By: IOL Motoring Staff
This is probably the only new-car story this week that won't be datelined 'Detroit Motor Show' - and that's because the Bentley Limited Edition Birkin Mulsanne will be sold exclusively in Europe.
Inspired by Sir Henry 'Tiger' Tim Birkin - the legendary Bentley Boy who travelled and raced extensively around Europe in the 1920s and 1930s - it features unique styling details and ultra-luxurious trim - as well as a special 'Sport' setting on the Drive Dynamics control of which 'Sir Tim' himself would have approved.
Only 22 will be made, in the customers' choice of three colours - pearl white, deep plum or two-tone blue - with numbered door-sill plaques, a special 21” alloy rim inspired by those on the original Mulsanne concept car, and a striking 3D 'Flying B' logo stitched into the head restraints and inlaid into the wood of the front fascia and rear picnic tables.
The cabin trim features intricate diamond quilting pattern on the seats and door panels, complemented by an indented leather headlining and 'knurling' details on the interior metalwork, while rear-seat passengers enjoy exquisitely framed dual 200mm DVD screens in the rear of the front-seat head restraints, a DVD player, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a 'Naim for Bentley' premium audio system and iPads integrated into the hand-crafted solid wood picnic tables.
Each car will also come with a hand-crafted, tailored luggage set, individually numbered and matched to the interior trim of that particular car.
THE QUINTESSENTIAL BENTLEY BOY
Sir Henry Ralph Stanley 'Tim' Birkin, was celebrated as both a racing legend and and unassuming style icon in his time, epitomising the idea of the British gentleman racer - and this car is the Bentley's take on what Birkin would ask for if he were ordering one today.
Birkin bought his first Bentley simply out of a love of fine motoring, but over time he became increasingly involved with Bentley's efforts on the road and race track, culminating with his key role in the development of the 'Blower' Bentley in 1928.
While the 6½-litre Speed Six was under development Birkin felt that a more competitive endurance racing car could be built by bolting a huge Amherst Villiers supercharger on to the nose of the crankshaft on the existing (and very successful) 4½-Litre Le Mans winner, boosting power at one blow from 97 to 180kW.
FEARLESS DRIVING STYLE
WO Bentley hated the idea with a passion, saying that “to supercharge a Bentley engine is to pervert its design and corrupt its performance”, but Birkin persuaded company chairman Woolf Barnato and financial backer the Hon. Dorothy Paget to support a production run of 50 cars in order to qualify for Le Mans.
It was for this car - and his fearless style of driving it - that Birkin is perhaps best known, although history tells us, in hindsight, that 'WO' was absolutely right.
None of the supercharged Bentleys ever won a race or even finished at Le Mans, although Birkin thundered home second in the 1930 French Grand Prix at Pau behind a 2.3-litre, straight-eight Bugatti Type 35, burning a litre of petrol every 15 seconds at full throttle and prompting Ettore Bugatti to call it “the world's fastest lorry”.
Birkin grinned and agreed.