Bentley History and Heritage



W O BENTLEY

"To build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.”
(W.O. Bentley, Founder)


Bentley Motors was founded by W.O. Bentley. The first car to bear his name pulled out of New Street Mews, London in 1919. From modest beginnings, the company moved from strength to strength – in a relentless pursuit of both luxury and performance. Were it not for the brand’s five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s, plus a sixth in 2003, this combination could be seen as a contradiction in terms. In which case, it could be said that Bentley continues to create the most acclaimed contradictions on the road today.

Almost a century later, W.O.'s vision continues to guide our beliefs, actions and ambitions. Located in Crewe, England and owned by Volkswagen AG since 1998, Bentley Motors remains the definitive British luxury car company, crafting the world’s most desirable high performance grand tourers.

VW from the “old Bentley” to the “new Bentley” technology:

The acquisition of Bentley by the Volkswagen Group in 1998 added resource, new technologies and even greater impetus to the momentum of the Bentley renaissance. Bentley and Rolls-Royce separated again after 67 years together. Volkswagen AG announced it would invest £500 million in the Bentley marque, its Crewe factory and the building of an all-new Bentley. This also substantiated Bentley's intention to maintain a thoroughly British bloodline.


In the 1930s under Rolls-Royce ownership the Bentley wings were streamlined, straightened and given an equal number of feathers either side. The asymmetry of the logo was restored in 1990 and has again been revised continuously to ensure a contemporary feel to the identity of Bentley. The Bentley logo embodies the new values whilst respecting the past.

     

HERITAGE MODELS

This section contains an ever-expanding collection of Bentley's iconic heritage cars. These cars represent Bentley's original bloodline, including the handcrafting, coach-building and performance engine design that still features in every Bentley car today.


     
BENTLEY 3-LITRE BENTLEY BLOWER  R-TYPE CONTINENTAL 
The one that started it all In The Autocar of January 24th, 1920, the 3 Litre was lauded as a car 'which combines docility in traffic with exceptional speed potentiality on the open road', characteristics which still define a Bentley today.  The 3 Litre became a legend when Duff and Clement recorded their 1924 win at Le Mans in one of these extremely versatile cars.  In 1927, Bentley developed the Bentley 4½ Litre. Two cylinders were removed from the 6½ Litre model, reducing the displacement to 4.4 litres.  Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin, described as "the greatest Briton of his time" by W.O. Bentley, was one of the Bentley Boys. Aided by a former Bentley mechanic, decided to produce a series of five supercharged models for the competition at the 24 Hours de Le Mans: Thus the 4½ litre Blower Bentley was born.
W.O. Bentley considered that supercharging a Bentley engine was an act of sacrilege. His view - even in later life - was uncompromising. Nevertheless, fifty of these Bentleys were built as road cars and a further five team cars were built and raced, albeit without great success.  The supercharged Bentleys entered by 'Tim' Birkin in the Le Mans race of 1930 evince startling performances but do not finish the race. The supercharger that caused such 'startling' performance in the Bentley Blower was an Amherst-Villiers, two-rotor, Roots-type model.  

 
The iconic post-war Bentley. During the 1950s this was quite possibly the finest motor car available to humanity, combining speed, performance, luxury, elegance, exclusivity and the evocative Bentley name. Marque purists insist that this was the last true Bentley until the arrival of the Mulsanne Turbo three decades later. 


RETURN TO LE MANS: 2003



In 2001 Bentley returned to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, after a gap of 68 years, for a planned three-year campaign with the racing Bentley car the EXP Speed 8. Two cars were entered in the 2001 race, with one earning third place. The other car unfortunately retired after a strong run in the rain due to a fire which caused the driver to abandon the car.

Bentley returned in 2002, using their new larger engine, using this as a test run before entering again in 2003. The car managed fourth place.

In 2003, after 73 years since Bentley’s last win at Le Mans, two Bentleys entered the epic 24-hour endurance race. At 4pm on Saturday June 14 the race began with the two Bentley’s taking the lead. The number 7 car put in consistent laps, while the number 8 car set the fastest lap of the race. To celebrate this historic win, the 2003 Le Mans winners recreated Woolf Barnato's famous 1927 celebratory dinner. 

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