Bentley is rebuilding 12 new-old 1929 Blowers | Top Gear
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Bentley is rebuilding 12 new-old 1929 Blowers

Sir Tim Birkin's famous Bentley to become world's first pre-war continuation car

Published: 08 Sep 2019

To misquote Mark Twain, “buy classic cars, they ain’t making them any more”. Only they are of course. Initially it was done using chassis numbers registered back in the day, but never used. When various car companies realised what good business it was, the interpretations got looser. Jaguar, Aston Martin, Alvis, Lister, Porsche are all at it. Even Ferrari is said to be considering a new run of 250 GTOs.

But none is going further back to make a new car than Bentley. Over the next two years, the Crewe-based marque is going to build 12 re-creations of Sir Tim Birkin’s 4 ½ litre “Blower”. And no, they haven’t said how much each is going to cost. When you consider the significance of the car, and how much work Bentley is going to, it’s safe to say each is going to be a healthy seven figure sum.

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Sir Tim Birkin commissioned four original race cars, of which the most famous, UU 5872, is to be used as a template for the new cars. It’s not a car that won Le Mans in 1929 or 1930, but in an act of self-sacrifice, ensured another Bentley did win. Legend has it that Birkin harried the Mercedes SSK of Rudolf Caracciola so hard that it failed, with water pouring from the engine. He too retired and the race was won by the Speed Six of Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston.

Birkin’s car will be stripped down to its individual components, with each piece then 3D scanned to make a digital model of the entire car. The original moulds, jigs and tools will then be used to create 12 sets of parts, which the technicians at Bentley’s specialist Mulliner department will then assemble.

The underpinnings consist of a leaf sprung, pressed steel frame, mechanical drum brakes, and worm and sector steering. The engine doesn’t sound particularly glamorous: it’s a four cylinder 16 valve engine with cast iron cylinder liners and a cast iron cylinder head. However, fitted with an iconic Amherst Villiers MkIV supercharger, the 4398cc engine develops 240bhp at 4200rpm. They were guaranteed to hit 125mph in race trim.

Why 12 cars? Because that’s how many buyers Bentley could find for these recreations. Only kidding – probably. The number has been chosen because that’s how many races Birkin’s original fleet of four cars competed in. Yeah, hardly significant. Unlike the car. The first continuation of pre-war race car, no less. You want? Sorry, no need to phrase that as a question, of course you do.

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