Bentley Owners Group

Bentley Motors Limited was founded in England on 18 January 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley, also known as just "W.O."

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Bentley Website and History

Bentley Motors Limited is an English manufacturer of luxury automobiles and Grand Tourers. Bentley Motors was founded in England on 18 January 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley, known as W.O. Bentley or just "W.O." He was previously known for his successful range of rotary aero-engines in World War I, the most famous being the Bentley BR1 as used in later versions of the Sopwith Camel. Since 1998 the company has been owned by the Volkswagen Group of Germany.

Bentley as a separate company (1919-1931)
Before World War I, W.O. Bentley had been in partnership with his brother H.M. Bentley selling French DFP cars; but he had always wanted to design and build his own range of cars bearing his own name. In August 1919 Bentley Motors Ltd was registered, and a chassis with dummy engine was exhibited at the London Motor Show in October that year. An engine was built and running by December and orders were taken for deliveries starting in June 1920. However, development took longer than estimated and the first cars were not ready until September 1921.

The company was always underfunded and Bentley turned to millionaire Woolf Barnato for help in 1925. As part of a re-financing deal, leaving him effectively owning the company, Barnato became chairman. A great deal of Barnato's fortune was devoted to keeping Bentley afloat but the Great Depression destroyed demand for the company's expensive products, and it was finally sold to Rolls-Royce in 1931.

The Bentley Boys

A group of wealthy British automobile aficionados known as the "Bentley Boys" (Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry Birkin, steeplechaser George Duller, aviator Glen Kidston, automotive journalist S. C. H. "Sammy" Davis, and Dr. Dudley Benjafield among them) kept the car's reputation for high performance alive. At one point, on a bet, Barnato raced Le Train Bleu from Cannes to Calais, then by ferry to Dover and finally London, travelling on public highways with normal traffic, and won ; the special-bodied 6½ Litre car became known as the Blue Train Bentley. Thanks to the dedication of this group to serious racing, the company, located at Cricklewood, north London, was noted for its four consecutive victories at the 24 hours of Le Mans from 1927 to 1930. Their greatest competitor at the time, Bugatti, whose lightweight, elegant, but fragile creations contrasted with the Bentley's rugged reliability and durability, referred to them as "the world's fastest lorries".

Car models

The original model was the 3 litre, but as customers put heavier bodies on the chassis a larger 4½ litre model followed. Perhaps the most iconic model of the period is the 4½ Litre "Blower Bentley", with its distinctive supercharger projecting forward from the bottom of the grille. Uncharacteristically fragile for a Bentley, it was not the racing workhorse, the 6½ Litre was. It became famous in popular media as the vehicle of James Bond in the original novels, but not in film; however John Steed in the television series The Avengers did drive a Bentley.

1921-1929 3 Litre
1926-1930 4½ Litre & "Blower Bentley"
1926-1930 6½ Litre
1928-1930 6½ Litre Speed Six
1930-1931 8 Litre
1931 4 Litre

Bentleys of the Rolls-Royce era (1931-1998)
1935 Bentley 3½ Litre Cabriolet
S1 Continental Fastback Coupé with Mulliner Bodywork
Bentley R Type 1952: an evolution of the Mark VI which was the first Bentley available from the manufacturer with a standard body.
Rare left-hand drive 1963 Bentley S3 Continental
Bentley Mulsanne 1980Rolls-Royce had bought Bentley secretly using a company named the British Central Equitable Trust: not even Bentley himself knew the true identity of the purchaser until the deal was completed.[1] A new company, wholly owned by Rolls-Royce, was formed as Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. As W.O. Bentley was little more than an employee, he left to join Lagonda in 1935 when his contract was up for renewal. The Cricklewood factory was closed and sold and production moved to the Rolls-Royce works in Derby.

When a new Bentley car appeared in 1933, the 3½ Litre, it was a sporting variant of the Rolls-Royce 20/25 and although disappointing some traditional customers, it was well received by many others and even Bentley himself was reported as saying, "Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley than any other car produced under that name."[1]

After World War II, production of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars was moved to an ex-wartime engine factory in Crewe, Cheshire. Bentleys became increasingly a Rolls-Royce without the distinctive grille and with a lower price tag and by the 1970s and early 1980s sales had fallen badly with at one time less than 5% of production carrying the Bentley badge.[1]

The parent company failed in 1970 following problems with aero engine development and the car division was floated off to become Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd and remained independent until bought by Vickers in August 1980.

In the 1980s Bentley became a separate, high performance car line once again typified by the 1980 Mulsanne. The new sporting image created a new interest in the name and sales as a proportion of output started to rise. In 1986 the Rolls-Royce:Bentley ratio was 60:40 and in 1991 50:50.

The Bentley factory in Crewe, Cheshire, is still known in the town by the name "Royce's". For more on Bentley Motors from 1931 to 1998, see Rolls-Royce and Rolls-Royce Motors.

