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The Globe and Mail

In pictures: The most expensive Rolls ever and a Bentley legend

Toys for big boys with big budgets (and egos) made the headlines during Britain's Goodwood Festival of Speed when a pair of bidders dug deep to come up with $16-million to acquire the most expensive Rolls-Royce sold at auction and a legendary racing Bentley that commanded the highest price ever paid for a British built car.

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The 1912 Rolls, which sold for £4.7-million, is famous as the car on which was based the Corgi Silver Ghost die-cast models that 1960s British schoolboys played with.


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The 40/50 model chassis provided by RR was a massive affair with solid axles front and back, powered by a 7.0-litre inline-six that produced 50 hp at 1,50 0rpm, and came with a four-speed gearbox.


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The two final battling bidders engaged in their own version of schoolyard braggadocio bumping bids by £50,000 and £100,000 a time to more than two-and-a-half times the pre-auction estimate.


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The car that became known as “The Corgi” was acquired from Rolls-Royce in 1912 by Londoner John Stephens who had purchased the first vehicle sold under that soon-to-be-famous name established in 1906.


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It could reach a top speed of 60 mph (97 km/h), but its steam-engine torque allowed top gear flexibility between three mph and that top speed.


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Stephens turned it over to coachbuilders Barker & Co. for its bodywork


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Barkers, which had been around since 1710 and built coaches for British royalty, created a luxurious Double Pullman Limousine body, inspired by the luxury railway coaches of the period.


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The 1929 4-1/2-litre “Blower Bentley,” which went under the hammer for few thousand quid over £5-million ($7.85-million), was the favorite toy of Sir Henry Ralph Stanley “Tim” Birkin.


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Baronet Birkin was one of the racy “Bentley Boys” who brought the marque's name to fame in the 1920s with wins at Le Mans and on the Brooklands circuit.


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Nicknamed Tiger Tim after a comic book character of the day, Birkin was a fighter pilot in the First World War, began his racing career in 1921 and, after a hiatus, resumed it in 1927, at the wheel of a 3.0-litre.


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A year later, he got his hands on one of Bentley's new 4.5-litre racers and finished fifth at Le Mans, and a year later won it with co-driver Barnato in a larger-engined Speed Six.


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Engine designer Bentley was a displacement enthusiast and his 4.5-litre made a respectable for the day 130 hp, but Tiger Tim felt some forced induction puff would liven things up and keep the smaller engine competitive.


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Over Bentley's protests, but with backing from Barnato, he began developing what became a series of 50-plus supercharged cars known as the “Blower Bentleys” whose engines produced 240 hp.


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Birkin's blown-Bentleys never won at Le Mans as he intended but the single-seater track racing special he created made a name for itself at the notorious Brooklands circuit, an Indianapolis 500-style rough concrete bowl.


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