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1930 Bentley 4.5 Litre Supercharged (A20440V) 1:12 Airfix It wasn’t long after the motor car was invented that crazy people were racing them to prove who was the fastest and bravest, a sport that became known as Motor Racing which by the 1920s was well-established and official in most developed countries. Time trials, endurance races and hill-climbs were all tests of various skills of the driver, vehicle and technical skills of the mechanics and engineers trying to keep the vehicles on the road at faster and faster paces. By the mid-1920s, Bentley Motors Limited was already carving a niche for itself as a quality car producer for the well-to-do, and was working hard to create a name for itself in the motor racing area too. A group of enthusiasts became known as the Bentley Boys in the mid-20s, driving souped-up versions of their cars, initially in 3 litre form, but as the weight crept up, the 4.5 litre Bentley was born. It had a respectable 110bhp in normally aspirated form, but with the fitting of a Roots brand supercharger, that number rocketed to 190bhp for the roadgoing consumer version, and a staggering 240bhp for the race prepared cars. That’s a fairly large number even for today’s highly advanced and efficient engines in many modern production cars, so back then in an open-topped vehicle with narrow tyres and no safety equipment whatsoever, it must have been terrifyingly fast. It was a thoroughbred racing car, and like the equine equivalent from which the term “horse power” came, it was a bit prone to collapsing in a heap at the slightest provocation. It seldom finished a race when being pushed to the limit, much to the consternation of the drivers and their entourage, but the rest of the field struggled to keep up when it was working properly. Eventually, it was run side-by-side and later superseded by the Speed 6, which although it only had 200bhp in race spec, was much more reliable thanks to the larger 6.6 Litre engine that was under less stress. During the time they ran in the same races, the 4.5L blower was used to great effect to tie-up the competition at the 1930 Le Mans race, which they duly did before terminal mechanical failures removed them from the race, leaving the two Speed 6s to grab 1st and 2nd place. There are still a fair number of Blower Bentleys in existence in museums and private collections, many still running, with of course the one at Beaulieu amongst them. You should check out our walk around when you’ve completed your kit purchase. I took the pictures in 2015 on my phone, but they’re pretty decent pics. The Kit This is one of Airfix’s classic kits, and was initially released in 1971, when it blew this little modeller away. I used to admire the box in my local model shop Arts & Crafts in Chester during my youth, where it sat for many years near a Tamiya 1:16 Flakpanzer Gepard high in the window display. It has been re-released a number of times over the years, and we’ve got another re-release here right now. It arrives in a compact box, which may be thanks to some sprue snipping at the factory, with eight sprues in grey styrene inside, plus another with a real chrome coating applied to give it a shiny finish. There’s a small clear sprue, and the package is completed by a large format instruction booklet with painting guide on the rear cover. So, how has it faired over the years? Pretty well is the honest answer, and although it has all the traits of a kit of its day, the detail was very good and must have impressed the 70s modellers if they could see past their huge collars and side-burns. There’s a little flash on the sprues, some of which extends to the parts, but the flash is probably a by-product of the age of the moulds, and is a lot better than short-shot parts. On my sample there are a few swirl-marks on the outer face of the underside protection panel that covers the exhaust amongst other things. If your copy is affected, a small quantity of filler and a brief rub with a sanding stick will see the problem go away entirely. The kit is a full interior model, and includes a detailed representation of the engine, supercharger, interior and running gear, with the chrome sprue coated with a rock-hard outer layer of chrome with a nickel and copper layer between it and the plastic. I scraped off the top layer on a runner with a great deal of effort, which blunted my blade nicely. Just so you know. Construction begins with the engine, with the complex all-in-one block made up from an enlarged racing sump plate with cooling fins, oil scavenger pump and hose, two block sides, two internal supports and a three-part representation of the fly-wheel ring gear. The ancillaries are next, with twin magnetos, exhaust manifolds, top cover, and various pipes, hoses and wiring looms. In front of the starter motor is a chrome filler tube for the engine oil, which is sometimes painted black, and above there is a chromed water outlet pipe that is painted alternately black to simulate the rubber sections. The supercharger is made from two cooling-ribbed halves, two end-caps and a stout trunk linking it to the engine. On the side of the supercharger are fitted a pair of the later upright carburettors, which are substantially different than the original “sloper” carbs in bronze and steel fitted on the earliest models, and on the opposite side is a finned outlet manifold. The engine parts are set aside for a while, during which time more sub-assemblies are made up, beginning with the fuel tank. It is assembled from individual panels, with the lower area protected by mesh that is replicated by a cross-hatched texture moulded into the surface along with the fuel and air-pressure hosing, clips, straps and separate filler cap in chrome. On the rear is a flat circular