I’m also influenced by the fact I come from a Bentley-loving family – my father had his own rather less illustrious bitsa 4.5 and when he lost all his money in 1974 was very clear that if the bailiffs came to take it away, he was going with it. He drove it everywhere: across America, around South Africa and several Mille Miglias. When I was old enough to drive it, it was the car in which I learned about centre throttles, crash gearboxes and plenty more besides. So yes, I’m biased.
The first actual Blower I drove was the Bentley’s other car, the factory demonstrator which is a standard road car which someone had converted to a conventional pedal layout. Is it heresy to say I was slightly disappointed? It didn’t seem much faster than an unblown car with a healthy engine and that big lump of metal slung out between the front dumb irons made it feel a little ponderous.
My first experience of the Birkin car wasn’t that great either. It was during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 which massively limited where we could go and what we could do and the weather was filthy. I drove it, but not far and not fast. It was like uncorking a bottle of Petrus and only being allowed to sniff its contents. And I thought that was that. Who gets a second chance at such a car?
Well, me, as it happens. In 2014 and to my dumbfounded surprise, I was asked to do the Mille Miglia in the car. I barely slept I was so excited, right up to the moment I slipped a disc and instead of driving my favourite car on an incredible event, ended up in hospital with someone jabbing needles into my spine.