf of those who derive pleasure from car ownership that we complain. Comment during the Budget speech made it very clear that while industry was being helped in a few respects, these small advantages were negative in other directions, of which the unexpected big increase in petrol and Dery duty was freely quoted The two vehicle owners to be interviewed by the BBC during the Budget speech, one a relying on a car to get him to and from his place of work, the other a taxi-driver, were both very disappointed by the increases, the former being particularly bitter. To raise car tax by the same amount again as in his previous Budget
(commercial vehicles weren’t mentioned) is typical of the continual blows Governments always dole out to car-users. It may be that Sir Geoffrey sees £10.00-a-year extra as representing nothing to those buying machinery costing thousands of pounds and costing nearly as much per year to run. But in the face of the tiny offerings you made to many other sections of the community, that, Sir Geoffrey, is a fallacious argument. . . .
It is apparent that many of those who had lobbied for tax reductions obtained them. It seems, therefore, that the motoring organisations failed to appeal with sufficient vigour, although the RAC got out a protest for motorists to sign and forward to their MPs. From this day on, that must be rectified! (The power millions of vehicle-drivers possess, if properly organised, to make a protest embarrassing to any Government, is quite alarming!) How anyone professing to want to help small companies and to encourage school-leavers to set up their own businesses can fail to see that inexpensive transport is one of the essentials, is beyond understanding. What a splendid incentive, at a time when petrol prices at the pump had at long last come down, it would have been, had the Chancellor left petrol and Dery duty alone. Instead, following the precept that the car owner will always pay, he raised both these and car tax by unexpectedly high amounts. Everyone will suffer, the Motor Industry included, for every added burden tends to make potential customers forget the intended new car, forgo a second car, and enthusiasts to tax their special vehicles for shorter periods. The £80.00 car tax reminds us that the last-named in particular would have benefited from the “Iong-week-end” licensing, from Post Offices, promised when the Swansea computers were installed. We may well ask what happened to that Government promise? To conclude, we address the following open-letter to Sir Geoffrey Howe; if he responds, which will surprise us, his reply will be published in full:-
Sir Geoffrey Howe,
Chancellor of the Exchequer,
House of Commons.
Having listened with increasing depression to the tax increases imposed on car users in your recent Budget, may we enquire whether you are aware that the motor car is no longer a pleasure possession, but is used by thousands of workers as essential transport? That being the case, can your increase in car tax, of exactly the same amount as you imposed in your previous Budget, let alone your savage increases in petrol and Dery duty, be seen as any help to the country’s work-force or those needing personal transport to set themselves up, as you profess to hope they will, in new businesses? Can you explain why you apparently regard the Motor Industry and its many ancillaries as less worth listening-to than those who lobbied you for reduced taxes on behalf of the Construction Industry, the Scottish whisky distilleries, etc., to whom you granted relief? As the motor car is about the most highly-taxed of any private possession, can you tell us, please, when the promise of “week-end” or other short-term licences, which were to be obtainable from Post Offices, will be implemented, a convenience (not a concession) of particular benefit to those who wish to take a car on to the road for very brief periods without the burden of paying the long-term licence fees and especially to those driving the older historic cars to rallies, etc., which provide much pleasure to a great many people who watch them?
Finally, do you see any prospect in the future of the very high rates of taxation imposed on car owners for so many years, irrespective in the case of the £80.00 car-licence of the power of the vehicle or the frequency of its use, ever being reduced (this is not intended to be humorous!) A reply would, we are sure, be much appreciated by millions of car owners and users who will be voting at the next General Election.
