FOUNDED BY MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS FOR MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS
Bentley has managed to hold its position among the very top luxury brands, while retaining a little bit more of a bullishly sporty presence than some of its direct rivals.
The range consists of three core models, all big, fast and beautiful. The newest arrival is of course the Bentayga SUV. At launch the fastest selling Bentley of all time, making up almost half of all Bentley sales in 2019, of which 70% were customers new to the Bentley brand. So, it’s no wonder if you’re considering buying Bentley for the first time.
The Bentley range
Next in the range is the exceptional, record-breaking Flying Spur – the fastest production luxury saloon (in Odyssean guise) – 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 177mph. This from a limousine weighing 2½ tonnes.
And finally, arguably the model that changed perceptions of Bentley forever – the Continental GT. Low-slung, handsome more than pretty, marrying heritage curves with 21st century poise. The GT is a presence not to be messed with, especially the GT Speed. Featuring a 6.0l W12 engine, the GT Speed is the most powerful roadgoing car Bentley has ever built. It will incessantly surge you in abject comfort, from 0-60mph in just 3.5 seconds and not stop ‘til it’s touching 208mph.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF Bentley
Bentley Motors was founded by Walter Owen Bentley – known simply as W.O. – in Cricklewood, North London in 1919, on January 18th – the same day as the Paris Peace Conference that brought an end to World War I. Prior to the war, W.O. had sold French DFP cars with his brother Horace but had always wanted to design and build his own creations.
W.O. was not for hanging about. As soon as the war was over he got to building, and later that same year he exhibited his first car chassis at the London Motor Show. Bentleys quickly developed a reputation for their durability, and were popular choices for hill climb competitions and speed races at Brooklands.
As if to underscore this reputation – and despite being precariously underfunded – Bentley managed to win the 1924 Le Mans 24hr race. This win drew the attention of Captain Woolf Barnato, who, inspired by the brand, agreed to fund the ailing business. In 1925, the Captain acquired his own Bentley – a 3-litre – in which he went on to win numerous races at the Brooklands circuit. His financial support to the business also meant that W.O. could design another generation of cars, and with these, went on to dominate the Le Mans 24hr race through the latter 1920s, winning in 1924, ’27, ’28, ’29 and 1930.
At this point, Bentley felt they had learned enough about speed and reliability and withdrew from motor racing.
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression choked sales of Bentley’s premium cars causing an unassailable financial crisis. Receivers were appointed in 1931.
The company was subsequently purchased through a sealed bid auction in 1931 by ‘British Central Equitable Trust’. Much to W.O.’s surprise, British Central Equitable Trust turned out to be a front for none other than Rolls-Royce, who purchased Bentley Motors to eliminate competition for their most expensive model, the Phantom II.
W.O. was included in the deal, with a contract securing his services until 1935. By this time, W.O. had become dissatisfied with the role, and left to join Lagonda.
Rolls-Royce registered the Bentley trademark, sold the factory in North London, and consolidated production; the Bentley 3½ litre launched in 1933 was a sporting variant of Rolls-Royce’s own 20/25. Indeed, from that moment on until 2004, all Bentleys inherited or shared Rolls-Royce chassis and adapted Rolls-Royce engines..
Throughout WWII, Rolls-Royce had switched efforts to the manufacture of aero-engines (including the glorious Merlin) in support of the war effort. A new facility was built far away from the focus of aerial bombing and within easy reach of the rail network. In 1938, construction began on potato fields at Merrill’s Farm near Crewe in the northwest of England.
Following the war, Rolls-Royce moved aero-engine manufacture to Derby, and moved car building operations to Crewe, where Bentley is still headquartered to this day.
Rolls-Royce had continued to produce aero engines after the war, entering the jet age with great success throughout the 1950s. However, in 1970, their RB211 jet engine programme failed so disastrously and expensively that it brought about the company’s collapse. This is the point at which Rolls-Royce the aerospace company and Rolls-Royce the car manufacturer parted ways.
Vickers PLC stepped in to take charge of the motoring company and set about restoring Bentley’s prestige as a performance car brand.
Vickers announced its intention to sell Rolls-Royce Motors in 1997. VW ultimately won out against BMW, albeit in a protracted and complex set of agreements around legal use of the Rolls-Royce name. Ultimately, what it amounted to was that in 2003, VW AG would be the sole manufacturer of Bentley cars, while BMW established a new entity for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, setting up shop in new facilities at Goodwood. The two most famous names in luxury cars were separate once again.
From strength to strength
The VW-owned era has proved immensely successful for the Bentley brand. The massively successful Continental GT continues to evolve and has broadened the brand’s appeal to a more youthful, celebrity audience, while the Continental Flying Spur (Mulliner) remains the world’s fastest production saloon, maintaining the brand’s racing heart, even at the very pinnacle of vehicle luxury.
- In 2016, Bentley launched its first SUV – the Bentayga.
- In 2021, Bentley recorded an incredible 31% rise in global sales, this despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for the future, in November 2020, Bentley announced that all new cars will be electric from 2030 onwards. The company’s first EV, expected to reflect the design language introduced in the 2019 EXP 100 GT prototype, will come to market in 2025. It will herald not only a new era of design and technology for Bentley, but an era of stratospheric performance statistics, boasting up to 1,400 horsepower, and acceleration from 0-60mph in 1.5 seconds.
- Jennifer Lopez
- Brian Johnson
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Mark Wahlberg
- Floyd Mayweather
Bentley Drivers Club: https://www.bdcl.org/
Bentley Owners Club: https://bentleyowners.club/
Quotes about Bentley
“You don’t put bumper stickers on a Bentley.” Kim Kardashian
“When you treat your body like a Bentley; you value yourself and you start to look at your body differently.” Demi Lovato
“So I come through in a Barbie Bentley, but please mamacita, please no envy.” Sweet Dreams by Lil Wayne