Car models
1933–1937 3½ Litre
1936–1939 4¼ Litre
1939–1941 Mark V
1939 Mark V
1946–1952 Mark VI
1952–1955 R Type and Continental
1955–1959 S1 and Continental
1959–1962 S2 and Continental
1962–1965 S3 and Continental
1965–1980 T-series
1965–1977 T1
1977–1980 T2
1971–1984 Corniche
1984–1995 Continental — convertible
1992–1995 Continental Turbo
1975–1986 Camargue
1980–1987 Mulsanne
1984–1988 Mulsanne L limousine
1982–1985 Mulsanne Turbo
1987–1992 Mulsanne S
1984–1992 Eight — lower-priced model
1985–1995 Turbo R — turbocharged performance version
1991–2002 Continental R — turbocharged 2-door model
1999–2003 Continental R Mulliner — performance model
1994–1995 Continental S — intercooled
1992–1998 Brooklands — improved Eight
1996–1998 Brooklands R — performance Brooklands
1994–1995 Turbo S — limited-edition sports model
1995–1997 Turbo R — updated Turbo R
1996 Turbo R Sport — limited-edition sports model
1995–2003 Azure — convertible Continental R
1999–2002 Azure Mulliner — performance model
1996–2002 Continental T — short wheelbase performance model
1999 Continental T Mulliner — firmer suspension
1997–1998 Bentley Turbo RT — replacement for the Turbo R

Volkswagen Group ownership
2003 Bentley Azure Mulliner Final SeriesIn 1998, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors were purchased from Vickers (its owner since 1980) by Volkswagen Group for £430 million, after bidding against BMW. BMW had recently started supplying components for the new range of cars, notably V8 engines for the Bentley Arnage and V12 engines for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. The Rolls-Royce name was not included in VW's purchase; it was instead licensed to BMW (for £40 million) by the Rolls-Royce aero engine company.

BMW and Volkswagen came to an agreement whereby Volkswagen would manufacture both Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars until the end of 2002, whereupon the right to build Rolls-Royce cars would be BMW's alone. During this period, Volkswagen reduced its reliance on BMW as a supplier: as of 2003, BMW engines are no longer used in Bentley cars.

Modern Bentleys
The current Bentley lineup (L–R): Flying Spur, Continental GT, and Arnage
Queen Elizabeth II's Bentley State LimousineIn 2002, Bentley presented Queen Elizabeth II with an official State Limousine to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. In 2003, Bentley's 2-door convertible, the Bentley Azure, ceased production, and the company introduced the Bentley Continental GT, a large luxury coupe. The car is powered by a version of VW's W-12 engine.

Demand had been so great that the factory at Crewe, Cheshire, was unable to meet orders despite an installed capacity of approximately 9500 vehicles per year. There was a waiting list of over a year for new cars to be delivered. Consequently, production of the new Flying Spur, a four-door version of the Continental GT, was assigned to the Transparent Factory, where the VW Phaeton luxury car is also assembled. This arrangement ceased at the end of 2006, and all car production reverted to the Crewe plant.

In April 2005, Bentley confirmed plans to produce a 4-seat convertible model, the Azure, derived from the Arnage Drophead Coupe prototype, at Crewe beginning in 2006. By the autumn of 2005, the convertible version of the successful Continental GT, the Continental GTC was also presented. These two models were successfully launched in late 2006.

Bentley sales continued to increase and in 2005 were 8,627 sold worldwide, 3,654 of which were sold in the United States. In 2007, with sales of 10,014, the 10,000 cars per year threshold was broken for the first time in the company's history. For 2007 a record profit of €155 million was also announced.

1998– Arnage saloon
1999– Hunaudieres Concept
2002– State Limousine
2003– Continental GT coupé
2005– Continental Flying Spur saloon
2006– Azure convertible
2006– Continental GT convertible
2008– Bentley Brooklands coupé
2008– Continental GT Speed coupé
2008– Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed saloon
The current Board of Management consists of Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, Chairman and Chief-Executive, Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn, Engineering, Stuart J. McCullough, Sales & Marketing, Douglas G. Dickson, Manufacturing, Christine A. Gaskell, Personnel and Juergen Hoffmann Finance.

Current Bentley Racing

In 2001-2003, the Bentley Speed 8 enjoyed a successful racing streak in the Le Mans series.

Future Cars
Since the successful launch of the Continental GT, GTC and Flying Spur, producing a new halo model to replace the Arnage has become a priority, as against the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Maybach rivals the car is dated. A new Arnage would most probably be based on a chassis designed for the next generation Audi A8, due to its versatility. The new car is expected for the 2010 model year, and is said to take styling cues from the Bentley State Limousine[citation needed].

In 2008 and 2009 the Continental GTC and Flying Spur are widely expected to receive the changes already made to the Continental GT, with a new front splitter and chrome headlight surrounds among other changes.

Since Bentley's induction into the VW Group, rumours of an SUV style vehicle have repeatedly surfaced. These have been shot down by Bentley employees on the basis that the idea would not fit into their future plans and also the fact that the manufacturing facilities are already running at full capacity.

Borrowing hybrid technology developed by Bentley owners VW Group is another focal point as the trend towards hybrid cars is expanding year on year.

A limited run of a Zagato modified GT was also announced in March 2008, dubbed "GTZ".

^ a b c d e f Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1.
^ Garlick. "BENTLEY REPORTS RECORD PROFIT". Retrieved on 2008-03-18.

External links
Bentley vehiclesBentley Motors official site
Bentley Arnage T microsite
Bentley Arnage R microsite
Bentley Arnage RL microsite
Bentley Azure microsite
Bentley Continental GT microsite
Bentley Continental GTC microsite
Bentley Continental Flying Spur microsite
Rolls-Royce and Bentley enthusiasts' website
Vintage Bentleys Website
Bentley Drivers Club Website
Bentley Ukraine
Bentley & Rolls-Royce Online Club
Inside the Bentley factory - Jorn Madslien, BBC News
Companies portal

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Comment Wall


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Comment by Stephen Page on January 29, 2009 at 10:23am
On March 3rd at the 2009 International Geneva Motor Show, Bentley will reveal its fastest, most powerful production car ever.

