Bentley Supercharged 1930
WO Bentley might not have agreed with supercharging his 4½-litre model, but the result is surely the quintessence of Bentley lore that every schoolboy should know. Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin and his Blower Bentley are one of the most gallant man and machine partnerships, up there with Horatio Nelson and the Victory, Guy Gibson and his Dambusters Lancaster and Andy Green and Thrust SSC.
In the 1930 Le Mans 24 Hours race, Birkin, dubbed “the greatest Briton of his time” by none other than WO himself, took on the mighty works Mercedes-Benz SSK and its lead driver Rudolf Caracciola. How he overtook the German ace at the end of the Mulsanne straight, on the grass at 125mph, throwing a tyre tread, but contemptuously keeping his foot in, is the stuff of legend. He didn’t finish the race and it’s arguable whether he actually made a difference (works Bentley Speed Sixes came first and second), but this is a fable impervious to mere details.