BENTLEY 4.5 Litre – ‘Well I’ll be blowed, a RED one?!’
Let’s do the history first! We all know, don’t we, that any Bentley is a high value prestigious vehicle aimed at high society. Well, they were but that didn’t excuse them from being (ab)used on the race track. Bentley had a 3 litre model and a 6.5 litre model. The 6.5 litre model had the potential to win but needed something extra. W.O. Bentley didn’t approve of forced induction systems but, nonetheless, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin made five blower Bentley’s for the Le Mans race. Two cylinders were removed from the 6.5 litre engine reducing it to 4.5 litres (or thereabouts) and a supercharger, otherwise known as a ‘blower’, was fitted to the front. Fifty-five copies were made by Bentley to comply with Le Mans homologation rules. Tim Birkin was one of a small group of racing enthusiasts, to later be known as the ‘Bentley Boys’, who would go on to help the team see the Bentley 4.5L ‘blower’ cars to victory at Le Mans over a winning streak from 1927 to 1931. The rest is history, including the sale of Bentley Motors to Rolls-Royce during the 1930’s financial recession post Wall Street. The racing successes made this car a famous British icon carried in the hearts and minds of a growing public awareness of motor sport.
When collecting Scalextric cars one will undoubtedly come across the between-the-Wars Bentley or the current Continental GT3 cars. Both handsome beasts and certainly both are monsters on the race track. Not to everyone’s taste but they can’t be ignored as Scalextric models as there are standard issues and some very, very rare pre-production models as well as very, very rare fully decorated models.
In 1962, catalogue 3 displayed the new Scalextric 1929 Bentley 4.5 Litre race car complete with a blower in front of the famous radiator grill. Referenced as C64, it was available in black or green. There are some quite delicate parts to the design of the model. The headlamp stalks, the four mudguards and the fan-tail exhaust would very likely be the first components to break or go missing. Pretty much the same as the real race car! Today, a second-hand in a far worse state than this can be found but the fun is in the chase for a nice boxed and unspoilt model. They can be found, at a price usually, but they were produced in goodness knows how many thousands in green but the black Bentley is the hardest to find. The black version was only released once, hence the rarity of this livery.
A Scalextric Set was the place to begin one’s fascination with electric model car racing and Scalextric were quick to also release a Bentley set. Referenced ‘V3’ and named ‘Vintage Motor Racing’, the set contained both black and green Bentleys.
The second Scalextric factory, located in Calais, France was also producing the entire Scalextric range as fast as it could to meet the incredibly high market demand during the 1960s. Tooling moulds were often shared between the UK and French factories. In France, the Bentley was issued in the green livery as well as a lower number of black versions. These can be identified by the light brown tonneau covers (grey for the UK) over the rear seats and red spoked wheels (black for the UK). The underpan may be embossed, using an interchangeable insert inside the steel mould, as ‘Made in England’, ‘Made in France’ or simply a blank space where the ‘Origin’ stamp wasn’t available ((or forgotten!).
The more common green variant was also released in 1982 (C305) as part of the ‘Vintage Collection’ series, a little know release in 1986 (C839 but identical to 1982 C305) and then again in 1992 as part of a ‘Power & Glory’ collectable range following a TV programme called ‘The Power and the Glory’’.
A dark blue version was released in 1995 (C242), and in Spain as H242 under Scalextric’s Superslot brand created for the Spanish and Mexican markets, as part of another collectable range called ‘Racing Classics’. Why blue? As far as I know, it didn’t reflect any of the full-size race cars but at least it was something other than ‘another green one’! The guide blade, motor and entire underpan evolved as the decades rolled past. A complete specification of each model is in the ‘Ultimate Guide’ book.
Note: On a black Bentley, beware of replacement mudguards or head lamp stalks painted black!
