Bentley’s Mulliner division plans high-tech production of 12 Blower continuation cars
Bentley is taking the idea of constructing “continuation” versions of historic automobiles to the pre-war era for the first time. The storied automaker’s Mulliner coachwork division will recreate a dozen authentic replicas of Sir Tim Birkin’s supercharged 1929 “Blower” Bentley, perhaps the most significant Bentley ever. To give you an idea of the supercharged Bentley’s reputation, before James Bond drove Aston Martins, author Ian Fleming had him behind the wheel of a Blower Bentley.
The Bentley factory built just four 4.5-liter “Team Blowers” for Birkin in the late 1920s, eventually leading to a Bentley win at Le Mans with a factory Speed Six in 1930, driven by Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston, beating racing great Rudolf Caracciola in his 7.0-liter Mercedes SSK.
Chassis number HB 3403 remains in Bentley’s possession, wearing license plate UU 5872. To start the continuation builds, the team at Mulliner will completely disassemble HB 3403 down to its component parts, which will be 3D-scanned to create an accurate digital model of the car. Then, using both the original 1920s era tooling jigs and molds, which Bentley still possesses, and modern manufacturing technology combined with traditional handcrafting, enough parts will be made to assemble 12 new Blowers. The company will make them as identical to HB 3403 as is possible, although there will be “minimal hidden changes” to address contemporary safety concerns.
Bentley is using the project as an opportunity to give its original Blower a full inspection and sympathetically restore the early racer’s mechanical systems. UU 5872 had prior been restored in the 1960s, with care taken to retain most of the original patina. Bentley still runs HB 3403 regularly, including competing in this year’s Mille Miglia in Italy, regular participation at the Goodwood hillclimb, and the recent parade tour held in conjunction with the Pebble Beach concours.
Just like the originals, the continuation Blower Bentleys will be powered by 4.4-liter four-cylinder engines, with four valves per cylinder, an aluminum crankcase, cast-iron cylinder liners, and fixed cast-iron heads. Bentley will be fabricating exact replicas of the Amherst Villiers Mk IV roots-type supercharger that gave the Blower Bentley its supercharged nickname, allowing the engine to develop 240 horsepower. The original car’s pressed steel frame, half-elliptic leaf springs, Bentley & Draper dampers, 17.75-inch Bentley-Perrot mechanical drum brakes, and worm and sector steering box will be accurately recreated.
Mulliner plans on taking about two years to complete the 12 continuation cars. Unlike the old saw about not being able to afford something if you have to ask the price, Bentley will provide the purchase price upon “application.”