Delivering supercar performance, this new model is very much the extreme Bentley.

Importantly, it will run on biofuel, delivering stage one of Bentley's environmental commitment and pioneering the use of this fuel in the luxury sector.

To find out more information, please go to
Comment by Stephen Page on October 21, 2008 at 11:58am
Bentley History spans three centuries and is shown here in five categories,

Early Years - This details WO Bentley's start in life, and his youthful passion for speed and reliability:

Walter Owen Bentley was born the youngest of nine children in September 1888, and into a comfortably-off late Victorian family. With almost as many servantsas family, they lived in a rambling house in Avenue Road, St John’s Wood, London. His family originated from Yorkshire although his maternal grandfather had emigrated to Australia, making a fortune from copper mining and banking before returning to retire in London.

The ‘Bun’, as he was nick-named, was interested in cricket and passionate about railways. As a boy, he had no doubt what he intended to do with his life and in 1905 at the age of 16 left school to pursue a premium apprenticeship in Doncaster at the locomotive works of the Great Northern Railway.

For the next three and a half years of ‘sweat and dirt’ (as he described them), WO as he became universally known, learnt his engineering skills. By 1909 he was ready to experience his burning childhood ambition to get onto the footplate of a steam locomotive. Eventually he was firing express locomotives out of Kings Cross.

The premium apprenticeship cost his father £75 for a five year term. WO worked under Henry Ivatt, designer of the 4-4-2 Atlantic locomotives, in the fitting shop, foundry and engine erecting shop. Working through a ten hour day, five and a half days a week, he worked his way up, taking occasional turns as assistant fireman on the footplate, before finishing his apprenticeship in the Kings Cross running sheds.

In 1906, WO acquired his first motor-cycle, a 3hp Quadrant. By 1907 the ‘lure of speed’ as he later described it, expressed itself when he entered the 400-mile London to Edinburgh Trial, staged by the Motor Cycling Club. After dealing en route with various problems endemic to early motor cycles, he reached Edinburgh just before his scheduled deadline, and so qualified for a Gold Medal in his first sporting trial.

He and two of his brothers, Horace and Arthur, who also bought motorcycles, became enthusiasts. Arthur won a premier award with his Triumph and WO followed this with two major Golds in trials. WO became proficient at both trials, road and track racing. He could be found practising on the empty roads in the early hours of the morning, before police speed traps were operating. He later acquired a Rex motorcycle and subsequently an Indian, both of which he entered in the motorcycle T.T. races. The Indian was also raced at Brooklands before he acquired his first car.

From this modest beginning came W O’s life-long love of motor sport, with his first cars, a V-twin chain-drive Riley and subsequently a four cylinder Sizaire-Naudin, WO became an adherent of the motor car. Having completed his premium apprenticeship, W O took a job as assistant to the works manager of the National Motor Cab Company, helping to keep a fleet of 500 Unic taxis on the road.

In the spring of 1912, his brother Horace happened to see an advertisement in The Times seeking a new director for the concessionaires of the French car factory Doriot, Flandrin & Parant (D.F.P.). Raising the necessary £2000 from the family, WO became the active British concessionaire for D.F.P. A little later Horace bought out the remaining partners for a further £2000 and ‘Bentley and Bentley’ commenced business from their Hanover Street show rooms in 1912.
WO considered that the 12/15 hp tourer, being possibly the best of the D.F.P. range and susceptible to tuning, might prove successful in sports events. With the help of his mechanic from the D.F.P. factory, Leroux, W O entered a number of events, the first being the Aston Clinton hill climb on 15 June 1912, and broke a number of records at Brooklands. The effect on sales, overseen by Horace, was “quite remarkable”.

In 1913 WO visited the D.F.P. factory at Courbevoie, near Paris. Seeing a paperweight fashioned from aluminum to look like a piston he surmised that aluminum alloy pistons would give the D.F.P. better performance and he commissioned a set to his own design. The result was a greatly improved 12/15 D.F.P., followed by the 12/40 speed model in 1914. In that year’s TT in the Isle of Man, WO drove his D.F.P. into 6th place against larger engined opposition.

Lieutenant WO Bentley RNVR served his country well in World War One. Through an introduction to Commander Wilfred Briggs, WO was given a commission in the Royal Navy. He was rapidly sent to both Rolls-Royce at Derby and later to the Sunbeam works, where he demonstrated the aluminium alloy piston and recommended its adoption for aero engines.

The English concessionaires for the Clerget rotary aero-engine, which suffered from limited power and poor reliability, were next to receive a visit from WO. He proposed a number of modifications, including the use of an aluminium cylinder shrunk on to a cast-iron liner to improve cooling. Gwynnes, licensees for the Clerget engine, would not accept WO’s proposals for the re-design of their engine and so Briggs arranged for WO to establish an experimental shop at Humbers in Coventry. His BR1 and 250 hp BR2 rotary aeroplane engines, designed and built with his friends at Humber, proved to be some of the best aero-engines of their day, with the BR2 continuing in RAF service well into the 1920’s.

WO was demobilized with £1000 gratuity. Subsequently, a young King’s Counsel, later to become Lord Hailsham, managed to win a further £8000 for WO, in recognition of the use of his aluminium pistons, and his creation of reliable aero engines, the BR2 being the ultimate of its kind.

