Scalextric C64 Blower Bentley
An Interesting Choice
Another one from the 'failed race cars turned into a slot car' department - the Scalextric vintage 4.5L supercharged Bentley of 1930 reg# YU3250.
"Surely some mistake" I hear you cry. Isn't this one of the most famous British race cars of all time? Is it not the original Le Mans winning car raced by Sir Henry Ralph Stanley "Tim" Birkin?
Actually, no. It may well be famous but it falls into that exceedingly large category of “Great British heroic failures”. True, Bentley works cars won Le Mans five times including four in succession from 1927–1930 but none of them fell to a supercharged car. In fact the supercharged 4.5 never won a race of any significance; it suffered a series of mechanical failures and brought the firm into disrepute. Its fame rests on one magic moment during the 1930 race - lap 4 – halfway down the Mulsanne straight – Birkin and his Blower diced for the lead with Mercedes ace, Rudi Carracciola, passing him flat out with his nearside wheels on the grass. Birkin also set the fastest lap of the race shortly after but neither his Blower nor the Mercedes finished and the race was won by Barnato and Kidston in their Bentley Speed Six. The supercharged car only raced once at Le Mans and none of the 3 cars finished.
The Blower was, in effect, a private enterprise funded by Birkin and Dorothy Paget. W.O. Bentley was totally against it but had lost overall control of the company to Woolf Barnato who allowed it to proceed. It was built in Birkin's Welwyn Garden City workshops and not the Bentley factory. 55 cars were built, 50 road legal models to comply with Le Mans homologation rules, 4 Le Mans bodied race cars and a single seater prototype. The latter is the only one that achieved anything of note as it held the Brooklands lap record for two years at 138mph. True to form it broke down soon after setting the time.
Never mind, everybody loves a Blower Bentley, it is an awesome beast and the world and his mother made a model of it. The Airfix and Matchbox versions are probably the best known but Revell, Heller and several others also made them. Which brings us at last to the Scalextric version and the question - why did they choose the least important one with registration number YU 3250? The usual choice was UU5872, Birkin's actual race car which currently belongs to Bentley Motors and will never be sold or UR6571, Benjafield's car which was last heard of in Ralph Lauren's private collection. These were the only two blowers that actually started the race.
YU3250 never had much of a racing pedigree, it entered very few races, usually broke down and its best result was 11th in the 1930 Tourist trophy. Jack Dunfee was supposed to drive it at Le Mans but it never made the start. This probably explains why it survives to this day as it never lasted long enough to crash and is living out its twilight years in a private collection in California.
Apparently when Scalextric were planning to make the first two vintage models the directors paid a visit to the Beaulieau Motor Museum which was located near the Havant factory. It was here that they found the 4.5 litre Bentley registration number YU3250 which was there on loan. This visit also explains why the sister C65 Alfa Romeo 8C was produced in its strange blue colour as opposed to the correct Italian racing red. The Alfa was also on loan to the museum and the owner had resprayed it blue. Motorsport knowledge was never a strong point of the Scalextric design department during the sixties so they merely copied the car without checking the livery.
Anyway, the Scalextric model was highly successful, stayed in the catalogue for 7 years and many thousands were produced. There was also a rarer black version included in a set but who would want anything other than British Racing Green? It also had a later resurrection in the 'Power and Glory' series of 1993 fitted with the then current motor and guide. The Blower is considered a must for any Scalextric collection and pristine, boxed examples can fetch serious money. It is by no means rare though and good examples can be picked up for under £50 if you are patient. Spares, both original and reproduction are also relatively easy to find so a cheap one with bits missing can be restored quite successfully.
And Finally........... if you are ever driving round the North Norfolk coast road why not stop off at Blakeney church and visit the grave of 'A racing motorist of international fame', Tim Birkin. The church also has a lot of stuff inside about this fascinating man.
Half a mile down the road is the Wiveton Bell. It is now a gastro pub but some years ago it was owned by a motor racing fan and was the only pub in the world to have a fully functional Jaguar E Type engine in the fireplace. It would be fired up on request with a donation to a local charity.
We often used to go there for lunch and a read of the motorsport magazines that were provided as well. The landlord was later lost at sea in a boating accident and his body was never found but the locals always maintained that he had a lot of debts and did a Reggie Perrin! The engine is long gone but the food is still very good.