By on August 5, 2020

With manufacturers having realized there’s a small but very interested market for historically relevant automobiles, we’ve seen some of the fancier names in motoring embrace “continuation models” with astronomical price tags.

Some of these cars are arguably better than the real thing, too. Jaguar and Aston Martin revived a handful of their finest products from the middle of the 2oth century, adding a smattering of modern technologies to make the cars more livable. And lacking the authenticity of being a true original results in substantially lower MSRPs — though calling them affordable would be a misnomer, as some continuation models still go for millions of dollars.

Case in point is the new/old Blower Bentley, which is the ultra-rare racing variant of the 1929 Bentley 4½-litre with the Roots-type supercharger sitting in front of radiator like a giant nose. Bentley announced in 2019 that it would build a dozen examples of the automotive icon — all of which were sold long before the manufacturer tightened a single bolt. Considering the staggering amount of work required to build a true continuation car (the manufacturer actually had to disassemble and scan every single part on an original 4½-litre just to create a digital blueprint), the coronavirus pandemic has been a sizable setback. Bentley now says that phase one of the plan has concluded and the automobile serving as the prototype/template for all subsequent models (Car Zero) has begun construction as parts start rolling in.

Progress will remain slow, however. Bentley has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t want to rush a car that auctions for around $9 million in good condition and has noted that suppliers chosen for the project were selected for the quality of their work, not turnaround speed. That leaves us with a batch of sparkling new components of a vintage design, effectively car porn for us plebs. But with the price of continuation Blowers exceeding our budgets, anyway, this thing was only ever going to be something glorious for us to gawk at from a distance.

“After almost a year of highly detailed engineering work, it is extremely rewarding to see the first parts coming together to form the first Bentley Blower in over 90 years,” Bentley Mulliner boss Tim Hannig boasted.

“The skill of our engineers and technicians in completing hundreds of individual part specifications is equaled only by that of the artisans across the country that have handmade the components that we’re now starting to bolt together. As we go, we’re refining designs and fixing problems, which is exactly what a prototype build is for. We’re all really excited to get this first car finished, and to show it to the world later this year.”

Around 1,200 man hours went into scanning the parts into CAD and developing an assembly process for the car, which now has to be tested on the prototype to see if everything works. Bentley also has the original engineering blueprints to fall back upon, though some components won’t translate perfectly.

While you could probably slot the Israel Newton & Sons’ hand-built chassis or Jones Springs’ suspension into an original, the electrical system is due for an upgrade and much of the machining done for the giant four-cylinder are within modern-day tolerances. Though it’s all in service of delivering the best version of the old car the company could imagine and will undoubtedly circumvent any claims of sacrilege.

The finished Car Zero is due to make its first public appearance this fall, following heaps of testing and a secret showing to the 12 customers that already signed up to fund the project. From there, they’ll be able to outfit the model with the trim and colors of their choice.

That makes it little more than eye candy for us regular folks, yet the continuation trend doesn’t have to remain limited to the high-end crowd. Why couldn’t this trend get away from million-dollar used cars and into something more pedestrian? The DeLorean DMC-12 is coming back, so why not the Mitsubishi Starion or Nissan 240Z? Surely Ford would make a mint on a fresh batch of first-generation Mustangs.

There’s a winning recipe out there; someone just needs to find it.

[Images: Bentley]

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18 Comments on “Bentley Resumes Production on 4½ Litre After Almost 100 Years...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Wow, can you imagine getting your hands on one of these? This is where being outrageously rich might come in handy

    That being said, what is with all the reboots? Everything from movies, TV shows and cars are being “rebooted”. As a society have we lost all vision and creativity to make new and exciting things? Just wondering

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Retro everything is getting old.

      Even our political parties can’t find new people.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        It was old about 2 hours after it started. The only retroish car that I still want is the Challenger. I know it’s fatter in all respects, butnit looks good.

        Reboot after reboot of the same super hero schlock is exceedingly boring though. Sometimes I like dumb fun that isn’t 90 minutes of sex jokes and toilet humour, but if I see Uncle Ben get murder-death-killed again…

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Reboot is safer, greater certainty of success. New ideas are risky, especially when they’re bad!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah I agree it seems way to many things are getting rebooted, apparently out of desperation of the lack of new ideas, at least in the case of TV shows and movies.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Nostalgia is a odd phenomenon. As our memory grows hazy we often desire objects of our youth or of some altered twisted fantasy of a bygone reality. I have yet to see a remake/reboot of anything from my youth that I liked.

  • avatar
    kkop

    What about present-day safety requirements? Since these are essentially new cars, wouldn’t they have to comply with 2020 laws?

    • 0 avatar
      pranucci

      The Aston Martin DB5 and DB4GT are sold as track only cars.
      Bentley may have the same restrictions.
      There is a street legal Vulcan, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I recall Shelby selling “new” Cobra’s because they still had serial numbers assigned to cars. Is Bentley doing a similar “end run” around current laws?

      They most likely will sell as a “track day” product and if someone wants to modify to meet current standards, I’m sure some jurisdictions will allow it.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I thought they carved out an exemption, at least in the US, for a certain, low number of these types of cars a few years ago.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    John Steed (Patrick MacNee) drove one of these in The Avengers. Ronnie Schreiber posted a column regarding this just over 5 years ago, after learning of MacNee’s death.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/remembering-patrick-macnee-many-avengers-cars/

    MacNee is also remembered as the ‘secret agent’ driver in the Sterling commercials.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ‘Car Porn’ inDEED ! =8-) .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    e30gator

    If Bentley can bring this back, then Ford can bring back Starsky and Hutch’s ’76 Grand Torino…

  • avatar
    RHD

    Ford, not wanting to appear to be copying someone else’s good idea, is now reconsidering its hush-hush plan to reproduce the Edsel.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    If Ford brings back the Grand Torino then will men’s polyester leisure suits, men’s gold chains, men’s platform shoes, shag carpet, and avocado green and harvest gold appliances come back? Not everything from the past should be revived. Anyway if the Torino came back it would either be a crossover or an electric truck or suv.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Interesting reading this. The Air Force now has a reverse engineering lab for developing data on obsolete parts. They ran out of the plastic interior panels for the B-1s, and the company that produced them went out of business and never gave engineering data to the Air Force. A technician handed the engineers a duct-taped broken panel and they were able to scan it and produce engineering data. The lab now 3D prints a new set of panels for each B-1 that goes to the depot.

    It’s a bit insane to think of all the brainpower that went into developing cars over the last century, and then we usually throw the designs away after 5-10 years. Granted, I’m not too fond of driving around in a Pinto, but it would be nice if manufacturers gave obsolete engineering data to public domain after a term. I’m pretty sure Ford’s not making a blip on their shareholder price with transmission parts for a Model 18.

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