panel for the number 8 decal, and a number plate with raised numbers and edges that you can either paint or scrap off and use the decals. The two chassis irons are fitted around the fuel tank at the rear and joined by four additional perforated cross-members of various shapes to create the ladder that gives it its name. The seats are then created from front and back halves, plus the bottom cushion and mounting platform, with two made up for later installation. Finally, the gearbox is assembled from top and bottom halves plus a central shaft and top access-cover with a host of bolts moulded into the top. This, the engine and the supercharger are brought together within the front of the chassis, threading through the various cross-members, and adding a ring between the supercharger and engine block. Attention shifts then to the wheels, the front pair having two layers of spokes moulded into the rims, and a drum brake shell attached to the rear, while the rear wheels are made up without their brake drums for now, but with their double-eared “knock-on” wheel locknuts, which have a chrome rear and styrene front section. The rear wheels are assembled onto the brake back-plate at each end of the rear axle with a metal rod providing extra strength and splines to push the wheels into place. At the front of the differential the end of the prop-shaft is glued in place in preparation for final installation, then the rear leaf-spring suspension is attached under the chassis rails, with the cord-wrapped texture moulded-in, but this may need some reinstatement once the seams and a few ejector-pin marks are dealt with. Wrapping it in thin string may be an option after a little sanding back of the parts to retain the correct dimensions. The axle is glued to the chassis with the springs below them and two brackets that attach to the dampers at each side at the lowest point. The two knock-on wheel nuts are fixed to the centre of the wheels, and the prop-shaft links the transmission with the back axle, with another prop-shaft end fitted against the gearbox output shaft. A scrap diagram shows the correct orientation of the shaft between the two sections. The engine isn’t quite finished yet, but first the steering column is assembled, as is the firewall bulkhead with reservoir tank for later use. Three caps are placed on the chassis rails, then the steering column is inserted into an eyelet on the rail, with the actuator on the other side, then the boost blow-off valves and the L-shaped inlet manifold are all fitted to the right side of the engine. The front axle metalwork is dropped to clear the sump, with the pivot arms attaching to the back of the hub that are closed-in by the brake drum housings, which like the rear ones don’t have the cooling ribs moulded-in thanks to the moulding limitations of the time. You could add these with rings of fine wire if you’re so minded. The steering arms are linked together by a long rod that has a nut attached to lock the part in place, with the link to the steering column attached by the same method. The front leaf-springs attach to the underside of the chassis, and they have single V-shaped adjustable (on the real thing at least) friction dampers fitted to the front between the axles and the chassis rail. Later on the Perrot shafts are inserted into cups on the rear of the brake drums at one end, and are fitted to the top of the chassis rail on their brackets, and have their leather gaiters moulded-in for ease. Staying at the front, the radiator is a stand-out design cue for the type, and it is simulated by the chromed outer shell with the grille part having a diamond pattern mesh moulded into the front, although on my example there was a small sink-mark near the top. It fits into the rear section on a set of stand-off turrets that give the impression of the core within, plus another mesh pattern on the rear underneath the sort-of slam panel that supports the front of the bonnet. A scrap diagram shows the classic Bentley badge so that you can pick out the detail with a dark wash. The bonnet panels have their many louvers and cut-outs moulded-in, and with a little care in removing the small seamline flares, they should represent the real thing really well. The vertical sections are joined to the top sections by a pair of hinge parts that trap the pins on the verticals, with the task replicated on each side of the cowling. They aren’t installed just yet because there is still work to do around the driver’s compartment, installing the firewall, the chequer-plated floor panel, seats, pedals, gear-shifter, and the handbrake is found on the chromed sprue with its lightening holes already present, although some of the smaller ones have been almost closed over thanks to the chrome plating and the flash. With the right sized drill and some body-coloured paint, that can be repaired easily enough. The instrument panel is made up from a front panel that has the circular machining pattern moulded-in just like the real aluminium panel. The clear instrument glass is replicated by a couple of inserts, and there are dial decals on the sheet that have been printed in reverse (i.e. white under black, which you can’t see on the decal sheet), so that when they have been applied, the dials will be visible through the clear parts. The glazing has some sink marks that can easily be fixed by sanding back the thickness and polishing them back to clarity, or punching out some fresh clear acetate replacements. In the lower section of the passenger side (the left for our American friends), another clear part is supplied to represent the supercharger twin oil-drip feed indicators. Behind the drivers’ seats is a short bulkhead that keys into the floor below the rear seats, and then the body sides are brought in around the cabin along