After 40,000 hours of work, Car Zero has been assembled. It’s the first prototype of the Bentley Blower Continuation Series, an exclusive run of hand-built vehicles that are a replica of the 1929 Bentley Blower.
The 12 customer cars, all already sold, will be crafted from design drawings and tooling jigs used for the original four Blowers built and raced by Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin in the late 1920s. Specifically, it Bentley’s own team car (Chassis HB 3403, engine SM 3902, registration UU 5872 – Team Car #2) that serves as the master model.
The company has laser-scanned each part of the car to measurement accuracy – 1,846 individual parts. Of that, 230 are actual assemblies, one of which is the engine. When fixings and interior trim are counted, the number grows to several thousand total parts. Bentley Mulliner, the custom arm of the Crewe, England-based company, has been tasked with the build, working together with specialists and suppliers.
A number of local producers have been tapped to assist with the builds. Israel Newton & Sons Ltd., a 200-year old company based near Derby, has created the car’s heavy-gauge steel, hand-formed, and hot riveted chassis. 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.
West Midlands supplier Jones Springs Ltd, which has 75 years of experience under its belt, made leaf springs and shackles to the car’s original specifications. The father and son team at Vintage Headlamp Restoration International Ltd in Sheffield recreated the Blower’s headlamps while Ludlow-based Lomax Coachbuilders created a new ash frame for the car.
The Blower’s new 4.5-liter engine was originally designed by Bentley Motors founder W.O Bentley (1888-1971). It’s been recreated with the help of specialists including NDR Ltd in Watford.
Blower Car Zero is the prototype that will be dedicated to testing and development in advance of the 12 customer cars being built. The luxury automaker says that the car will be subjected to “months of durability and performance testing”.
It wears a gloss black paint job and has an Oxblood red leather interior from Bridge of Weir. As per the original spec, the seats are stuffed with a total of 10 kilograms of natural horsehair. The 12 customer versions of the car have already been specified.
“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.”
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 Bacalar) and Collections (responsible for the Continental GT Mulliner).
Car Zero now goes on to face real-world durability testing including sessions of gradually increasing duration and speed that will also check the car’s performance under harsh conditions. The program is designed to achieve the equivalent of 35,000 kilometres of real-world driving across 8,000 kilometers of track driving, and simulates the undertaking of rallies including the Peking to Paris and Mille Miglia.