Vintage - Here we refer to the Bentley Cars made at Cricklewood, in London between 1919 and 1931:

Shortly after the armistice in 1919, WO Bentley, together with a group including Frank Burgess (formerly of Humber) and Harry Varley (formerly of Vauxhall), set about designing a high quality sporting tourer, for production under the name Bentley. Colonel Clive Gallop, who had been flying planes on the Western Front, which had been powered by WO's aero engines, joined the team, specifically designing the four valve-per-cylinder camshaft arrangement for the first engine. With his brother, HM, WO established the first 'Bentley Motors', that same year.

The first Bentley Motors Ltd was founded in 1919, and between then and 1931, W O created the motor cars which became a legend and remain prized and treasured possessions at the end of the twentieth century, something of which the intensely modest W O would have been surprised, but also very proud.

September 1919

WO Bentley and his small team fire up the prototype 3 litre engine in a small mews off Baker Street in central London. This engine had, for its time, an extremely advanced specification - four cylinders, single overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and twin-spark ignition via two magnetos (the latter introduced a little later). Upon receiving a complaint from a nearby nurse caring for a dying patient disturbed by the noise, one wag present commented "A happy sound to die to".

The chassis was the work of Frank Burgess, the ex-Humber designer who WO Bentley had met during the First World War, and recognised as an engineer thinking along the same lines as himself. The first completed chassis, EXP 1, was undertaking test runs by January 1920.


Work commences on construction of the Bentley factory in Oxgate Lane, Cricklewood, North-West London.


At Brooklands
The decision to prove the cars in competition was always going to be an important part of the development process, as WO Bentley and his brother, HM, had achieved so much with this policy before the First World War when they held the UK agency for the French DFP car. So, when EXP 2 became the first racing Bentley, gaining a race victory at Brooklands in 1921, the policy clearly justified itself and the anticipation of this new car by the motoring press was considerably raised. This particular prototype car, the second Bentley ever made, is still in existence and is now owned by Bentley Motors.


In May, another pre-production 3 litre driven by Douglas Hawkes finished 13th in the Indianapolis 500 Race at an average speed of 74.95mph. This result astonished the Americans, especially as the car was quick straight out of its crate and was essentially just a production car, competing against the best local thoroughbred racing machines.

The very next month, Hawkes and his car joined WO Bentley and Frank Clement in a three-car team for the TT race on the Isle of Man. Racing these fundamentally standard specification cars against the experienced and highly tuned teams from Sunbeam and Vauxhall, the Bentley team were the only one to finish intact - 2nd, 4th & 5th - thereby winning the team prize, as well as much valuable publicity. Much needed, because…

On 21 September, the first production Bentley left the factory and was delivered to its owner, Noel van Raalte, who was to become one of the most faithful ever customers of the marque. The 3 litre in its short chassis guise, was capable of 90mph - a remarkable achievement for a standard production car at that time, especially as this performance was combined with unusually high reliability. The team racing versions would reach top speeds in excess of 100mph.


John Duff, an official Bentley dealer based in Upper St Martins Lane, London WC2, requested Bentley Motors to prepare his personal 3 litre, chassis 141, for a novel 24 hour race to be held for the first time that May, at Le Mans in France. Having experienced some delays with breakages, resulting from the terrible conditions at the circuit, Duff and his co-driver, Clement, finished 4th.


Duff and Clement returned to Le Mans and, with the benefit of their experience the previous year, won a famous victory, the first of many for the marque.


Whilst the handling and performance of the 3 litre was a revelation, especially in its short chassis configuration fitted with the popular 4 seater touring body, the performance was seriously compromised for those chassis fitted with heavy saloon bodies, a style which was becoming increasingly desirable. Consequently, the obvious decision was more horsepower, hence the introduction of the 6½ litre, later to become the Speed Six. Using longer chassis' and a six cylinder version of the engine, plus other modifications, including a three-throw drive for the overhead camshaft instead of the vertical bevel drive of the 3 litre, the power output was approximately doubled.

However, despite the critical acclaim afforded Bentleys in their first four years of production, sales were unable to match Company targets, and the development costs of the new six cylinder car had left the finances of the Company teetering on the edge. Fortunately, Woolf Barnato, the son of Barney Barnato of Kimberley Diamond Mine fame, had not long received his inheritance and, to celebrate, had bought a 3 litre to compete in at Brooklands. When he learnt that the supply of what had quickly become his favourite sports car could well dry up, he bought the Company to secure its immediate future.


Following two very unsuccessful returns to Le Mans in the intervening years since 1924, Bentley finally achieved a second victory, but not without some drama. Their three-car team were all involved in an accident that put two of the cars out of the race completely, and seriously damaged the third. Fortunately, that car, known as 'Old No. 7', was able to continue and, in the final hour of the race, caught and passed the leading car to win at an average speed of 61.35mph.

Not long after Le Mans, Bentley launched its third model, the 4½ litre. The 6½ was a refined chassis, designed for comfort rather than the more sporty aspirations of the 3 litre, which was now somewhat underpowered. Also, the early customers who had moved on to the 6½ were also missing the "bloody thump" of the four cylinder engine. The 4½ litre 4 cylinder engine mounted in a short (9' 9 ½") chassis has, arguably, become accepted as the best all-round package from this era - as comfortable carrying a saloon body as it is in a sporty package on a race track


The real beginning of the 'Barnato' era. Despite having owned the Company for two years, it wasn't until 1928 that Woolf became a fully-fledged part of the group of rich amateur drivers known as the Bentley Boys, but it wasn't long before he was recognised as their principal Member. Whilst they had a reputation for the highest living, they were also fully committed to their racing and, Barnato in particular achieved, spectacular success. The Company, with the backing of Barnato's millions, embarked on a packed racing programme. Out of five major races entered this year, Bentleys acquitted themselves well, with a 1st at Le Mans the best result of these, when Barnato & Bernard Rubin drove the prototype 4½ litre, 'Mother Gun', to a third 24 hour victory for Bentley. Other places were achieved, at home and abroad, cementing the reputation of these iconic motor cars as a world-beating sports car.


