On the tenth of July, 2019, the iconic Bentley Motors will celebrate its centennial. British engineer and racing enthusiast W.O. Bentley founded Bentley Motors after serving in the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I. During his time serving he revolutionized engine manufacturing by introducing aluminum pistons. This lightweight material made fighter aircraft engines more powerful and reliable. After the war, he used this new technology to start Bentley Motors, and the rest is history leading to this milestone Bentley anniversary. Read on for some of our favorite milestones in the past 100 years of Bentley.
Bentley Boys and Girls
The first devotees of Bentley’s cars were a group of wealthy British motor enthusiasts known as the Bentley Boys, and later the Bentley Boys and Girls.
W.O. Bentley’s fast and dependable cars soon attracted the attention of a group of wealthy young men and women known as the Bentley Boys and Girls. They raced Bentleys at the gruelling 24 Hours of Le Mans, and encouraged W.O. to push the limits of automotive engineering, resulting in an incredible five Le Mans victories in seven years.
Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato invested heavily in the company in the late 1920s, becoming its chairperson. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 however, Rolls Royce purchased the company.
The Silent Sports Car
Rolls Royce introduced the Bentley 3½-litre after acquiring the company. The car was sold under the slogan “The Silent Sports Car,” and this moniker was kept by the company until the 1950s. These years of Bentley were also known as Derby Bentleys as they were produced in Derby, England.
The Derby Bentley was built first as a 3 ½ Litre and later as a 4 ¼ Litre. The six-cylinder engine was smooth, refined and produced around 120 bhp, a very impressive output for the era. Quality remained superb under the new regime; the car was stylish, fast, refined, elegantly proportioned and easy to drive.
The Embiricos Bentley
In 1938, Greek racing driver and Paris resident André Embiricos commissioned a Bentley 4 ½ Litre with a sleek, aerodynamic body made from Duralumin, a lightweight aluminum alloy. The car was fast while also comfortable on the road. This Embiricos Bentley would inspire the Continental models Bentley would become famous for in years to come. As the Bentley anniversary draws near, the Continental continues to be one of the maker’s most popular.
The R-Type Continental
After the Second World War, Bentley built on the Embiricos Bentley model and created the streamlined R-type Continental. The long open roads of mainland Europe, or “the continent,” inspired the name. England lacked motorways in those days so drivers would flock to mainland Europe to put their cars to the test.
With a low, long and lithe body, fastback roofline and fins added to the rear wings to aid stability, it could achieve the previously unheard of feat of cruising at 100 mph with four occupants.
Modern Day Bentleys
In the late 1990s, Volkswagon Group acquired Bentley Motors. In 2003, it unveiled the wildly successful Continental GT. The vehicle was a complete redesign after years of Bentley engineering that benefited from major investments.
With a sleek, bullet-like profile, near-200mph performance, effortlessly powerful W12 engine and a stunning interior showcasing all of Bentley’s craftsmanship skills, the new grand tourer was a global success and created a whole new market sector.
The Continental GTs were so popular that there was over a year-long waitlist to receive one. The company temporarily expanded production to Germany to meet the demand. Currently, one factory in Crewe, England produces all Bentleys with a workforce of about 4,000.
Bentleys continue their legacy of racing success, including a recent record-breaking win at Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. With the storied history of the past 100 years of Bentley, the future looks bright for this luxury automaker. We are looking forward to this Bentley anniversary and many more to come. For more motoring news, learn Why We’re Excited about Lamborghini, Maserati, and Bentley This Year.