The first-ever continuation of a pre-war car has arrived thanks to Bentley. The Crewe crew will be making 12 more of its legendary Le Mans-winning Bentley Blower.
Originally built in 1929, the Bentley Blower was developed and run by Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin. A pilot with the Royal Flying Corps in WWI, “Tim” turned his eye to motor racing in the ’20s. In 1928, he acquired a Bentley 41/2 liter car and would become one of the “Bentley Boys.” A member of the Bentley works team, he raced in blue and white with a spotted silk scarf.
But even at the time, the Bentley was considered massive. Ettore Bugatti famously called it the fastest truck in the world. The size was a result of WO Bentley’s determination that there was no replacement for displacement. Specifically, he didn’t like superchargers. “To supercharge a Bentley engine was to pervert its design and corrupt its performance.”
But Birkin set to work supercharging the car any-old-how, taking the Bentley to Amherst Villiers, who had been working with Mercedes-Benz. The result was a massive roots-type supercharger placed in front of the radiator and driven directly by the crankshaft.
The result was a bunch of understeer and an extra 112 hp. The blown 41/2 liter was, therefore, more powerful than the 61/2 liter and Le Mans, proving that there may, in fact, be a replacement for displacement.
Today, Bentley will be giving the Blower the continuation treatment we’re all familiar with. That means a laser-scanned chassis, original blueprints, and an ash frame for the body hewn by impossibly old Brits with indecipherable accents.
“After almost a year of highly detailed engineering work, it is extremely rewarding to see the first parts coming together to form the first Bentley Blower in over 90 years,” said Bentley Mulliner’s Tim Hannig, in a statement. “The skill of our engineers and technicians in completing hundreds of individual part specifications is equalled only by that of the artisans across the country that have handmade the components that we’re now starting to bolt together. As we go, we’re refining designs and fixing problems, which is exactly what a prototype build is for. We’re all really excited to get this first car finished, and to show it to the world later this year.”
As a result of the age of this car, though, there’s an added layer of difficulty in recreating the car. Bentley had to literally comb the country (that country being the UK) to make all the parts.
The chassis was hand-formed and hot riveted by Israel Newton & Sons Ltd (that’s a quite a few of them since the company is 200 years old). The radiator was built, sensibly, by The Vintage Radiator Company. Leafs spring to match the originals were crafted by Jones Springs Ltd.
If you want one of these Blowers, too bad. They’ve all been sold. And as a result, we don’t actually know how much it cost. But it’s fair to say that the number likely had quite a few zeroes after it.
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