For something different turn to the pre-production and other factory prepared models such as the chromed Bentleys giving to guests to the factory, to race competition winners or for other special occasions. It had always been quite normal for Scalextric to use the technique of chrome-plating components such as bumpers and lights to provide a rather unusual prize or gift of a car completely chromed and, usually, mounted on a wooden plinth with a plaque marking the occasion. Chromed Bentley’s are interesting items especially if the provenance of the plaque or story from the recipient accompanies the model.
Pre-production models are very rare but they do turn up. Models in white, blue and red have been seen and are photographed in the ‘Scalextric – Ultimate Guide, 8th Edition’ (see page 398). There are only two recorded models of the red car. One of these and had been painted green when it was produced at the factory and decorated as a display example for its forthcoming release in to the Scalextric range and had remained undiscovered for thirty years before it was realised.
These Bentley models were presented in a variety of boxes from the original card light blue with black & white chequer, the French version of this has a striking pink to one end of the box. The Power & Glory, Vintage and Classic collectable ranges have raised backing cards with attractive graphics.
Bentley Continental GT3
Coming up to date, 2012 saw the introduction of the Bentley Continental GT3 to the race tracks of the world – a welcome return for the famous Le Mans winning brand name. The 4 litre, V8, twin-turbo, 550bhp GT3 race cars are still being developed for racing after 120 podiums and 45 race wins. Pretty impressive.
Scalextric began with the fully detailed white and green Works liveried car (C3514) and the ‘super-resistant’ ‘Generation Bentley’ team car (C3515) in 2012. All GT3 Bentleys are fitted with a DPR chassis. Since 2012 the white/black M-Sport (C3595), a green No85 (C3713), white ALD No84 (C3714), a white 60th Anniversary celebration (C3813A), a red/black ALD No84 and a blue ‘ONLYWATCH’ No84 cars have been released. Perhaps a few more will follow these.
A Bentley race Set was released with ‘road’ versions of the car. The Set, C1349 Bentley GT3 Racers, contained a black/red car and a black/white car. Both cars had no other decoration and might, perhaps, be typical of ‘play things’ the rich and famous might commission direct from the Bentley factory!
Once again, an anomaly has been thrown up with a particular model. C3515, the Generation Bentley car, should have a white body with blue, silver and grey Union Jack flag on the roof and flanks. A few incorrectly decorated pre-production samples were released by Scalextric to the collector’s market via various fund-raising and marketing events in the UK. These variants have a silver body instead of white.
More variants include GT3 Bentleys used for testing decoration techniques. About ten bodies were sprayed and painted in several techniques to create some interesting designs at the Margate factory. A number of these samples were issued as prizes or samples for feedback. There are only two known body types, one of which was only part of the engineering process when it was discovered that early pre-production samples have two air-jack connectors on the rear boot valance instead of the eventual (and correct) single connector. Tooling differences can be interesting to collectors.
Finally, just as there was a very rare plain red 1929 Bentley 4.5 Litre there is also a very rare plain red Bentley Continental GT3 out there somewhere.
The GT3 cars come in three packaging styles; blue base, grey base and card boxes.
Which to collect, then? Both super-cars of their days, the Bentley range of Scalextric cars is a definitive and achievable collection if sticking to the mass produced standard range and enough to fill a very presentable and modest display cabinet. On the other hand, where thee fun is in the chase, seeking the rarer 4.5 litres or GT3 cars will be an enormous challenge. The cars described here are NOT a definitive list. There are at least twelve 1929 Bentley 4.5 Litre variations and twenty-four GT3 variants! Whichever the preference, they are probably a ‘must have’ in most collections.
References: Ultimate Guide, 8th Edition,
Bentley 4.5litre: pages 82, 393, 398, 411.
Bentley Continental GT3: Page 82.
If you believe you have a yet unrecorded variant and seek confirmation of its authenticity, please contact me at slotcarportal.com.
“Scalextric – The Ultimate Guide 8th Edition” book, with over 700 pages, is available from the Internet. Search online!