The legend of the Blower Bentley: magic... or myth?

Four Le Mans wins from 1927-30 made Bentley a household name, while its drivers became the poster boys of their day. Doug Nye inspects the legendary supercharged 4½-litre ‘Blower’ that was supposed to take the marque to the next level. In reality was it magic, or is its charisma based on a myth?

TIm Birkin in his Blower Bentley at the 1929 Ards TT

‘Tim’ Birkin in his Blower Bentley at Ards, Belfast, in the 1929 TT – two months after winning Le Mans

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Enthusiast tastes change inevitably with each generation. Most of us grow up in motor sport entranced by the successful cars of our personally formative era. Therefore it’s perfectly natural for enthusiasts in later life to hold those same cars in great esteem, despite the passing years. And when we finally lose interest –living or dead –a fresh majority fanbase replaces us, with broadly different tastes absorbed from a later era. It’s a natural, right and proper progression – but a broader perspective is always healthy…

When I first became involved in the racing world of the early 1960s, I found legions of older-generation enthusiasts positively misty-eyed over the great cars of the 1920s – the straight-eight Delage Grand Prix cars of 1926-27 seemed especially iconic, while a particularly tweedy or blazered band of snowy-haired oldies would blether on about “the great days of Bentley at Le Mans”. A slightly younger group glazed over nostalgically at having seen “the Mercs and Auto Unions” blasting around Donington Park in 1937-38, “…leaping head-high over the Melbourne hump”.

But even then there were younger people with wider tastes, wider interests – not least those, usually with family heritage, who even then would bubble on about veteran cars, pre-1904 – so ours has always been a catholic church, of broadest taste. Perhaps I most recall the burgeoning enthusiasm of the Bentley fraternity whose faith was founded – totally justifiably – upon those five Le Mans 24-Hour race wins, 1924 and 1927, ’28, ’29 and ’30 inclusive. What a heady legend the Bentley tale provided.