‘Car Zero’ makes debut as first new Blower since 1930
This highly exclusive run of 12 customer cars – all pre-sold - will be crafted from the design drawings and tooling jigs used for the original four Blowers built and raced by Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin in the late 1920s. Specifically, Bentley’s own Team Car (Chassis HB 3403, engine SM 3902, registration UU 5872 - Team Car #2) has provided the master model for the Continuation Series, with every single component laser-scanned as part of a wheels-up, sympathetic restoration.
From this data, 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 comments:
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.
The Blower Continuation Series is the first customer-facing project delivered by the new Bentley Mulliner Classic portfolio, one of three new divisions of Mulliner alongside Coachbuilt (currently developing the equally-exclusive Bacalar) and Collections (responsible for the Continental GT Mulliner).
Car Zero’s brand new 4½-litre engine, originally designed by W.O Bentley himself, has been created with the expert support of specialists including NDR Ltd in Watford. Featuring many innovations of which a sports car engine of the 1970s would be proud – aluminium pistons, an overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and twin spark ignition – the renowned 4½-litre engine has been paired with a newly machined Amherst Villiers roots-type supercharger. The newly created Blower engine is an exact recreation of the engines that powered Tim Birkin’s four Team Blowers that raced in the late 1920s – including the use of magnesium for the crankcase.
While the first engine was being assembled, work was also underway to convert an engine testbed at Bentley’s Crewe headquarters to accept the nearly 100-year old engine design. The engine test facility has been at Bentley since the factory was built in 1938, and the cells were originally used to run-in and power-test Merlin V12 aero engines produced by the factory for the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters of the Second World War.
Preparing the test bed involved making a replica Blower front chassis to hold the engine, which could then be mounted to the computer-controlled engine dynamometer. A new software version to measure and control the engine was written and tested, allowing Bentley’s engineers to monitor and run the engine to precise parameters. As the Blower powertrain is considerably different in size and shape to Bentley’s modern production engines, a number of the original Merlin testbed fixtures – still in storage at Bentley - have been utilised to adapt the testbed to accommodate these special engines.
With the build of Car Zero now complete, a programme of real-world durability testing will begin. 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.