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The Bentley 4.5 litre chassis and the men who drove them, known as the Bentley Boys, became symbols of British Motorsport and aristocracy in the late 1920s and 1930s.
The naturally aspirated 4.5 Bentley was a good machine. It scored several victories at LeMans and was proven to be a reliable chassis which helped Bentley sell the car. History would fall in love with the offspring of this car though, the less successful and less reliable supercharged “Blowers” built by Bentley Boy Tim Birkin.
Whilst the Bentley 4.5 had been successful in the late 20s, Mercedes were beginning to bring superchargers into the mix with the SSK series of cars. Driver Tim Birkin saw forced aspiration as a threat to Bentley’s winning streak and suggested supercharging their cars, to which W.O Bentley famously replied that to supercharge a Bentley engine is to pervert its design and insisted that the answer was to increase engine displacement and so two seperate programs formed. Birkin built several supercharged 4.5 litre cars known as Blowers with the funding of Miss Dorothy Paget and Bentley built the 6.6 litre Speed Six.
However as time past Bentley realised just how fast the SSK Mercedes driven by Rudolf Caracciola and Christian Werner was and at the 1930 24 Hours of LeMans tasked Birkin with putting enough pressure on the Mercedes to force it into retirement, knowing that the supercharged cars were less reliable, to allow the mighty Speed Six to steam around and take victory “For King and Country”.
Today I will be building Penelope Pitlane’s Bentley Blower kit to emulate the car that Birkin drove in the 1930 24 Hours of LeMans.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of building a Penelope Pitlane kit, in that time it would seem that the quality of the kits has improved. As per usual you get a brass chassis to fold up:
The running gear also comes with the kit if you opt to buy a complete kit from them. I’ve never seen this green can motor come in a kit before!
The piece de resistance for me though has to be these wheels! They are absolutely stunning! Much nicer than the kit wheels you had to make up yourself (probably because I wasn’t any good at making them haha!)
The body and it’s accessories also came in a box which they usually don’t. This body does have quite a lot of additional parts though so maybe that’s why it came boxed. It’s a nice touch either way.
Inside we have a cast metal radiator, handbrake, headlights and fuel cap and etched window surrounds and headlight support assembly with separate headlight lenses and lexan for the windscreen.
There are multiple options for this kit. You can either have it with the touring screen folded down and with race screens, the touring screen up and you can even make the non supercharged 4.5 (with some modification to the body) which has a third headlamp and a slightly different structure for them to sit on.
The full length driver and head also come in a separate bag.
Plenty of water slide decals!
The main event is of course the body itself. As per usual with PP kits the body is resin and is really nicely detailed. I love how the fender struts don’t look too chunky.
As with any resin kit there were some bits of resin that needed to be removed from various bits. The instructions did suggest that the resin should be removed from the insides of the rails under the chassis. I decided to leave those in though and paint them black to save the strength of them. The only bit that was fairly unclear was this almost firewall like piece if resin between the floor and dashboard. I decided to cut it out as I wanted to keep th driver full length.
Now to begin the build properly. I always make the chassis up first and make sure that everything fits under the body so that if I have to cut or modify anything then I can cover it with paint afterwards. Penelope Pitlane chassis’ are laser etched and just fold up. It’s best to use a metal ruler as an edge and make sure you have a set square to make sure everything is as straight as it can be. The chassis itself can sometimes flex as it’s being built which leads to a distortion but I will cover that in more detail in a bit.
Now when we put the chassis under the shell we can see that the back of it does not fit flush with the body.
The body post comes too far down and needs to be cut back. If the brass tag was on the bottom of the chassis rather than the top it would fit perfectly.
I measured the depth of the chassis and cut that amount off of the body post using a rotary tool/dremel. Once it’s cut back it seems to sit fine!
Whilst a rotary tool is about it’s worth using the round file to cut back the slots in the body where the axles would go to allow the to fit. If you can see the hole in the chassis through which the ale will sit then it should clear!
Now it’s time to put the axles and wheels on!
In terms of height the wheels clear the body absolutely fine but they stick out quite a long way! Measure the amount each wheel sticks out and then cut the ale down with your rotary tool accordingly. With the front axle you can add the two measurements together and cut from one end of the axle as the centre point of the front axle isn’t fixed. You will have to take cuts from either end of the rear axle though due to the spur gear being in the centre.
Now it looks much better!
All the running gear can now be put into the chassis. It should all just slot straight in. The only thing worth noting is the positive side of the motor (defined by the red dot) should be on the right of the car and will be wired to the braid on the right of the guide.
Now onto the fun bit which is actually making it look like a car! After washing and drying the shell I prime it with Halfords grey primer. There are lots of model specific primers out there but I find Halfords’ to be perfectly sufficient.
Then it’s time to do the top coat! I find multiple thin layers of top coat work best. Do 2-3 coats from about 40cm away. You really want to be dusting the model so you don’t lose any detail.
The colour looks kind of strange in that light. Here’s a nicer picture after I’d put on the metal radiator. The body will have to be trimmed to get it to fit right. I didn’t test fit that bit and had to file it once it was already painted and then go over it again. Make sure everything fits for ease.
One day I will finish that balsa Super Cub!
I know now-a-days if you want any information on a specific car it’s easy to jump on the internet but my Dad got me this book for Christmas which has been really helpful for me to find details about the car I’m modelling.
Here’s a picture of the exact car!
It’s a handy reference for detailing the body! Here I’ve blacked in the grill and the vents around the fuel cell. The grill is very prominent on this model and didn’t want to be left black so I tried dry brushing silver over the grill to highlight the raised mesh! Drybrushing is as it sounds, you put your brush in the paint and then wipe 99% off so when you brush over something only the edges are highlighted.
I then painted in the Bentley badge. I know in the real world it would be a black circle with silver wings but it just didn’t look right.
The number plates were also painted on and the seats, door cards and dashboard painted in. I’m not took keen on the hand painted number plate but the letters are far too small for my vinyl cutter to do. Maybe I will print one in the future and will stick it on. We’ll see!
Of course the man himself Tim Birkin would have to be represented!
The kit originally came with this full length model who, whilst looking good, would simply not fit into the cockpit of the car as his back was out of shape but would also not be able to hold the Bentley’s wide steering wheel.
Instead I opted for a George Turner figure that I took from an Auto Union kit I made when I was younger and was no longer happy with. After a quick repaint he looks just like Mr Birkin!
He fits nicely into the car too! As you can see I’ve put on the handbrake too. That simply slots into a pre-made hole in the body.
Now onto the final details!
There are multiple options for the windscreen. One can either use the two small racing screens or the large touring screen. I like the large touring screen. It shares the same piece of brass as the mount and mirrors.
I masked up the window surround and then sprayed the lower part the same colour as the body. The mirror lenses were painted on once attached to the car.
The headlights were a bit more of a puzzle. They sit on a sort of ‘H’ shaped frame. The lower legs of the frame go into pre-made holes in the body and the upper legs go into the bottom of the light housings. The lenses are then stuck to the housing. An interesting idea! They look amazing when done though!
The final piece of the puzzle is the knock off caps for the wheels. These simply glue into the rest of the wheel. Super easy and straight-forward! If you can’t tell I really rate the wheels that came with this kit haha!
Done! Here are some pictures of the competed car:
It was nice to be able to take some pictures of it next to my other Tim Birkin car, the Bentley Blower No1 land speed record car! Sir Tim Birkin was such an incredible chap!
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