It's comforting to think that time moves a bit slower at Bentley. After all, who would want its craftsmen and women to feel rushed in the business of so much stitching and lacquering? Even in the technological blur of a modern car-building factory - which Crewe unequivocally is - it's nice to imagine the odd oasis where painstaking attention to detail trumps the need to have mind-boggling volume emerge from the production line every day.
It smacks of a romantic, bygone era of manufacturing, of course - and, to the right person, it's as persuasive as the smell of Spitfire cockpit. It is this rich seam of nostalgia which has been mercilessly exploited by Bentley's rivals down the road in Gaydon. Jaguar and Aston Martin, by virtue of their superior back catalogue, have mashed the 'continuation' pedal to the floor and produced the kind of ultra exclusive cars for which Crewe has no answer.
Until now that it. Because in a single swipe of mind-boggling fastidiousness, Bentley has opted to voyage into the unknown and attempt the world's first continuation of a pre-war race car. Following its announcement at the Salon Prive Concours d'Elegance, the firm will summon a dozen all-new examples of Sir Tim Birkin's 1929 supercharged 4 1/2-litre 'Blower' into existence, and then sell them for unimaginable (and unadvertised) sums down the road.
How far down the road? Oh miles. Years. Because not only is the concept itself as evocative as the poop deck on HMS Victory, but the process of actually getting from here to there is going to take the manufacturing equivalent of an ice age. Because the plan is not just to merrily build away, but rather to let Mulliner methodically disassemble Bentley's very own Blower, catalogue and 3D scan every individual part, and then recreate the car using the original moulds and jigs and traditional hand tools.
To slow down the passage of time even more - to roughly the kind of pace at which Seurat used to paint - Mulliner will also endeavour to inspect and sympathetically restore chassis number HB 3403 when it comes back to the job of reassembling it. It's a remarkable undertaking - especially from a carmaker who has previously seemed content to dip a toe in heritage waters rather than upturning the bathtub on its head.
There's more. Each of the Continuation Series examples will get a four-cylinder, 16-valve engine with an aluminium crankcase, cast-iron cylinder liners and a non-detachable cast-iron cylinder head, while the eponymous supercharger will be an exact replica of the Amherst Villiers Mk IV roots-type blower, helping the petrol motor produce 245hp at 4,200rpm. It will be mounted on a pressed steel frame, which features half-elliptic leaf spring suspension and Bentley & Draper dampers. Stopping is courtesy of 40cm Bentley-Perrot mechanical drum brakes. Short of Mulliner's staff wearing replicas of Biggles' sidearm to work, it's hard to imagine things being anymore sensitive to the period.
Inevitably though, there will be some allowances. Bentley concedes that the 'latest manufacturing technology' will intercede at some point (not least in the business of all that 3D scanning) and some unspecified 'hidden changes dictated by modern safety concerns' must also be permitted. Nevertheless, it's clear that the manufacturer is very serious about fulfilling the demand for 'genuine recreations that can be used, enjoyed and loved without risk to the prized originals'.
Or, as Adrian Hallmark, Bentley's CEO, said: "The twelve new Blowers will not only be an homage to our heritage, they will be a celebration of the outstanding skills of our Mulliner craftspeople. This is a new challenge for Bentley, but with the incredible success of the recent restoration of our 1939 one-of-one Corniche, we wanted to go one step further and make something even more special. Twelve lucky customers will be soon be able to own a unique tribute to Bentley's history."