W. Boddy, Editor, MOTOR SPORT.
The VSCC at Silverstone
THE first Vintage SCC race meeting of 1982 will be at the Silverstone Club circuit on April 17th, starting at 13.00 hours, although there is practice from 9.00 hours. This is the traditional 1908 GP Itala Trophy Meeting, with a 10-lap scratch race for this and the Lanchester Trophy for Edwardian and vintage racing cars. This will be supplemented by those exciting 10-lap All-Comers’ and Pre-War All-Comers’ scratch races and a number of 5-lap handicap and scratch events, eight or nine separate happenings in all, the Meeting opening with the customary 40-minute High Speed Trial, with a compulsory (not necessarily Fred Karno, Mr. Duckworth) pit-stop, this event encouraging newcomers to the vintage and p.v.t. speed-game. This VSCC Silverstone Meeting is the nearest thing you can get to pre-war Brooklands, and it sees the commencement of points scoring by pre-war cars for this year’s MOTOR SPORT Brooklands Memorial Trophy Contest, with £325 prize money. You are recommended to make the most of the splendid sounds, smells and racing activities encompassed. Public admission costs the same as last year, note, i.e. £3 per adult, accompanied children free, with an extra £1 for admission to the delights of the huge Paddock. Dogs will have to remain behind and be told all about it over their evening feed, but cars are welcome and are parked free of charge. — W.B.
APRIL sees the start of the 1982 British Hill Climb Championship, sponsored this year by Pace Petroleum, with rounds taking place at Loton Park, near Shrewsbury, on Easter Monday and at Wiscombe Park, near Honiton, on Sunday, 25th.
Last year’s youthful champion, James Thomson, has taken to circuit racing, although the Pilbeam-Hart he campaigned with such success will be seen on the hills in the hands of his father, Jim. Alister Douglas Osborn, whose performances last season looked to be unbeatable, will be out with the same 3.6-litre Cosworth engined car, while 1980 champion. Chris Cramer, will be using the ex-Formula 2 Toleman-Hart, which gave him so much trouble early last year, but which was showing great promise by the end of the season.
We apologise to John Corlett for ascribing the authorship of his recent book, “Aviation in Ulster”, to John Croft in our review published in February’s MOTOR SPORT The book is published by Blackstaff Press and costs £6.95.
Lancashire & Cheshire Car Club
THE Lancashire and Cheshire Car Club has not been able to run a race meeting for four years, but will he doing so again later this year when they will be running a four-hour relay race at Oulton Park. Taking place on Saturday, October 2nd, the event will he open to both saloons and sports cars and should appeal especially to teams from the one-make car clubs. This event is in addition to the “Lancs and Chesh” usual round of ten competitive events, catering for all kinds of motoring tastes, for enthusiasts in the Manchester area. Details from Martin Wield on Knutsford 4954.
Jaguar Drivers Club
THE JDC’s main event of the year, their Silverstone Race Meeting, takes place on Saturday, April 3rd, and marks the start of the season for many of the championships for historic sports cars. With rounds of the Robin Hamilton Inter-Marque Championship (to be run over six rounds this year, with teams of ACs, Porsches, Aston Martins and Jaguars taking part), the Seldon Classic Sportscar Championship, AMOC Thoroughbred Sports Championship and HSCC Post-Historic Sports Championship as well as other Jaguar oriented races, the meeting promises to be an interesting start to the season.
The Cheshire area of the JDC is organising a 100-mile race for standard sports cars at Oulton Park on April 24th for the Cheshire QM Trophy. Only standard production sports cars are eligible, and these will have to have current test certificates and be road taxed. There will be historic sports car races, historic saloon car races and many non-circuit attractions as supporting events.
750 Motor Club
ALTHOUGH the 750 MC is busy with numerous celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the Austin Seven, it has many other activities, such as 750, 1300 and F4 racing, with some 50 events including trials and the National Birkett six-hour relay race etc. The rules governing these are set out, together with fixtures, the 750 Championship List, a review of the 1981 season and so on, in the Club’s 1982 Year Book. The addresses of the 15 centres or groups and of associated Clubs are also listed. Details from David Bradley, 16 Woodstock Road, Witney, Oxon.
Austin Ten Drivers Club
1982 being the 50th Anniversary of the introduction of the Austin Ten, plans for a special celebration at the Club’s national event are well under way. The meeting, the 17th of its kind, will take place at Berkeley, off the A38 between Bristol and Gloucester, on June 26th and 27th. There will be the usual competitions as well as spares stalls, etc. Anyone interested in Austin vehicles of the thirties is welcome to attend. Details from M. Hill, 37 Stanway Road, Benhall, Cheltenham. Glos
Triumph Sports Six Club
OWNERS of Stags and TRs will be welcome at this Club’s National Day at Beaulieu on April 25th.