Bentley Resumes Production on 4 Litre After Almost 100 Years

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
bentley resumes production on 4 litre after almost 100 years

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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3 of 18 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 06, 2020

    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.

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Aug 06, 2020

      If they do, I have a wardrobe box in the basement full of clothes that will be back in style.

  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on Aug 06, 2020

    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.

  • FreedMike Needs a few more HP to really spice things up...
  • Oberkanone Absolute insanity on our public roads! A danger to society. Bravo Dodge!
  • Lou_BC Cool car but 35k USD?
  • Lou_BC I've owned and ridden many litre class sport bikes. Those bikes render anything on 4 wheels boring. This is cool but even if I had the cash, it would be a hard pass.
  • Jeff S Some of us don't care either way we are not into this type of car. Most of these will be stored in garages waiting for their value to go up. As someone above noted this is an old body style which is retro 70s Challenger which after researching it came out in the 2008 MY which means a long run for a model that is in its 16th year. I have always liked these but if I bought one I would not spend this kind of money on one probably get the V-6 version and use it as a family car but then I am not into drag racing or muscle cars. For the type of car it is it has a decent rear seat and not too bad of a trunk. Most of us are not going to spend 100k for any vehicle at least currently so its not something most of us will buy and stick in a garage waiting for its value to increase. I am glad that these editions came out for those who can afford them and it keeps a little more color into what has become a very dull vehicle market but then with age I pick the dull appliance like reliable vehicle because that's what I need. Impressive car but not for me.