Bentley has announced this weekend at the Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court, England, that it will produce 12 ‘Continuation Series’ replicas of the original and legendary Blower 4.5 litre model.
In 1929 Bentley built 4 racing 4.5 litre cars with a Roots-type supercharger. These four automobiles exist still today, making them the most valuable Bentleys ever made. Bentley will be the first automaker to embark in the reconstruction of a pre-war race car.
The Bentley 4.5 litre model, built for road and racing between 1927 and 1931, saw 720 units completed, 55 of which, starting in 1929, received the supercharger; yet only four were built as factory race cars.
The Mulliner division of Bentley Motors Limited will be in charge of building the 12 factory replicas. The number twelve will represent the 12 races where the Blowers competed in period. Bentley is owner of one of the four original cars, chassis number HB 3403. The Mulliner team will disassemble this car and scan every single part to obtain a digital 3D log of every piece. The team will then proceed to tool and fabricate every part exactly the same way as in period, with the same types of moulds and jigs. They will then proceed to construct the 12 cars and to restore and rebuild HB 3403.
The new cars will be exactly as the originals with only a few added safety features. The cars’ inline four cylindre 16 valve 4,398 cc engine coupled with a Roots-type compressor will produce the same 240bhp @ 4,200 rpm. The top speed in period at Brooklands during an endurance test was recorded at 222 km/h. Not bad for an automobile weighing in at 1,727 kg, blower included. The frame, leaf springs and oversized mechanical drum brakes will all be identical to the originals.
The Bentley legend was built on racing. The Bentley Boys are renowned for their 4 straight victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race from 1927 through 1930. Although the Blower Bentley 4.5l never won at Le Mans, it was much faster than either the unsupercharged 4.5 litre model that won Le Mans in 1928 but also faster even than the Bentley Speed Six, a 6 cylindre, 6.5 litre monster that won at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.
Not a forger but a replicator
Perhaps Bentley (part of Volkswagen Group since 1998) believes that since the market for significant collector automobiles is so strong and that copies are being constructed by mechanics across the globe, it is perhaps time that Bentley benefits from its substantial heritage and racing legacy. Much like market studies for today’s supercars and hypercars that push other manufacturers to produce limited series of technologically advanced street going Formula 1 racers, the same studies must show significant market demand for factory replicas of the most legendary pre-war models.
The first sanctioned replica
The very first example of the production of sanctioned replicas is the case of the World Championship winning Delage 15 S 8 of 1927. Four Delage were built to compete in the 1927 Grand Prix Championship. Delage won every race that year and finished the majority of the races in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, monopolising the winners podium. So far ahead of its time, investors and racers convinced Albert Lory, the creator and engineer of the 15 S 8, to reproduce two copies in 1937, ten full years after Delage’s sweeping victories.
Carol Shelby, the Le Mans winning driver and creator of the iconic Shelby Cobra, licensed repeatedly the rights to recreate the AC Cobra 427 c.i. All models included, approximately 710 AC Cobras were produced between 1962 and 1969. Since then thousands of ‘continuation’, replicas, copies, adaptations and ‘counterfeit’ cars have been produced, especially of the most iconic and rare of the Shelby cars, the 427 c.i., thus making it perhaps the most replicated car of all time.
If not the Cobra 427 c.i., then certainly the Bugatti Type 35 has to be most replicated and copied of all automobiles. The Type 35 was the creation of Ettore Bugatti back in 1924. An estimated 640 cars were completed by the Bugatti factory in Molsheim, France, by 1930. Today replicators as far away as Argentina are churning out copies of the winningest racer of all time at the rate of hundreds if not thousands every year. At a recent outing organised by the Club Bugatti France at Montlhéry track near Paris in July of this year, thirty-some odd Type 35 were there to participate in the event yet only three – yes, only THREE – were real Bugatti factory produced cars.
Perhaps Bugatti Automobiles (also controlled by Volkswagen Group) should begin to produce a series of exact replicas of their Type 35 race car in order to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of this model in 2024. If it goes anything like for the Bugatti Chiron that sold 200 units at €2,400,000 each before production began, buyers should be getting out their checkbooks.
Daniel is a contributor for Forbes France writing texts in French language for their daily newsletter and trimestrial print editions. His articles cover the classic automobile market as well as luxury and lifestyle of classic automobile collectors.