The Bentley Blower continuation Series gathered momentum this week as the Mulliner Classic division completed the first ‘new’ Blower in 90 years. A staggering 40,000 hours of skilled craftsmanship has been dedicated to reaching the prototype stage of the exclusive machines of which 12 will be produced (all sold before release) from the design drawings and tooling jigs used for the original four Blowers built and raced by Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin in the late 1920s.
Inspiration and design have specifically been taken from Bentley’s own Team Car (Chassis HB 3403, engine SM 3902, registration UU 5872 – Team Car #2) which has provided the master model for the Continuation Series, with every single component laser-scanned as part of a wheels-up, sympathetic restoration.
Just under 2000 individual parts have designed and hand-crafted of which 230 parts are actually assemblies, such as the engine – taking the total part count to several thousand when fixings and interior trim parts are included.
Blower Car Zero
Blower Car Zero will be subjected to months of durability, endurance and performance testing and will eventually pave the way to the final construction of 12 customer cars which have already been ordered pre-release. Finished in gloss black, with an interior in Oxblood red leather from Bridge of Weir, Car Zero made its debut today to officially mark the creation of the new Bentley Motors campus in Crewe. Made possible by the closing of Pyms Lane – Bentley’s address since 1946 – the campus extends Bentley’s headquarters to a newly expanded footprint.
Today was a truly remarkable day, not just as a milestone in the Blower Continuation Series project but also for Bentley Motors. 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. The craftsmanship is exquisite, and I’m pleased to report that the car drives just as beautifully as our original Team Car.
It was also significant that I could drive the new Blower down Pyms Lane, now part of our main site as we expand to create the new Bentley campus. Investing in our headquarters is vital both for Bentley’s future and for Crewe, and our new developments and buildings are a physical manifestation of the exciting future before us as we start our journey to become the world leader in sustainable luxury mobility.
The first step in creating Car Zero was an extensive analysis of the original design drawings and drafts that were referenced in the creation of the original Blower Team Cars, together with archived period photographs of the cars. Following a piece-by-piece disassembly of the #2 Team Car owned by Bentley (likely the most valuable Bentley in the world) and an exceptionally precise laser scanning of the frame and its components, a complete digital CAD model of the Blower was created.
From there, a team of artisan specialists were recruited to start manufacturing the components that Bentley Mulliner would bring together to form the first Blower.
Seeing Car Zero come together over the last weeks and months has been astonishing. The very latest digital design techniques came together with genuine artisanal hand-crafted artistry – often using manufacturing methods true to the 1920s. 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. Now we start the next phase – testing and development, ahead of the build of the 12 customer cars.
From the outset, Bentley Mulliner sought to engage the very best specialists across the country to create componentry for the Blower Continuation Series in a manner befitting such a project – using traditional techniques passed down through generations.
The chassis has been created in heavy-gauge steel, hand-formed and hot riveted by the specialists at Israel Newton & Sons Ltd. This 200-year old company, based near Derby, traditionally makes boilers for steam locomotives and traction engines, and as such has the skills to forge and shape metal in a traditional way.
The Vintage Car Radiator Company, based at Bicester Heritage, has crafted exact recreations of the some of the Blower’s key components – including the mirror-polished, solid nickel silver radiator shell and the hand-beaten fuel tank formed in steel and copper. Market leaders in the manufacture and restoration of vintage car radiators and components to the highest possible standards of craftsmanship and authenticity, they were the perfect choice to handcraft these tricky and vital components.
The Blower’s iconic headlamps have been reborn by Vintage Headlamp Restoration International Ltd in Sheffield. This father and son team is world-renowned for their silversmithing and ability to create vintage-design headlamps from original specifications.
Iconic Bentley Blower Engine
Car Zero’s brand new 4½-litre engine, originally designed by W.O Bentley himself, has been created with the expert support of specialists including NDR Ltd in Watford. Featuring many innovations of which a sports car engine of the 1970s would be proud – aluminium pistons, an overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and twin spark ignition – the renowned 4½-litre engine has been paired with a newly machined Amherst Villiers roots-type supercharger. The newly created Blower engine is an exact recreation of the engines that powered Tim Birkin’s four Team Blowers that raced in the late 1920s – including the use of magnesium for the crankcase.
While the first engine was being assembled, work was also underway to convert an engine testbed at Bentley’s Crewe headquarters to accept the nearly 100-year old engine design. The engine test facility has been at Bentley since the factory was built in 1938, and the cells were originally used to run-in and power-test Merlin V12 aero engines produced by the factory for the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters of the Second World War.
Preparing the testbed involved making a replica Blower front chassis to hold the engine, which could then be mounted to the computer-controlled engine dynamometer. A new software version to measure and control the engine was written and tested, allowing Bentley’s engineers to monitor and run the engine to precise parameters. As the Blower powertrain is considerably different in size and shape to Bentley’s modern production engines, a number of the original Merlin testbed fixtures – still in storage at Bentley – have been utilised to adapt the testbed to accommodate these special engines.