Bentley has announced it’ll build 12 replicas of its iconic 1929 Team Blower race car, in part to celebrate the brand’s centenary.
It’ll take two years for Bentley and its Mulliner coachbuilding division to complete the 12-car series, though they’ll take advantage of the latest manufacturing technologies. Each car, however, will use the original moulds and tooling jigs from the 1920s.
Engineers will start with the Team Blower owned by Bentley. It’ll be disassembled and each part will be catalogued and scanned in 3D before being recreated. Deviations from the original will be scant, largely hidden changes dictated by modern safety concerns. After all, if you’re going to rebuild the Library of Alexandria, you need to make sure there’s a fire exit.
The original car will then be reassembled. It’s still a semi-regular fixture at historical events, recently appearing at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance alongside two of the other three Team Blowers.
The Blower Continuation Series was announced at this month’s Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance by Bentley chairman and chief executive, Adrian Hallmark.
As to why Bentley was entering the replica game, he said “the four Team Blowers are the most valuable Bentleys in the world, and we know there is demand for genuine recreations that can be used, enjoyed and loved without risk to the prized originals".
The Continuation Series cars will use a reconstructed version of Bentley’s 4½-litre (4398cc) four-cylinder engine and Amherst Villiers Mk IV Roots-type supercharger. True to the original, the cars will use drum brakes all-round with semi-elliptical leaf springs front and rear.
The price? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Bentley won’t even release the price until you put in an application for a Team Blower. That should keep out the riff-raff.
Hopefully the Continuation Series will be more reliable than the original. The race cars and the 50 production models that followed were plagued with mechanical failures.
Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, one of the famous financiers and gadabouts collectively known as the Bentley Boys, had conceived the use of a supercharger on Bentley’s 4½-litre engine, inspired by Mercedes-Benz’s use of the technology.
Bentley founder W.O. Bentley, conversely, wanted Sir Henry’s race cars to use the new six-cylinder 6½-litre engine, saying a supercharger would “pervert the engine’s design.” Holding only a minority share of the company at the time, he was overruled by the chairman and the Blower cars were produced.
Though it proved unreliable, the supercharger dramatically increased power. The regular 4½-litre produced 96kW while the Blower delivered 178kW in race tune.
Although they were the fastest race cars of their day and Sir Henry was a talented driver, the cars never won an endurance race largely because of their inability to endure. Sir Henry did, however, manage a laudable second-place finish in the 1930 French Grand Prix.
In 1930, both Blowers entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans failed to finish. The first and second place-winners? Bentley’s Speed Six cars using, you guessed it, W.O. Bentley’s preferred engine. Unfortunately, Bentley couldn’t gloat too much because shortly thereafter the company he founded went into receivership.
The Blower Continuation Series follows this year’s 1939 Bentley Corniche recreation, the first ground-up replica to be crafted by Mulliner.
It also follows on from the Blower-inspired Continental GT Number 9 Edition, of which one hundred were built.