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Bentley honours Blower with Conti GT limited edition. Image by Bentley.

Bentley honours Blower with Conti GT limited edition
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What's all this about?

There's a very famous car in Bentley's back catalogue, called the 4˝-litre 'Blower'. It was built in the 1920s and '30s as a result of investment from a man named Sir Henry Ralph Stanley Birkin, otherwise known as 'Tim' (nope, us neither). He raced as one of the fabled Bentley Boys in this inter-war period and was instrumental in blessing the British brand with its long-held reputation as a titan of the motorsport stage, but the car he competed in for the 1930 Le Mans 24 Hours race was a 4˝-litre Benters that was fitted with an Amherst Villiers supercharger. Power leapt from the region of 110hp to 175hp and for the first half of the epic event, Birkin battled a 7.1-litre Mercedes SSK for the lead. Ultimately, Birkin's Blower would not complete that Le Mans, an engine failure after 20 hours forcing it out, but a couple of Bentley Speed Six models took first and second nonetheless. However, it's Sir Tim's car which sticks most vividly in the memory - dark green, it wore the number '9'. Such a profound impact did this car have on the early automotive scene that, in Ian Fleming's famous series of books, James Bond actually originally drove a Blower Bentley, rather than an Aston Martin (which was a conceit born of the film series).

So, the Continental I can see in these images is wearing a 'No.9'...

That it is. Bentley is 100 years old in 2019 and has a year of celebrations to mark this auspicious anniversary up its sleeve. It has already confirmed that every vehicle it will sell during the 12 months will be in Centenary Specification and now, at the Geneva Motor Show, it has announced this limited-edition version of the magnificent new Continental GT. It's called the Number 9 Edition by Mulliner.

Is it mainly just visual updates and a small production run for this Conti?

You've got it in one. Although, when you've got a 635hp/900Nm 6.0-litre W12 at your disposal and the sort of chassis that would grace any performance car half the weight of the Continental, there's no real need for mechanical updates. Instead, the 'No.9' Edition has much badgework to mark this oh-so-special number, most obviously in that huge radiator grille decal. Two colours are on offer, although why you'd pick Beluga Black is anyone's guess, when the other option is highly evocative Viridian Green. The 21-inch, 10-spoke alloys can be finished in these same hues, while the No.9 Edition has Black Line Specification and a carbon-fibre body kit.

And how about inside?

Choose your heritage hide - which is glossier than normal Bentley leather - in either Cumbrian Green or Beluga. Debossed 'B' logos on the seats' head restraints and the door cards once again hark back to the Bentley Blower of 1930, which had the same feature on its door panels. Engine Spin, or Turned Aluminium, is picked for the dashboard trim; it was popular in the '20s and '30s, in both motor racing and aviation, because it limits the reflection of light. A British Jaeger clock in the centre console mimics the old No.9's dials, the organ-stop vent controls are plated in 18-carat gold (yep, like Sir Tim's motor, once more...) and there are '1 of 100' sill plates to mark out the Continental's limited status. And then there's something very poignant in that marvellous Bentley Rotating Display.

What is it?

A bit of old Birkin's Blower. A 'sympathetic renovation' of the No.9 Blower in the past has allowed Bentley to get hold of wood from Sir Tim's racing seat for the 1930 Le Mans. Each Continental GT Number 9 Edition by Mulliner therefore has a single insert of this wood in the centre dial of its rotating dash, which means there's a genuine piece of Bentley's glittering motorsport history enveloped in every Number 9 Edition. Now that is something for the 100 lucky owners to be extremely proud of, we think.

Matt Robinson - 4 Mar 2019    - Bentley road tests
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