We’ve spoken about the Bentley Blower Continuation project before, and because we’ve reported on it as it has developed, we’ve become quite fond of it. It’s like watching one of our children grow, but with less in the way of tantrums and Tik Tok (still don’t know what that is?). We reported on the project when it was announced, and so too when the first car was put into production. Car Zero, as it has become known. The wheeled proof in the pudding, if you will. Bentley’s engineers and boffins worked tirelessly to strip down an original 1920 Blower (Chassis HB 3403, engine SM 3902, registration UU 5872 – Team Car #2) and from it, scan, map and recreate parts in order to create a new version. Or twelve.
1,846 individual parts have been designed and hand-crafted to create the new Blower. 230 of those parts are actually assemblies – one of which being the engine – taking the total part count to several thousand when fixings and interior trim parts are included. Each of these parts and assemblies have been created by a project team of Bentley Mulliner engineers, craftspeople and technicians working together with a number of British specialists and suppliers.
Blower Car Zero is a dedicated test and development prototype, built in advance of the 12 customer cars, and will be subjected to months of durability and performance testing. Finished in gloss black, with an interior in Oxblood red leather from Bridge of Weir, Car Zero made its debut today to officially mark the creation of the new Bentley Motors campus in Crewe. Made possible by the closing of Pyms Lane – Bentley’s address since 1946 – the campus extends Bentley’s headquarters to a new expanded footprint.
Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors, Adrian Hallmark, had the honour of driving Car Zero down Pyms Lane to mark the occasion, and was thrilled to do so, as he explains. “Today was a truly remarkable day, not just as a milestone in the Blower Continuation Series project but also for Bentley Motors. To drive the first new Blower in 90 years was a privilege, and the quality of the car would make Sir Tim Birkin himself proud. The craftsmanship is exquisite, and I’m pleased to report that the car drives just as beautifully as our original Team Car.
“It was also significant that I could drive the new Blower down Pyms Lane, now part of our main site as we expand to create the new Bentley campus. Investing in our headquarters is vital both for Bentley’s future and for Crewe, and our new developments and buildings are a physical manifestation of the exciting future before us as we start our journey to become the world leader in sustainable luxury mobility.”
It is, make no mistake, one hell of a project. Building something new is one thing, but to recreate something old and then recreate it with modern technology, and then making it all function – that’s next level stuff. It’s also been a journey and half for the people at Bentley, all of whom are exceptionally proud of what’s been done. Bentley’s Director of Mulliner, Paul Williams, said: “Seeing Car Zero come together over the last weeks and months has been astonishing. The very latest digital design techniques came together with genuine artisanal hand-crafted artistry – often using manufacturing methods true to the 1920s. It’s only through this fusion of old and new that we could craft these cars, with the skills of our engineers mirrored in those of our specialist suppliers. We’ve issued thousands of drawings and specifications for components, and watching them arrive into Mulliner and then seeing the car take shape has been hugely rewarding. Now we start the next phase – testing and development, ahead of the build of the 12 customer cars.”
With the build of Car Zero now complete, a programme of real-world durability testing will begin. And Bentley isn’t being gentle by taking it to shows and subjecting it to much spit and polish. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sessions of gradually increasing duration and speed will check functionality and robustness under ever harder conditions. The test programme is designed to achieve the equivalent of 35,000 kilometres of real-world driving across 8,000 kilometres of track driving, and simulates the undertaking of famous rallies such as Peking to Paris and Mille Miglia. The testing will also include a particularly brave driver taking the car to its top speed – with Adrian Hallmark first in the queue…
This is a momentous achievement. If it were just this car alone, it would be incredible. The fact Bentley is building a further twelve is astonishing. In a landscape with questions hanging over the future guise of the automobile, it’s beautiful to see a brand as big and as heritage-rich as Bentley investing so heavily in its past. This project is a celebration of heritage and history, and it’s one that could have been done to tick a box on a much smaller scale. But that’s not the Bentley way. Instead, it has brought back a legend, with new and even future technologies and skills. In doing so, it has utilised the skills of people who may not have been aware of such a machine. This is a project of passion and of heart, and for that we love it. And we also want a go in one. Obviously.