The first year that the Speed Six was used in competition, when the Company built a special 11' chassis with a lightweight VdP 4 seater tourer body which became known as 'Old No. 1'. Leading the team, this car won two races in 1929 - Le Mans and the BARC Six Hour Race at Brooklands. This year saw the Team's best ever result at Le Mans, with Bentleys placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th.

Later that year, at Brooklands again, a 4½ litre driven by Jack Barclay & Frank Clement won the BRDC 500 Mile Race. The BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club), better known these days as the owners of Silverstone, was formed from a core of Bentley team drivers this same year and the 500 Mile Race was their inaugural event. Other notable results Bentleys achieved included 2nd places in both the Double Twelve Hour Race at Brooklands and the Irish Grand Prix at Phoenix Park in Dublin.

The other notable development in 1929, was the introduction of the Supercharged 4½ litre. Sir Henry Birkin, arguably the most glamorous and celebrated of the Bentley Boys, decided, with the blessing of Woolf Barnato, to go his own way on the development of a suitable racing Bentley. He was convinced, much to the displeasure of WO Bentley, that supercharging was the way ahead, and set up his own workshops in Welwyn Garden City north of London. These cars have subsequently become the most iconic of the various Vintage Bentley models, despite never winning a major race. Initially, five chassis were built up in Welwyn Garden City solely for racing purposes, to be followed by a further 50 production versions built at Cricklewood.


The previous year had seen the Wall Street Crash, the reverberations of which could be felt throughout the whole world, not least of all amongst the wealthy classes in England. Sales of Bentleys fell throughout this year and, if it wasn't for the deep pockets of Woolf Barnato, Bentley Motors would have folded before this year had had a chance to even get under way. Despite the gloom, Bentley Motors bravely launched the ultimate luxury motor car, the incredible 8 litre, with a six cylinder engine developed from the Speed Six, but fitted to a new chassis. These beautifully finished motor cars were capable of carrying the heaviest coachbuilt bodies at speeds in excess of 100mph, with no fuss and in complete comfort and safety - an incredible achievement for those days. The first car was delivered in October to the famous actor, Jack Buchanan. Only 100 were ever built, but their survival rate is excellent.

Nevertheless, competitions still played a major part in their activities, and Old No. 1 managed to win Le Mans for the second year in succession. It's sister Speed Six also triumphed in the Junior Car Club's Double Twelve Race at Brooklands, and Birkin gained the most important result for the Supercharged 4½ litre cars when he finished 2nd in the French Grand Prix against pukka GP cars, and on a notoriously twisty circuit. His car towered over the competition and the result was nevertheless a very significant achievement.


Due to the ever-worsening financial situation, the important decisions within the Company were being taken by new Directors brought in by Barnato, and WO was becoming less and less pivotal in strategy. The most significant development was the introduction of the unloved 4 litre model - the engine was very much the brainchild of Harry Ricardo, but it was handicapped by the cost-cutting measure of mating it to a shortened version of the very heavy 8 litre chassis. 49 were built but they have never captured the imagination of fans of the marque, mainly due to being underpowered.

On 10 July, the Company found it could no longer meet its financial obligations and, with Barnato unwilling to continue baling it out, it was put into receivership. Following a brief battle with Napier, Rolls-Royce, hiding behind the British Equitable Central Trust, bought the Company and its assets for £125,275. Only the Service Department at Kingsbury remained and continued to service and maintain Bentleys produced at Cricklewood continuously up until the War.

There has been constant speculation about why Rolls-Royce bought Bentley Motors but undoubtedly a primary motivation was to remove their most serious competitor in the luxury car market. The 8 litre, which was a direct competitor to the Phantom II Continental, had clearly demonstrated an overall superiority in performance and, in the depressed market at that time, they could little afford a competitor of that calibre in such a restricted marketplace.

A single private entry of a 4½ litre entered and failed to finish and this pattern was repeated the following two years with one of the 'Blower' team cars, now owned by a Frenchman. Whilst at Brooklands various privateers continued competing with highly developed Bentleys with various levels of success. The most significant of these achievements were 'Old Number 1's' victory in the 1931 500 Mile Race, and Sir Henry Birkin's lap record of almost 138mph in 1932 whilst driving his Supercharged 4½ litre single-seater. Another Bentley hybrid achieved the second fastest ever lap of Brooklands in 1938 - a lap speed of just over 143mph achieved by Oliver Bertram driving Woolf Barnato's Barnato-Hassan Special. This car was the brainchild of ex-Bentley Team mechanic, Wally Hassan, who went on to design the extremely successful Coventry-Climax GP engines in the early sixties, and following their take-over by Jaguar, he had much to do with the Jaguar V12 engine, eventually taking over as Managing Director of that Company.

