Testing a Continuation Blower

29th June 2023
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

A few days ago I went testing, which is always good fun. I was at Donington Park and we had the entire place to ourselves, which was more fun still. Round and round we went, having fun while doing meaningful work at the same time.


Today I ache. Not everywhere, just in my back, shoulders, arms and fingers. But that’s what happens when you try to wrestle nearly two tonnes of supercharged Bentley around a track like that for a while. I was getting so worn out I needed to put the seat closer to the wheel so as to bend my arms more and thereby be able to apply more torque to the enormous Bakelite steering wheel every time it needed turning. Which, in turn, meant banging my left leg against the beautiful turned aluminium dash. So shortly thereafter I was bleeding too.

But who cares? If all goes to plan, I will race one of these cars at the Le Mans Classic, cars entered into a race by the factory at that track for the first time since they won the 24 hours two decades ago. Yes, I know doing three 40-minute races in a car designed in the 1920s at the Classic is not exactly comparable to what Tom, Guy and Dindo did back in 2003 but technically it’s true, so I’m taking it. I shall try hard not refer to myself as a Bentley Boy through fear of you concluding I’ve disappeared up my own fundament.


How will they go at Le Mans? My every instinct is ‘quite slowly’. Both these cars belong to the continuation series of supercharged Bentleys and are, to all intents and purposes, brand new, so imagine the fun a company with Bentley resources could have seeing how fast it could make such a car go: boost pressure off the clock, an engine displacing 5.3-litres instead of the usual 4.4, carbon fibre half shafts, concealed power steering, flyweight flywheel, lightweight gears and so on and on and on. It would be an absolute missile.

But Bentley didn’t do any of that. The car is to standard 1930 team specification from its André Hartford lever arm dampers to the bulbs in its enormous Lucas headlamps. It runs enormous amounts of positive camber on its front wheels, not because that’s good for racing – quite the contrary – but because that’s what Messrs Birkin and co raced with at Le Mans in 1930. Around a circuit like Donington it is about six or seven seconds a lap slower than the modern vintage Bentley racer’s weapon au choix, a highly tuned 3-litre with a ‘4.5’-litre engine which may or may not displace the exact same 4390cc intended for it by WO.


And actually, the fact it’s literally bog standard is probably what I like best about the car. You know, absolutely, that Birkin could climb aboard and literally not be able to tell the difference between this car and his own team car. They would look, go and feel exactly the same. Drive one of these and it doesn’t just give you an idea of what those heroes of old were driving, it gives you the real thing.

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