Airfix recently rereleased their 1:12 scale Bentley Blower as part of their Vintage Classics collection. As soon as it was announced I knew I had to get my hands on one, and my Dad very kindly got me one for my birthday.
It’s a huge kit spanning 10 plastic sprues with a metal rear axle and 5 rubber tyres.
The moulds themselves date back to 1971, but as the Bentley has only been made in a few batches consisting of only a small production run, it remains a nice crisp kit with minimal flashing.
With that being said, it is still an old kit. Technology has moved on in the past 50 years and so the kit won’t always slot together perfectly as modern kits do. There are parts that need to be modified and there are plenty of gaps and ejector pin marks that need to be filled.
As long as you have some patience and are willing to spend some time you it, this can be made into a really nice kit.
As much as it will make into a lovely display straight from the box, there is a lot of potential for scratch building and modification. This is a 90-95% box build, with some additions and alterations just to make it my own.
The first images I have from the build from way back on the 16th July (This kit has taken me a while!) are of the engine block and the clutch and fly wheel assembly.
I cut small slots into the magnetos and added the ignition leads. The car actually twin magnetos and twin spark plugs, one on either side of the combustion chamber. That’s pretty advanced for 1930!
On the intake side I had to temporarily fit the pipe leading up from the supercharger whilst I added the ignition leads. If I made them too tight they would have stopped that pipe from fitting properly.
The rest of the block fitted together nicely.
The fuel tank and chassis rails were next to go together. On the real car, the fuel tank has a metal mesh that goes around it. Airfix have moulded the mesh onto the tank, which for a man of my capabilities looks absolutely fine, but if you had the talent you could remake the fuel tank out of plasticard and then wrap it in actual wire mesh.
You can begin to judge the scale of the kit. The chassis rails are over a foot long!
The engine block sits into the chassis nicely. The supercharger slots onto the front and I’ve added the tail lights, roundel board and number plate to the back of the fuel tank. The colour I’m using as British Racing Green is Rover Brooklands Green.
The car has a metal bar that runs through the rear axle for the wheels to mount to. I found that this needed shortening in order for the rear wheels to fit properly.
I picked out the fill and drain plugs on the differential in a darker shade, just to add a little interest.
A lot of people actually criticise the wheels that come with the kit. There are a company that makes resin wheels for this kit to replace Airfix’s offerings should you do choose, but I like the standard ones.
I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t fill the ejection pin marks on the outer rim before painting the rear wheels. I’m confident that I did on the fronts. It’s not something I’d noticed until writing this article, so I guess it doesn’t show on the completed model.
With the wheels mounted to the rear axle.
Before I can fit the rear axle to the chassis I’ll have to make up and fit the gearbox and prop shaft. The gearbox is a nice compact unit that fits together nicely but the prop shaft has these huge ejection marks on it.
To remedy this I simply cut away any flashing/raised plastic around the mark with my scalpel and then use a little filler to fill the hole. Once the filler is dry I then sand the surface flat and repeat if necessary. I tend to find that with using filler, be that on a model, a wall or a full size car, less is more.
All painted and fitted up along with the rear suspension.
On either side of the rear wheels you can just about make out these adjustable arms that hold the leaf spring onto the chassis. I added a little detail to them.
The firewall and steering column were next to go in.
I added in some of this brass pipe work that goes between the block and firewall.
Steering and front suspension were next to be made.
I knew I’d filled the ejection marks on the front wheels!
Sitting on all four wheels.
The top of the floor is really nicely moulded, but the bottom was covered in marks. Easily fixed!
I first based the top and bottom of the floor in Rover Brooklands Green.
The floors seemed to be different from car to car. Some have a grey chequered material (which Airfix have used for the moulding) whilst some had carpets, coir flooring like a doormat or even solid wood.
I decided to stick with the grey cheque at the front with wood panelling in the back. The panels are simply chopped down coffee stirrers, which my work colleague kindly got me from our local coffee shop, stained with teak oil.
The dashboard was in my opinion the most satisfying part of the kit. The glazing for gauges is stuck on behind the plastic facia, then the dial faces are a reversed water slide transfer that goes on behind the glazing. Genius!
Now we jump forward in the build a bit. The two halves of the body and all the seats have been painted and installed. Here I’m dry fitting one of the bonnets.
A better shot of the effect the wooden floor gives.
The rest of the exhaust has also been fitted.
As exampled by the Pinterest photo from earlier, a lot of pre war racing cars had their steering wheels wrapped with twine. I wanted to try to replicate that, so I wrapped the Bentley’s steering wheel in off white cotton. May be a little over scale, but I think it looks alright.
I next made the wiring loom going from the dashboard to the firewall. I stripped a section of mains power cable down to their individual threads. Then I twiddled all the threads together and painted it black before fitting it. It looks quite convincing in person but rubbish in photos haha!
Front fenders and head lights were added. There should be a wire mesh that goes over the headlights that acts as a guard. Airfix provide a second goat of glazing with the mesh moulded into it. I painted it up but it looked odd, so I decided to leave it off. A more talented modeller could make the guards out of real wire mesh and it would look fantastic, however I will be leaving them off for now.
I did add the wires going to the head lights though.
The frame for the fold down screen and the racing windscreens were added next.
The naturally aspirated cars had a fold down windscreen, but the filler cap on the top left of the body meant that the glass screen couldn’t be fitted.
The real car had a mesh screen fitted. Again Airfix have offered a solution in glazing but it just looked odd. So I had a go at making it out of wire mesh. The curvature isn’t as pronounced but it fits nicely!
With a few more details added, it’s done! The real UU 5872, the most valuable Bentley in the world, was raced by Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin at LeMans in 1930. It partook in one of my favourite battles in LeMans between Birkin’s Bentley and the supercharged Mercedes of Rudolf Caracciola.
I enjoyed the build. It was challenging at times, and was very time consuming, but was very rewarding as it came together.
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By Richard Francis