Derby - Tells of cars made in Derby, under Rolls Royce, pre War:


After a period of reflection and prevarication, Rolls-Royce decided that a sportier version of their 20/25 model could establish a niche for itself in the marketplace as a luxury sports tourer. Having explored various options, it was decided to power the new 'Bensport' with a more highly tuned version of the 20/25 unit - a six cylinder, pushrod engine fitted with twin S/U carburettors, increased compression, improved con rods and modified cam profiles, with a capacity of 3,669cc. Built at Derby alongside Rolls-Royce and launched in September as the 3½ litre Bentley, this car possessed excellent handling characteristics and could achieve a top speed of 97mph when fitted with lightweight bodywork. However, like all products designed under the influence of Sir Henry Royce, it was imbued with some of the most complicated design solutions for any car of the period. Nevertheless, it caught on and proved immensely popular without affecting sales of its parent marque. Very soon, this new Bentley was christened 'The Silent Sports Car' - a name it is still closely associated with.

So popular was this car with famous motoring personalities of the day, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd were able to publish a publicity brochure with photographs and endorsements from such racing celebrities as Sir Malcolm Campbell, Captain George Eyston, Captain Woolf Barnato (Later Director of Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd), ER Hall, Raymond Mays, Fl Lt CS Staniland, Prince Birabongse of Siam, Captain Archie Frazer Nash, AC Dobson, Billy Cotton (of Band fame), T Rose Richards, and H Rose.


So impressed with the potential of this latest Bentley after using his personal example as a practice car for the Mille Miglia that year, ER (Eddie) Hall decided that it could provide him with a suitable entry for the Ulster Tourist Trophy races held each year in Northern Ireland. He, therefore, set about modifying it for the purpose. Hall had Offord fit a lightweight body, liberally utilising aluminium and electron materials. Despite setting its face against racing, Rolls-Royce, reasoning that this car was a private entry and so not potentially a source of adverse publicity in the event of failure, assisted Hall by improving the output from his engine from the standard 120hp, to a useful 131hp. Eddie Hall finished a very creditable 2nd in the race, a result he repeated with the same car in 1935, and again in 1936, when it was fitted with the enlarged 4¼ litre version of the engine. He also entered the car for Le Mans in '36, but the race was cancelled with a week's notice owing to excessive industrial and civil unrest in France at that time, a situation that resulted in Ettore Bugatti being locked out of his own factory elsewhere in France.


Rolls-Royce introduced the enlarged capacity 4,255cc engine to the car, in response to a perception that the model was underpowered. The new model was called, not unsurprisingly, the 4¼ litre Bentley.


The 4¼ litre chassis B27LE, fitted with the streamlined body manufactured by the Parisien coachbuilders, Pourtout, left the factory during that summer. This car, better known as the Embiricos Bentley, later achieved a maximum speed of 118mph on a German autobahn the following year.


The Mark V model was launched at the 1939 Motor Show. Sadly, the war intervened and only 9 examples of this promising model were ever delivered to private owners, making them something of a collector's item today.

Crewe - Rolls Royce moved to Crewe after the War and the Bentley motor car is still being produced at the site today:


As the country slowly reverted to a peacetime economy, in May Rolls-Royce moved its Motor Division out of Derby, to a facility it had established at Crewe in Cheshire for the purpose of building Spitfire engines. Pyms Lane was to become the longest ever serving home to the marque, as it so remains today. The motor manufacturers of Great Britain woke up to a new reality, with a completely new and ultra-punitive taxation culture - a direct consequence of the massive debt that the country had run up in order to defeat fascism. In this austere climate, Rolls-Royce were faced with a massive challenge to which they rose with great credit and foresight when they launched the MK VI. This model employed a six-cylinder 4¼ litre engine of 'F' head design, in a hefty chassis fitted with independent front suspension.

The MK VI was designed, in as much as this is possible with R-R, as a mass-production model in order to earn the Company as much hard currency as possible. With this in mind, for the first time ever, they produced a model with a standard steel saloon body, although rolling chassis could be purchased and delivered to ones coachbuilders to be fitted with a body designed to your personal specification, as every Bentley produced prior to 1940 had been. The great success of this model ensured sufficient breathing space for the parent Company to re-establish its presence in the post-war motoring world.


24 hour Racing returns to Le Mans after a ten year break and with it a Bentley joining the other 36 cars entered. After a faultless and unflurried run, Soltan Hay and Tommy Wisdom bring the 1938 Embiricos 4¼ litre home in 6th place. This car returned in both 1950 and '51, finishing 14th and 22nd respectively. Eddie Hall brought his Derby out of retirement in 1950 and, fitted with a streamlined coupe body, they finished 8th.


Having bored out the MK VI engine to 4½ litres the previous year, a revision for the model resulted in the launch of the 'R' Type variant, named on account of the chassis number suffix range reaching the letter 'R'.

The Company had also been working on a special light-weight, tuned version, which would achieve 120mph - a quite remarkable achievement for a full four-seater at that time. This was the ubiquitous 'R' Type Continental, a stunning ultra-fast trans-continental tourer, clothed in the most eye-catching of coachwork the fastback designed by HJ Mulliner, and marketed as the fastest production four-seater in the world. 208 were built, and they represent a pinnacle for the marque post-war. (More information is available at


The launch of the 'S' Series, utilising at first the six cylinder engine, now up to 4.9 litres, mounted in a new chassis, with a 'Continental' version for the more sporty-minded customers. However, this model marks the use of the automatic gearbox as standard, with very few chassis now fitted with a manual box.


With the introduction of the new, in-house designed V8 of 6.2 litres displacement, the 'S' became the 'S2', which incorporated yet more changes to the basic chassis design.


With sales of Bentleys experiencing something of a gradual decline, the introduction of the Silver Shadow, and its Bentley variant - the 'T' Type, the following decade and a half probably marks the lowest fortunes ever for the Bentley marque. The 'T' Type could only ever be described as a badge-engineered option to its parent model and sales reflected this situation when compared to those of the Silver Shadow.

