A Bentley Blower and Balkan Sobranie Cigarettes

12 March 2022

Sir Tim Birkin was the descendant of a notable Nottingham lace-making dynasty. Motor racing was not in his blood, but the second world war had given him an inexhaustible passion for speed and danger.

He married and reluctantly joined the family business; neither lasted.

By 1928, he had left his wife and bought a Bentley. Tim and his brother Archie (to the chagrin of their parents, who had lost one son in the war) entered a race at Brooklands.

Sadly, a few weeks later, Archie was killed on the Isle of Man, practising for the motorcycle TT.

Rather than give up racing following his brother’s death, Tim was even more determined to enter racing competitively, with an intensity that bordered on obsession.

Famously, inpatient, Tim was not prepared to wait for Bentley to answer his call for more power; he decided he would fit a Supercharger to his Bentley. WO Bentley exclaimed,’ to supercharge a Bentley was to pervert its design and corrupt its performance.’

Needless to say, this didn’t stop Birkin; Bentley withdrew its support, so Birkin approached and successfully encouraged a famous racehorse owner, Dorothy Wyndham Paget, to underwrite his ambitions.

Dorothy, famous for horse racing, her girth and her hundred-a-day consumption of Balkan Sobranie cigarettes was precisely the sponsor Birkin needed.

The rest, as they say, is history.