Not many of us will get the chance to drive a supercharged 1929 41/2 Litre ‘Blower’ Bentley racer.
Only five Blower race cars were ever built, and the most famous of them, Bentley team car number two which competed at Le Mans in 1930, is now insured for about $50 million.
Even one of the Blower Continuation Series cars, the 12 exact replicas of team car number two from Bentley coachbuilder Mulliner, will lighten your wallet to the tune of $3.1 million, plus taxes.
But if you have up to $180,000 or so to spare you can drive the next best thing.
Meet the Bentley Blower Jnr. It is, like the Blower Continuation Series cars, an exact replica of Bentley team car number two. There’s just one small difference, literally: the Blower Jnr is an 85 percent scale, electric-powered replica.
It’s been created in co-operation with Bentley by The Little Car Company, a business based in Bicester, 110km north-west of London, that specialises in making exquisitely executed and drivable scale replicas of iconic cars.
The Little Car Company’s current portfolio comprises replicas of the Bugatti Type 35, the Ferrari Testarossa, and the Aston Martin DB5 Volante. But the Blower Jnr is different.
At 85 percent scale, it’s much bigger than those three, which are designed as expensive and beautiful toys for wealthy boys of all ages. And that means this baby Bentley can be registered and legally driven on the road in the UK, the US, and Europe.
The Blower Jnr has a 48V electric powertrain with a rear-mounted 15kW e-motor that gives it a top speed of 70km/h in the UK and Europe, but which will be restricted to 40km/h in the US for legal reasons. With tandem seating for two adults, the car is expected to have a range of 105km.
The charge point is hidden in the recreation of the supercharger thrusting between the front wheels that gave the original Blower its 180kW punch.
A hidden undertray connected to the painted steel chassis houses the battery and power electronics. There are leaf springs front and rear, the body motions are controlled by scaled-down versions of the friction dampers that were common in the 1920s and 30s, and the tyres are scaled down replicas of those fitted to the Blower Continuation Series cars, made by the same company.
Brembo front disc brakes are the one obvious concession to modernity.
The rear body is covered in fabric, just like the original, but this is wrapped around carbon fibre rather than the ash wood frame used in 1929.
The long bonnet is handcrafted in aluminium and secured with leather straps, and the traditional Bentley mesh grille is enclosed by a nickel-plated radiator housing.
The replica external fuel tank at the rear of the car has a lockable hatch to allow it to be used as a boot. A travel bag designed specifically to fit in the tank is available as an option.
The driver sits at the centre of the car, behind a vintage four-spoke steering wheel. The dash is engine-turned aluminium, with period-style instruments that, apart from the speedometer and clock, have been artfully reconfigured to show the battery state of charge and regen levels.
What looks like the ignition advance and retard control from the original car is used to select drive, neutral, or reverse, and a replica of the old car’s fuel pressure pump is now a drive mode selector, offering the choice of Comfort, which limits the e-motor to 2kW, Bentley (8kW), and Sport, which unleashes the full 15kW.
That might not sound much, but 70km/h on skinny tyres and with the wind in your hair feels quite quick, says Bentley product communications chief Mike Sayer, one of the few men in the world allowed to regularly drive the company’s $50 million Blower.
“When you look down the bonnet of the Blower Jnr, it feels very familiar,” he said.
Seen in isolation, the perfectly downsized Blower Jnr has the same bluff, heroic presence as the original. The only real visual incongruities are the two posts poking up on the right-hand side of the cockpit, which are needed for the seat belts that allow the Blower Jnr to be registered and driven on the road.
The first 99 Blower Jnr cars will be $180,000 First Edition models. All will be painted Blower Green, with matching chassis and wheels, and will have a hand-painted Union flag on both sides of the car, as well as the number two, which will also be painted on the mesh grille.
The seats will be trimmed in the same dark green Lustrana Hide used by Mulliner for the Blower Continuation Series, and each car will get a numbered First Edition plaque.
If you don’t want one of the First Edition models, The Little Car Company will paint and trim the Blower Jnr in any color combination you want.
You can even have the rear body structure in unpainted carbon fibre for the ultimate steampunk look. Base price for these cars will start at about $130,000.
The Bentley Blower Jnr isn’t a toy. The fact it can be driven on the road turns it into a show-stopping small electric vehicle that can be used by grownups for short inner-city commutes.
No, it’s not cheap. But you’ll be guaranteed more looks than if you were idling around town in a Lamborghini costing three or four times as much.