One of the absolute stars of this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este will be the Bugatti 59 once owned by King Leopold III of Belgium. We met the remarkable car and its owner for a last shakedown in the Swiss Alps.
There is no doubt that this will be the star of the next Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, taking place on the shores of Lake Como from 20 to 22 May 2022. But what is it? The car before you is nothing less than the very first of the six Type 59 Bugatti Grand Prix cars, and the one that’s considered the most desirable of all, due to its remarkable race records, its captivating history, and its extraordinary condition.
A BRM V16 at the 2022 BRMA Track Day, held at Blyton Park.
The V16 is very much still in development and despite Raymond Mays protestations, the V16 makes its racing debut at Silverstone in 1950 in front of a record crowd of over 150,000 and Their Majesties the King and Queen. The V16 shears a driveshaft and the Alfas dominate. It is later established that it failed due to the steel not being to specification. The Trust sells BRM to Sir Alfred Owen (the great Midlands industrialist) in 1952. Regulations are changed to F2 rules (2 litre un-supercharged) leaving the V16 with no long term Formula One race prospects just as its development was providing positive results on the track. Parnell wins the Goodwood Trophy in the V16. The last of the front engine BRMs and the birth of the new P25 with a 2.5 litre straight 4-cylinder engine. The P25 was to herald a change in BRM’s fortunes with Jo Bonnier winning their first Grand Prix at Zandvoort in 1959.
One of the most iconic cars from Bentley’s history – Sir Tim Birkin’s 1929 supercharged 4½-litre “Blower” – is to be reborn with a new build of 12 matching cars, each individually handcrafted by a team of specialists from Bentley’s bespoking and coachwork division, Mulliner. Together, the new cars will form the world’s first pre-war race car continuation series.
Only four original ‘Team Blowers’ were built for racing by Birkin, in the late 1920s. All were campaigned on the racetracks of Europe, with the most famous car – Birkin’s own Team Car No. 2, registration UU 5872 – racing at Le Mans and playing a pivotal role in the factory Bentley Speed Six victory in 1930.
Now, using a combination of generations of handcraftsmanship skills and the very latest digital technology, the 1929 Team Blower will be the master example for 12 continuations – one for each race that the original fleet of four Team Blowers competed in.