The cash hungry car companies’ continuation craze continues
The Birkin Blower – Sir Tim Birkin’s 1929 supercharged 4½-litre “Blower” – is perhaps one of the most iconic Bentleys ever to have been made with many schoolboys introduced to it via the Airfix kit which now sell for anything between £40-£175 on ebay. Having tasted success with its range of limited edition models, such as the 100 Blower-inspired Continental GT Number 9 Edition cars, Bentley Motors is now producing a new series of 12 Birkin Blower cars by a specialist team from Mulliner, Bentley’s coachwork division. Together they form the world’s first pre-war race car continuation series. It will take Mulliner approximately two years of meticulous work to complete the 12-car series. Prices will be on application.
Bentley’s own Team Blower – chassis number HB 3403 – will be disassembled to its individual components, before each part is catalogued and meticulously scanned in 3D to create a complete digital model of the entire car. Using the original 1920s moulds and tooling jigs, and traditional hand tools alongside the latest manufacturing technology, 12 sets of parts will then be created, before assembly. The 12 continuations will be identical wherever possible to the original – mechanically, aesthetically and spiritually – with only minimal hidden changes dictated by modern safety concerns. The original car will then be reassembled, with the heritage team taking the opportunity to complete a detailed inspection and sympathetic mechanical restoration where required.
“As we continue to commemorate 100 years of Bentley, we are combining a look to our past with the very latest digital technologies and techniques to create something truly extraordinary,” commented Adrian Hallmark, Bentley chairman and CEO. “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 12 new Blowers will not only be an homage to our heritage, they will be a celebration of the outstanding skills of our Mulliner craftspeople. This is a new challenge for Bentley, but with the incredible success of the recent restoration of our 1939 one-of-one Corniche, we wanted to go one step further and make something even more special. Twelve lucky customers will soon be able to own a unique tribute to Bentley’s history.”
The Blower Bentleys were born from a philosophy devised by Sir Tim Birkin – notable racing driver and Bentley Boy – to extract more speed from the racing Bentleys of the day. While WO Bentley’s method was to increase engine capacity – from 3-litre, to 4½ litre, to 6½ litre – Birkin was impressed by the Roots-type supercharger developed by British engineer Amherst Villiers, which boosted the 4½’s power from 130 bhp to 240 bhp in race tune. He persuaded Bentley chairman Woolf Barnato to sanction production of 55 supercharged 4½ litre Bentleys, with five allocated for competition. The car on Bentley’s heritage fleet – UU 5872 – is the second of the four ‘Team’ cars developed at Birkin & Co’s workshops at Welwyn Garden City with funding from wealthy heiress the Hon. Dorothy Paget.
After a formidable racing history Team Car No 2 was sympathetically restored in the 1960s, preserving much of its original patina. Owned by Bentley Motors since 2000, it has had only minor cosmetic maintenance, and is much as Birkin would have driven it. Since then it has competed in the modern Mille Miglia five times, has driven to Le Mans on several occasions and has also appeared at the Goodwood Festival of Speed as well as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.