Weekly Motor Fix: 1931 Bentley 4.5L

Posted in Opinion, Cars

Despite my knowledge being a bit rusty when it comes to cars that are nearly 100 years old, I've always been a fan of old race cars. Previously I'd been scared to the point of tears at the thought of being inside one of the modern-day race cars, which was an oddity considering I was always surrounded by them and adored them, yet the thought of being inside one seemed like imminent death. With safety regulations and changes over the years, I really didn’t have a lot to worry about. Roll cages are now standard practice and the quality of safety never ceases to grow and expand.

However the race cars that I wasn’t scared of were the classics. They reminded me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the thought of flying around the world. When I popped down to Caffeine and Classics on the weekend, I expected a quiet Sunday morning wander before lunch, but what I ended up seeing was quite beyond that. Seeing many Mustangs and little Minis, I had a good idea of what the majority of cars in attendance would be. I met up with a few friends and had a wander around the show, spotting a few oddities, and spotting a big green thing at the back by itself. Getting closer, a friend of mine said, “Check out the Bugatti over there!” The closer we got, the closer we realized the ‘B’ was for Bentley, not for Bugatti.

The front-mounted supercharger stood out like a sore thumb behind the headlights and horns. Working our way back through the engine, the bonnet strops, and into the cabin, it’s a remarkable sight, and a piece of engineering carefully restored and maintained to ensure it's keep at such a high standard. It had grabbed my attention so strongly that I had to have a quick Google, which allowed me to figure out what I was looking at — a Bentley 4.5L Blower. Having once raced at Le Mans on an unsuccessful journey, the Bentley 4.5L Blower was renowned as being one of the first race cars to ever install a supercharger and, although not successful, it managed to create a stir in the circuit.

Driving one of these pre-World War II cars comes with a little more footwork than a modern car. With the accelerator situated in the middle of the floor and the brake off to the right, you’ve got to think a little harder than usual to ensure you’re not speeding up instead of slowing down. Then there’s the engine. What came as a surprise to me is that the 4.5(4)L engine is a single overhead cam straight-four, much like that of say a Honda D13B. Unlike a Honda however, there’s said to be around 40 Blowers left in original condition around the world with the market changing and the cars ageing. The owner was leaving as I was arriving however; strapping on his helmet and goggles, the man was all prepared for the journey ahead. It’s definitely not as easy as being in a modern-day car, but pedalling the Bentley beast around would certainly be an amazing piece of work to be associated with.


Chris Smith

Coming from a background of Freshly Whipped car photography and blogging, I'm here to take you through my angle and perspective on cars and events. Keep an eye out for my Whipped Up series.