However, the important step forward was the introduction of a monocoque construction chassis, all-round disc brakes, independent suspension at both ends with hydraulic self levelling and much more. The Company recognised, as it still does today, what a gem of a powerplant it had in the V8.
The 'T' series became the 'T2' in 1977, and variations on this model included the Corniche.


Due to severe loss-making within the Aero division, the motor division is separated from the parent Company under its own management and known as Rolls - Royce Motor Cars.


Rolls - Royce Motor Cars put into the hands of receiver.


The original monocoque design of the 'T' Series is re-worked, the engine bored out to 6.75 litres and, for Bentley, the new model is launched as the Mulsanne. Sales of the Mulsanne are, initially, slow, but salvation was just around the corner. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd is sold to Vickers.


Marque afficionados would generally agree that this period saw the revival of the Bentley marque. Principally due to the efforts of the then Chief Executive, David Plastow, and the development team under John Hollings, the V8 engine in the Mulsanne acquired a turbocharger, which transformed the cars performance. However, whilst this massive car could be propelled to very high top speeds extremely quickly, it was not capable of carrying that speed comfortably enough through corners, as little work had been done on the running gear of the standard chassis.


In response to the criticisms levelled at the Mulsanne Turbo, dramatic improvements to the running gear were implemented and the Turbo 'R' was born (the 'R' stands for 'roadholding'). Initially producing around 320bhp, 400 lbs ft torque, combined with ever-improving roadholding capabilities and enhanced tuning packages as the model was developed, this car put new life back into the name 'Bentley'. Sales, now comfortably outstripping the parent marque testify to this.


To take full advantage in the revival enjoyed by the marque, the Company re-launched the 'Continental', building a two-door, two-seater of dramatic proportions on the Turbo R platform.
These employed a 385bhp, rising to 420bhp tuned version of the V8, and the two-door concept led, in 1995, to the drophead 'Azure'.


A pivotal year for Bentley. The first major event was the launch of the new model, the Arnage, powered by a 4½ litre BMW engine, a reflection of the increasing closeness of the German Company to Rolls-Royce.In that year Vickers, the owners of the car Company, put it up for sale and, after a two-way battle, Volkswagen won, albeit losing the Rolls-Royce marque to BMW in a curious twist to the takeover and resulting from Rolls-Royce plc's ultimate ownership of the name 'Rolls-Royce'. The terms were that VW would gain control of Bentley, the factory at Crewe, and all the company assets, along with Rolls production for the next four years. However, BMW would take direct control of Rolls-Royce on January 1st 2003.


Having announced a major investment in Crewe of some £500 million, the first outward impact of their ownership was the re-introduction of the original V8 into the Arnage, becoming the 'Red Label' version. This proved a popular move with customers, despite the practical difficulties endured by the engineers at Crewe to achieve it. News also started to leak out about their plans for a new model to be launched in 2003.


Bentley returned to Le Mans with a works team for the first time in 71 years, intorducing the EXP Speed 8 - a purpose built endurance racer designed and constructed by RTN in Norfolk, and run by Apex Motorsport at the circuit. A three year campaign had been announced with the intention of competing for the top honours in the third season anticipated. In the most appalling weather conditions, which caused the retirement of one of the two Bentleys, the number 8 car finished 3rd.


Due to the financial constraints imposed by a serious downturn in the world economy, and the subsequent drop in sales of new cars, Bentley only ran one car at Le Mans, a developed version of the 2001 car, which finished 4th after an almost trouble-free run.
The latest version of the Arnage, the 'T', is launched, with a considerably improved package, including the ever-reliable V8 tweaked to produce 440bhp,


The new Continental GT breaks cover at various motor shows around the world with deliveries expected to commence in the autumn. This is also the last year that the Continental 'R' Type will be built.

A two car team is planned for Le Mans and details emerge of the latest version of EXP Speed 8 being a fundamentally new design.

The two team Bentleys finish 3rd & 4th in their warm-up race at Sebring 12 hour race in the US.

In April, Bentley Motors announce that more than 3,200 firm orders have been placed for the new Continental GT.

At the test weekend at Le Mans in early May, the EXP Speed 8 racing cars finish with the fastest and third fastest times.

After a gap of 73 years, a Works Bentley returns to the top step of the podium at Le Mans - the spiritual home of the racing Bentley. Tom Kristensen set an unbeatable target in qualifying with a lap of 3.31 in the No. 7 car, with the No. 8 car securing the second grid slot. The start saw the two Bentleys make a rapid start, whilst the three Audis were hemmed in for the first few laps by the Dome of Jan Lammers, giving our lads the opportunity to put some 'daylight' between themselves and their pursuers.

In point of fact they were never under any real pressure, with the ultimate winners never experiencing any hiccups on their way to a dominant win. The second car suffered only from two failed batteries, but Johnny Herbert did manage to set the lap record for the race on the Sunday. As a spectacle, this was not a classic - as a demonstration of superiority it was superlative. Well done, Team Bentley, and congratulations to everyone at the Team and Bentley Motors! In their third year of return to motor racing at Le Mans, Bentley Motors Limited succeeded in the 2003 Vingt-Quatre Heures du Mans taking 1st and 2nd places.

Le Mans - The history of Bentley at this iconic motor race:

Following his earlier success racing DFP's, with the increase in sales that resulted from the associated ‘free’ publicity, W.O. had little hesitation in pursuing a similar course with his own cars.

