Bentley Putting Depression Era Darling Back Into Production
Even if antique autos aren’t your jam, you’ve probably heard of the Blower Bentley. It’s the exceptionally rare racing variant of the brand’s pre-war 4½ Litre model. While perhaps not as iconic as the 6½ Litre/Speed Six, the Blower has become prominent for its ultra-thirsty, persnickety powertrain and straight-line performance. By attaching a Roots-style supercharger to the engine, Bentley turned the standard 4½ Litre into an absolute freight train. Upon seeing it in action, Ettore Bugatti famously referred to the gigantic car as “the fastest lorry in the world.”
Seemingly inspired by other British manufacturers’ recent foray into continuation vehicles, Bentley has decided to rerelease the 1929 Team Blower for a limited production run. Like Jaguar’s XKSS and D-Type, as well as Aston Martin’s DB4 GT, the Bentley will be recreated as painstakingly close to the original as possible.
Racing versions of the Blower Bentley yielded 240 hp, which turned out to be more than its successor — the aforementioned Speed Six — could manage in any format. However, reliability issues created by more than doubling the 4½ Litre’s power output kept its drivers from spending any time atop a post-race podium. The car never managed to win 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite that being its sole purpose for existing. That has not, however, kept the model from being a highly coveted collectors’ car. Whereas naturally aspirated versions of the 4½ Litre sometimes fetch over $1 million at auction, Blower models can sextuple that price.
Bentley said prices will be furnished upon application but it’ll be too rich for you unless you also happen to have a private jet at your disposal. The automaker only plans on building 12 examples of the car, which it said would take the firm’s coachwork division (Mulliner) at least 2 years to complete. Depending upon where you live, you can get stellar knockoff versions of the 4½ Litre (including the Blower version) for roughly the same price as a Ferrari 812 Superfast or two — and with more modern/reliable hardware. But it won’t have Bentley’s seal of approval or perfectly match the look and feel of the original. That’s a privilege you’ll likely have to pay quite a bit extra for.
That puts us out of the running, not that Bentley would sell us the supercharged behemoth even if we actually had the necessary cash. But it’s nice to see so many long-lived nameplates interested in maintaining their heritage, even if it’s multi-millionaires who exclusively get to enjoy the end result. Perhaps we’ll still get to see the supercharged 4½ occupying the occasional high-end automotive event. Even catching one continuation Blower Bentley up close will trump this author’s previous experience with the model and, considering my automotive knowledge really starts to break down a few years before World War II, I could enjoy that moment without nit picking any minor gaps in its historic authenticity.
Fortunately for pre-war auto nuts, we doubt Bentley will leave many inconstancies to fret over. The company is pulling out all the stops for its 100th birthday and wants to make sure the amped-up 4½ Litre’s recreation is absolutely perfect.
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