Race Retro Classic Car Sale 2017

Back to lot listing

1939 4 1/4 Ltr Blown Derby Bentley "Rusty Turner" Special

Lot No.: 921

Registration: CUY 837
Chassis Number: B-88-MR
Engine Number: R5 BT
Number of cylinders: 6
CC: 4.25
Year of Manufacture: 1939
Sold for (£): 123,750

“A single-seater Bentley racing car that captured the imagination and hearts of the Great British public during the 1930s, has had a temporary export bar placed on it, to provide the last chance to raise the £5,149,800 needed to keep it in the UK.” (Surrey Advertiser)  

That car, known affectionately as the “Bentley Blower”, was originally designed, owned and raced by Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, and was Britain's fastest racing car at the time. Birkin was one of the most effusive figures in British motor racing who enjoyed a superstar status comparable to that of some modern-day Formula 1 drivers. His ‘Bentley Boy’ high-society image was combined with fearless driving talent and for a generation of British racing enthusiasts, ‘Tiger Tim’s’ moustachioed, becapped and goggled figure, with his polka-dot scarf fluttering in the slipstream, personified an English ideal. 

Made primarily of steel, aluminium and wood,  the 'Blower' was one of the first supercharged Bentleys. In the early 1930s, Birkin and the 'Single-Seater' were the darlings of Brooklands, widely regarded as the heart of the pre-war motor racing scene in the UK, and the car still holds the record for the fastest of all production-based racers at that track.

Following the tragic death of Birkin in 1933, the 'Single-Seater' was converted into a two-seat roadster, however, a subsequent owner, 'Rusty' Russ-Turner reunited the original body and chassis 25 years later, returning the car to Birkin’s Brooklands configuration and securing its long-term preservation in pre-war form. A boyhood Birkin fan and Bentley enthusiast, Russ-Turner had been a long-term admirer of the car. He recalled: "I had never lost my fascination for that car and one day I was at the Bentley Drivers' Club, Hendon driving tests when a fellow member mentioned rumours that the Birkin single-seater was going to be sold to America. I went to see John Morley who said that nobody in England seemed to want it. In fact, they all seemed afraid of it. So after long negotiations, we came to an agreement, and in the summer of 1964 I collected it from his garage at Colnbrook, west of London, and drove it home to Leatherhead. It carried the two-seat body but Morley had also sold me the original track body as part of the deal. When I climbed behind that wheel it was the realisation of a dream. Ha! I was wearing a white silk shirt, and by the time I got home I was soaked in oil from head to foot!" 

Sadly, 'Rusty' Russ-Turner suffered a fatal heart attack at Silverstone whilst racing the car but will always be remembered as a visionary with Bentley in his DNA.

Which brings us to this wonderful Bentley Special for sale here. One of Rusty Turner's dream projects in the late 1960s was to convert pre-war Bentley saloons into two-seater 'Sports Racers' and this is one of three built by the talented Tony Fabian from Shoreham. It was based on a 1939 Bentley, 4 1/4 Litre, Park Ward saloon (Chassis No. B88MR)  which had originally been supplied by Jack Barclay to 'education expert' W.H.S Chance on the 20th January 1939. The Bentley subsequently became the property of a Mr Campbell in Berkshire and, in turn, he accepted £475 from Philip Gowing in 1959 when the car had covered 47,300 miles. 'Rusty' Turner got his hands on the car in 1968 and commenced the conversion to a Sports Racer. The overdrive Derby chassis was shortened and fitted with an attractive two-seater sports body, and the engine was modified to accept a belt-driven, Wade low-pressure supercharger running at 3psi.

This charismatic Bentley has had a long and interesting history since then. It was owned and raced by Victor Gauntlett (Aston Martin) and in his capable hands was credited with the Silverstone Club lap record for Derby Bentleys. Subsequent owners include David Steel, Stanley Mann and Dr Denham before being acquired by our vendor in 2007.

Finished in BRG with green upholstery, CUY 837 has been enjoyed and well-maintained by our vendor over the years and appears excellent mechanically. It's generally in very good condition all round with the patina of decades of use and affection. It's not immaculate, but then you wouldn't want it to be. It's enormously quick, intuitive and tactile, sounds tremendous, and emotes pre-war Bentley from every pore. CUY features in a couple of books "The 1938/1939 Overdrive Cars" by Mervyn Frankel and Ian Strang and "Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys" by Ray Roberts.

This fabulous Bentley is not a replication but is the creation of, and a direct link to, the man who rescued the World's most famous Bentley, raced it, and ultimately passed away in it. He designed this car to incorporate all the qualities he liked most in sporting Bentleys. It won't appeal to everyone, but if it does, then don't miss this opportunity.