First new Bentley Blower Continuation built to 1929 design

Historic Racing News

The first in a new line of Bentley Blowers has been produced in tribute to Sir Henry Birkin's legendary design

First Bentley Blower Continuation


The first new Bentley Blower to be built in 90 years has been revealed, as testing begins on an all-new Continuation series of the pre-war racing car.

Based on drawings and a laser scan of the original 1929 4½-litre model raced by Sir Henry Birkin at Le Mans in 1930, the car is made up of more than 2,000 parts hand made in-house and across the country by specialists.

This initial prototype, known as Car Zero, will go through testing intended to simulate events such as the Mille Miglia and Peking to Paris rally, before a production run of 12 is built, all pre-sold for an undisclosed price.

It is also likely to appear at events next year, including at Goodwood.

Unlike most prototype cars, the Blower Continuation will not have to be destroyed at the end of testing, as it won’t be registered for use on public roads. Instead, it will remain as part of Bentley’s heritage collection.

The company says that almost 40,000 hours have gone into designing and building the car, from the moment that the original design drawings and drafts were recovered from its archives.

Bentley then studied its own car, the famous Birkin Bentley that helped to grind down the Mercedes opposition at the 1930 Le Mans 24 Hours, clearing the way for the Bentley Speed Six to take victory.

From the archive

It was sent to the Coventry-based Envisage engineering group, where it was taken apart and every piece laser scanned. Motor Sport visited the workshop earlier this year while the process was taking place behind closed doors.

The recreation isn’t just skin deep. The car’s chassis is made with heavy-gauge steel that was hand-formed and hot riveted by the 200-year-old Israel Newton & Sons company near Derby, which also makes boilers for steam locomotives.

The car’s leaf springs and shackles were made by the West Midlands firm, Jones Springs Ltd, which began as a blacksmith’s forge, and the ash frame was crafted by Lomax Coachbuilders in Ludlow.

Bentley’s bespoke Mulliner division brought the parts together and hand-trimmed the leather interior, including the horsehair-stuffed seats.

“The very latest digital design techniques came together with genuine artisanal hand-crafted artistry – often using manufacturing methods true to the 1920s,” said Paul Williams, director of Mulliner. “It’s only through this fusion of old and new that we could craft these cars, with the skills of our engineers mirrored in those of our specialist suppliers.

“We’ve issued thousands of drawings and specifications for components, and watching them arrive into Mulliner and then seeing the car take shape has been hugely rewarding.”

The engine is described as an “exact recreation” of the engine that Birkin modified to such dramatic effect.

From the archive

Starting with the 4½-litre block with an overhead camshaft and aluminium pistons, Birkin bolted on a supercharger to boost power, while strengthening the crankshaft and modifying the oil system.

Despite the reservations of WO Bentley, the results were impressive enough to persuade the company to produce a run of 55 to meet Le Mans competition rules — including five ‘Team Blower’ cars allocated for competition use.

The car never won a race but Birkin did come close at the 1930 French Grand Prix at Pau, finishing second and preventing an all-Bugatti podium. The car’s two-tonne weight prompted Ettore Bugatti to describe Bentley as the fastest trucks in the world.

Working with Watford Bentley specialist, NDR, Bentley recreated the engine and Amherst Villiers supercharger design. It was run in on a testbed before being installed.

As part of the testing programme, the car will be tested to its top speed, which is thought to be close to 150mph.

Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Adrian Hallmark, has volunteered to carry out the speed run after driving the car earlier this week.

“To drive the first new Blower in 90 years was a privilege, and the quality of the car would make Sir Tim Birkin himself proud,” said Hallmark. “The craftsmanship is exquisite, and I’m pleased to report that the car drives just as beautifully as our original Team Car.”