In doing so, Bentleys were outstandingly successful. In the 1920s, success in both racing and setting new speed records produced front page headlines. From the outset Bentleys undertook racing as a commercial means to generate publicity and hence sales. The seriousness with which their racing programme was undertaken ensured that W.O. and the ‘Bentley Boys’ established the marque in the eyes of the public at the time and for generations to come.

Careful planning ensured success, with only a minimum left to luck. W.O. only entered his cars in races for which they were suited — long distance, high speed endurance events for sports cars. Record attempts were also carefully selected to suit the cars — again high speed endurance records.

Prior to each race, the cars were meticulously prepared under the watchful eye of Nobby Clarke, the Works Manager. The mechanics were rehearsed; drivers practised pit stops under the scrutiny of the movie camera; the layout of the pits was ordered for maximum efficiency — these preparations saved typically 45 seconds at each pit stop.

From the pits, W.O. managed the races with equal thoroughness and care. Lap times for each car and any other dangerous looking car were recorded and analysed. Later, pit-to-car signalling was moved away from the pits, with communications between pits and the signallers established via telephone (duplicated in case of failure). The drivers’ speeds were carefully controlled by W.O. from the pits so as not to exert the cars beyond that needed to win the race, and not to reveal unnecessarily the full potential of the cars.

The prestige of the marque was such that W.O. also had the pick of many of the best drivers of the day. The ‘Bentley Boys’, as they were known, were mostly wealthy amateurs who lived to the full spirit of the roaring twenties. They were exceptionally talented drivers who, under the guidance of W.O, piloted the cars to the many victories at Le Mans, Brooklands, and Montlhéry.

Most notable of all races was the Grand Prix d’Endurance held at Le Mans. On his visit to the first ever Le Mans in 1923, it became clear to W.O. that this race above all others was ideally suited to his cars. The results are shown in the table below. Despite the ‘black years’ of 1925 and 1926, the ‘works’ Bentleys achieved five wins, including a 1-2-3-4 placing in 1929, before retiring from racing after the 1930 Le Mans. The three consecutive wins by Barnato, then the chairman of Bentley Motors, are a record which stands to this day.

Race History

Unless the entry is indicated as 'Private Entry', all the entries were 'Works'

Year Race Place Car Drivers
Le Mans
3 litre
Duff/Clement (Private Entry)

Le Mans
3 litre
Duff/Clement (Private Entry)

Le Mans
3 litre
Duff/Clement (Private Entry)

Le Mans
3 litre

Le Mans
3 litre
4½ litre
3 litre

Le Mans
4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre

Le Mans
6½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre

Le Mans
6½ litre
6½ litre
6½ litre
4½ litre SC
4½ litre SC
4½ litre SC
Davis/C Dunfee
J Dunfee/Harcourt-Wood

Le Mans - 4½ litre Bevan/Couper (Private Entry)
Le Mans - 4½ litre Mary/Trevoux (Private Entry)
Le Mans - 4½ litre Gas/Trevoux (Private Entry)
Le Mans 6th 4¼ litre Hay/Wisdom (Private Entry)
Le Mans 8th
14th 4¼ litre
4¼ litre Hall/Clarke (Private Entry)
Hay/Hunter (Private Entry)
Le Mans 3rd
Exp Speed 8
Exp Speed 8 Wallace/Leitzinger/
van de Poele
Le Mans 4th Exp Speed 8 Wallace/Leitzinger/
van de Poele
Le Mans 1st
Exp Speed 8
Exp Speed 8 Kristensen/Capello/Smith

Le Mans Results
1st - 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 2003 (6)

2nd - 1929, 1930, 2003 (3)

3rd - 1929, 2001 (2)
Comment by Stephen Page on October 21, 2008 at 11:33am
The Bentley Drivers Club website:
On this website we have tried to present as comprehensive a background to both the Bentley marque and the Club as possible, and we hope you find what you are looking for. The object of the site is to serve the requirements of existing Members, and to foster and encourage an interest in one of the most historic and iconic marques ever created amongst a wider audience. The Club welcomes new Members, whether they already own a Bentley, whether they anticipate owning a Bentley in the future, or whether they are just enthusiastic fans of these fabulous motor cars. The Club is also truly international, and we welcome Members equally, wherever they may live.

The Bentley Motor Car

When WO Bentley first conceived of a fast, sporting tourer of his own, little could he have imagined the impact his creation would have on those motorists lucky enough to have experienced the pleasures of driving one, and those of an even greater number who would dearly love the chance.

The History of Bentley is one that has inspired thousands, and the achievements of these great cars have set standards that few others have reached. That almost 50% of the original examples built at the first factory in Cricklewood survive and are enjoyed regularly by their owners is a testimony to their worth. It is almost impossible for us born long after their introduction to understand the impact of a handsome, reliable motor car that could cruise at speeds of 60mph or more, and that later models possessed a top speed of over 100mph, only a few years after the First World War had come to an end. The development of the average family saloon took about 50 years to catch up in performance terms, and motoring enthusiasts to this day get excited about such features as overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and twin spark ignition - all contained in the design of the very first Bentley engine - the 3 litre! Few contemporaries could match their combination of performance and reliability, hence their overwhelming success in the toughest endurance competition of that era, the Le Mans 24 Hour Race.

It is with this in mind that one can understand how the Bentley Drivers Club came to be born, and prosper, to the point where its influence on keeping the marque 'alive' in the minds of the motoring public during its, arguably, darkest period of the 1970's, was of paramount importance. The Club has been, and still is, the true keeper of the heritage of these magnificent motor cars, and the memory of their creator, Walter Owen Bentley.

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