After 40,000 hours of work, Bentley Mulliner has today completed the first new Bentley Blower in 90 years, with the delivery of Car Zero – the prototype car for the Blower Continuation Series.
This highly exclusive run of 12 customer cars – all pre-sold – will be crafted 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. In particular, the master model for the Continuation Series was provided by Bentley’s own Team Car (Chassis HB 3403, engine SM 3902, registration UU 5872 – Team Car #2), with every single item laser-scanned as part of a sympathetic wheels-up restoration.
1,846 individual components have been built and hand-crafted from this data to create the new Blower. 230 of these components are actually assemblies, one of which is the engine, and when fixings and interior trim parts are included the total parts count to several thousand. A project team of Bentley Mulliner engineers, craftsmen and technicians, working together with a variety of British specialists and suppliers, produced each of these parts and assemblies.
Blower Car Zero is a prototype dedicated to research and development, designed in advance of the 12 customer vehicles, and will undergo reliability and performance testing for months. Car Zero made its debut today to officially mark the development of the new Bentley Motors campus in Crewe, It is finished in glossy black, with the interior in Oxblood red leather by Bridge of Weir. Made possible by the closing of Pyms Lane – Bentley’s address since 1946 – the campus extends Bentley’s headquarters to a new expanded footprint.
The Blower Continuation Series is the first customer-facing project delivered by the new Bentley Mulliner Classic portfolio, one of three new divisions of Mulliner alongside Coachbuilt (currently developing the equally-exclusive Bacalar) and Collections (responsible for the Continental GT Mulliner).
Blower Car Zero – A Project of Draftsmen and Craftsmen
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.
From the outset, Bentley Mulliner tried to involve the very best experts across the nation to build a part for the Blower Continuation Series in a manner suitable to such a project, using conventional techniques that have been passed down through centuries.
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 Bicester Heritage-based Antique Car Radiator Company has designed detailed recreations of some of the main components of the Blower, including the mirror-polished, solid silver nickel radiator shell and the steel and copper hand-beaten fuel tank. Market leaders in the manufacture and restoration to the highest possible quality of craftsmanship and authenticity of antique car radiators and components, they were the ideal choice for handcrafting these tricky and essential components.
Leaf springs and shackles have been made to original specifications by Jones Springs Ltd, a specialist in the West Midlands with nearly 75 years of experience and a history that started in a blacksmith’s forge.
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.
Breathing New Life into an Iconic 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.
With the construction of Car Zero now complete, a real-world durability testing program will begin. In ever harder environments, sessions of increasingly duration and speed will check functionality and robustness. The test software is designed to achieve a real-world driving equivalent of 35,000 kilometers over 8,000 kilometers of track driving and simulates the undertaking of popular rallies such as the Paris to Peking and the Mille Miglia rallies. The testing will also a particularly brave driver taking the car to its top speed – with Adrian Hallmark first in the queue.
All 12 customer cars to follow are pre-sold and specified.