with the rear panel and its piped rear seat back cushion. The bottom seat cushion is installed later on, made up from a flat lower panel and formed cushion part that could do with a little more of an organic shape to it. Flipping the chassis over, the exhaust downpipe is fitted to the end of the manifold and the muffler, with the long fish-tailed exhaust running all the way to the rear and exiting under the fuel tank with a peg holding it in the correct position. Finally, the underside protector is glued in place with cut-outs around the rear suspension and the aft leg of the chassis stiffening strut gear, which came from W O Bentley’s initial engineering experience on the railways. In preparation for the finishing touches, the headlights are made up from chromed reflectors with moulded-in bulb fitting, styrene rear and a clear lens part. Later on the mesh protectors are installed on short stand-offs, which the model uses a clear part with moulded-in mesh detail to portray. For a more accurate look, you could ream out the centres of these parts and source some mesh from somewhere. When you do, can I have a piece please? The two horns are built up from three parts each, with the horn having a very, very feint representation of the mesh covers that prevent stones etc. from entering the mechanism. The road-going version only had the one horn if that’s of interest. With the vehicle back the right way up, the tyres are stripped of the additional lip that is shown in the diagrams, then slipped over the hubs. If you look inside the tyres, the walls are stiffened by spokes within the carcass to prevent them from sagging over time, and if you remove the sprues in the centre and the input gate cleanly they have plenty of detail moulded-in, including the fine grooves in the top of the sidewall, circumferential bands and the maker’s mark and specification on the inner part of the sidewall. Five are included, one for each corner and another for the spare that is attached to the side of the vehicle. The rear fenders have one support moulded-in, with the other curiously shaped part glued to a strap across the fender, both of which mount on lozenge-shaped fixtures on the sides of the chassis rails. Above them, the hood mechanism is glued to the side of the body, and the hood fits over the ends, with a tonneau cover over the hood and rear seats. Moving forward, the fold-down mesh windscreen is made up from a two-part frame and a clear part that represents the mesh again. You’re going to need a fair amount of mesh, so save some for me. The filler cap under the bulge in the windscreen/mesh is also chromed, and fits under it before the screen is glued in place. The twin glass racing screens are supplied as clear parts with chrome bases, then the single-part steering wheel and two side-lights with chromed lenses are fitted to the cab surround, and the spare tyre is slipped over the hub you created earlier and mounted on the left side by a three-part frame that includes a cupped lower that is directly mounted on the chassis. A foot-peg for the driver is also fitted to the chassis just behind the spare, and then the horns with their cover brackets are glued around the supercharger. The front tyres slip over the hubs, the front fenders with two supports each are inserted into the sides of the chassis, and the headlamps plus front number plate are all attached to the front to finish that area, leaving just the bonnet to be completed. A chromed centre support runs from front to back, settling into depressions in the front and rear, and there’s a lot of flash here, so make sure you have some new blades in stock. The two cowling assemblies go on next, and are held in place by four flexible black plastic straps that locate on small pins on the underside. They have a wee bit of flash on the edges, so a fresh blade will get that sorted. Markings As if there was any other choice of colours? British Racing Green is the only choice, unless you’re not a purist, but we won’t judge you. The cowling, chassis and fenders are all this colour, but the wooden bodywork from the firewall back is skinned with a light alloy, then covered in leather, which may be difficult to replicate in terms of texture, but they are painted a satin dark green in the instructions. The chromework is for the most part already supplied with real chrome applied (it actually gets cold to the touch), but with the sprue gates and some flash, you may wish to strip it and use a suitable paint to replicate the finish. My personal favourite is Stuart Semple’s excellent Mirror, which if sprayed on a smooth surface gives the best replication of chrome I’ve yet to see. From the box you can build this example: Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion This kit is old. Whoever tooled it really loved this vehicle though, and it shows in the detail that is included from the box. They really did the absolute best they could with the technology available, so apart from the limitations of injection moulding at the time and a little mould wear, it’s an excellent kit. Get some diamond mesh, some finer mesh for the other areas such as the windscreen and headlamps. Detail is surprisingly good, and it’s one of those kits that is really begging to be built. If I didn’t have so many half-finished projects, I’d be clearing the decks and visiting possible sources for those meshes. Highly recommended, just read the review first. Review sample courtesy of
I'm occasionally struck by madness. I think that this was one instance... I decided that the Airfix Bentley could be turned into Tim Birkin's Brooklands car. So far I've: Lengthened the chassis Built a complete new body - from plastic strip over formers Made a new bonnet from aluminium Here's where it is so far. You may recognize a few Airfix parts...