Bill Blydenstein, the famous Vauxhall tuning and cylinder head expert, died on September 11 aged 78. The Dutch-born aeronautical engineer started his racing career in 1958 in a Borgward Isabella TS. After a few years it was clear that he could handle this unwieldy car and he was given a works Mini drive in 1962. The next year he started his long relationship with Vauxhalls by campaigning FB VX4/90s with Chris Lawrence. In 1966 he saw an article on the new HB Viva, wrote to Vauxhall, and the result, in 1967, was a Shaw and Kilburn Special Viva, which he developed, built and raced to a debut class victory at Snetterton.
After this Bill started to concentrate more on preparation and brought Gerry Marshall in to drive. After the launch of a 2-litre slant-four engine in the 1968 HB Viva GT, Bill and Gerry enjoyed a huge amount of success and in 1971 Dealer Team Vauxhall (DTV) was founded. In its final guise and tagged Old Nail, the car – with power now up from the 95bhp of Bill’s first HB to 230bhp – took championship wins and 63 victories.
It was under Bill’s management that DTV produced two of the most exciting ‘big banger’ race cars of all time: Big and Baby Bertha. The V8 Big Bertha lived only slightly longer than the Ventora FE V-8 it was based on, and the 500bhp monster met its end on its fourth appearance. The V8 was put into a much lighter Firenza-based creation, Baby Bertha. In that, Gerry was only beaten once, and won the Super Saloon titles in 1975 and 1976.
In 1975 DTV took on Vauxhall’s rallying efforts. The HS Chevette and the later HSR evolution took numerous rally wins and the British Open Rally Championship title for Pentti Airikkala in 1979.
When the DTV operations were finally closed Bill continued to work on Vauxhalls and, in particular, cylinder head gas flowing. His workshop in Buntingford was known as the place to boost the performance of Vauxhalls and he will always be remembered as a gentleman who gave the best advice to everyone. A true engineering wizard who brought Vauxhall to the forefront of racing: he will be sorely missed.