Respectful Tribute, or Unholy Changeling? Group of Bentley Diehards Toss 'Continuation' Models in the Latter Heap
Bentley types are a discerning breed. Well versed in the world of leather and wood and highly respectful of heritage, these people interact with the brand like a museum curator. And the most discerning among them, those who claim to be most committed to preserving all that’s good and pure about the marque, aren’t happy with the automaker’s plan to hit “repeat.”
A present-day automaker churning out copies of a 90-year-old model? Blasphemy!
If you weren’t aware, last September saw Bentley announce plans to recreate a famous pre-war race car — the 1929 supercharged 4.5-litre “Blower” driven by Sir Tim Birkin’s Team Blower. Reverse engineered by the folks at Mulliner, a rear ’29 Blower would serve as the muse for 12 hand-built recreations. A “continuation” series, in OEM parlance, built via 3D digital scans and original tools and molds.
At the time, CEO Adrian Hallmark stated, “The twelve 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.”
Lucky, indeed, as only four of the original purpose-built Blowers ever saw the light of day.
Not everyone’s pleased at Bentley’s move. As Autocar reports, a cadre of Bentley-loving bigwigs is out to challenge the automaker, accusing it in a signed letter of something approaching heresy.
However, according to the letter, which is signed by such luminaries of the classic car world as Ralph Lauren, Lord Bamford, Evert Louwman and William E ‘Chip’ Connor, the run of Blower recreations would “dilute that special admiration and awe that can only come from viewing and embracing the genuine article”.
Most marques are the guardians of their own history, caretakers of records, cars and legacy,” said signatory Simon Kidston, renowned classic specialist and nephew of 1920s ‘Bentley Boy’ Glen Kidston. “When a major manufacturer starts building ‘genuine recreations’ decades out of period, which blur the line between real and fake and arguably devalue the authentic cars that private owners have cherished and preserved since long before manufacturers took an interest, it feels as if the gamekeeper has turned poacher.”
Bentley responded by saying its intentions were not to water down the importance or value of what came before, adding that it is aware of such a sentiment among brand diehards. Rather, by creating faithful reproductions — basically, the exact same car — the automaker said it can preserve the existing Blowers. The new builds can stand in for it at non-sporting, non-critical events.
“While we heard some similar concerns to those expressed in the letter, the vast majority of feedback was hugely supportive of the project. Hence we went ahead,” a company spokesperson said.
Bentley adds that the 12 new builds will feature a different paint job and graphics than the original, so as to be “instantly recognisable as continuation cars.”
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How are they going to make "exact" replicas when they're not allowed to put asbestos in the clutch and brake linings, or the gaskets? Does Saudi Arabia and Dubai (UAE) have emissions-control legislation? They'll have to go to North Korea to get metal crappy enough to match the original. The lathes and gear-hobbers will have to be deliberately worn-out and misadjusted. Machine tools used to make the originals probably don't exist any more. They gonna CNC-CAM these parts? How do they plan to weld the pieces together? Oxy-Acetylene? Don't get me started on tires 'n' tubes.