A group of high-profile Bentley owners and enthusiasts has written to the marque’s boss, Adrian Hallmark, to express concerns about plans to produce a series of 12 ‘continuation’ Bentley 4.5-litre ‘Blowers’ based on 3D scans of its own team car.
Bentley is far from the first company to produce such a series, with Aston Martin and Jaguar in particular having already embraced the concept to lucrative effect, and collectors have largely remained silent.
However, according to the letter, which is signed by such luminaries of the classic car world as Ralph Lauren, Lord Bamford, Evert Louwman and William E ‘Chip’ Connor, the run of Blower recreations would "dilute that special admiration and awe that can only come from viewing and embracing the genuine article".
“Most marques are the guardians of their own history, caretakers of records, cars and legacy,” said signatory Simon Kidston, renowned classic specialist and nephew of 1920s 'Bentley Boy' Glen Kidston. “When a major manufacturer starts building ‘genuine recreations’ decades out of period, which blur the line between real and fake and arguably devalue the authentic cars that private owners have cherished and preserved since long before manufacturers took an interest, it feels as if the gamekeeper has turned poacher.”
The Blower project was born out of a decision to restore Bentley’s own team car, explained a spokesperson for Bentley, who said: “In parallel, to relieve the future strain on what is now a very old car, we decided to build a recreation for use in non-competitive and non-critical events, where the heritage is not crucial.
"This recreation would provide the basis for a genuine Birkin Team Blower experience without risking the integrity of the genuine car, which is arguably the most valuable Bentley in existence.
“After much research and discussion with a number of the stakeholders – vintage Bentley owners, restorers, specialists and a selection of Bentley Drivers’ Club and Benjafield’s Racing Club members – we tested the idea of making an official Continuation Series and were overwhelmed with the positivity of the response.
"While we heard some similar concerns to those expressed in the letter, the vast majority of feedback was hugely supportive of the project. Hence we went ahead.”
The ex-Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin car has already been stripped and scanned, and computer modelling for the new cars, which will be built by Bentley Mulliner Classic at the Crewe works, has been completed remotely during the lockdown. This will form the main engineering reference for the build. All 12 production cars have already been sold, and construction will shortly begin on Car Zero, the engineering prototype.