An appeal has been launched by the Brooklands Museum in Surrey to save the famous 'Birkin' Bentley, a racing car that’s rich in history and a much-loved legacy of the Bentley motor company.
The 'Birkin' Bentley, named after its driver and developer Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, was sold at auction in 2012 for £5.15 million. At the time it was the most expensive British car ever sold at a public auction.
Now that it’s available again, Brooklands Museum has organised a campaign to raise the approximate £5 million it would take to buy the Birkin Bentley back for the nation. It is fitting that this organisation should be helming such an operation; the museum is situated on the site of Britain's first motor racing track, built in 1907. And what’s more, the Birkin Bentley twice held the lap record for the outer circuit.
The car, constructed in 1929, is a modified version of the classic 'Bentley Blower' and features a 4.5-litre supercharged engine delivering roughly 240bhp. Its performance would be considered impressive by even today's standards but during its heyday it was considered to be one of the fastest racing cars in the UK.
Sir Henry Birkin (also known as 'Tiger Tim') was one of the so-called 'Bentley Boys' – a small group of around 16 wealthy motor enthusiasts who were at the forefront of British motor racing in the 1920s. They were frequently victorious in races, and arguably did much to contribute to the reputation for driving excellence that Bentley currently enjoys.
An export ban has been placed on the Birkin Bentley by Culture Minister Edward Vaizey, ensuring that it will not leave the country. This could suggest that the buyer is based abroad. Mr Vaizey commented: "It would be a tremendous loss to the nation if this wonderful car, that so beautifully epitomises the passion and glamour of motor racing in 1930s Britain, were to be exported overseas. I hope that a UK buyer can be found in the time now available so we can keep this magnificent piece of British racing history in the UK."
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