Britain's Greatest Car Manufacturer - Bentley Motors
The sleek, elegant and powerful Bentley marque is the next manufacturer in our series.
The Story of Bentley
Founded by Walter Owen Bentley, their first car was released in 1919. His vision for the company was simple.
"To build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class" - Walter Owen Bentley
The company built itself as a brand of luxury and performance and still do to this day. This pursuit, considered as a contradiction at the time, was put to rest when Bentley achieved 5 victories at Le Mans during the 20's with 4 being secured between 1927 and 1930. Walter Owen's reasoning behind motor racing was to establish the Bentley brand, gain publicity and generate sales. Publicity was gained further when they held a celebration dinner at the Savoy Hotel where the winning Bentley was brought in.
Bentley's performances at Le Mans had a huge impact on their brand. They were able to blend the flair, power and romance of Le Mans with their desire to give the driver a sense of purpose and power to make a Bentley more than a car but a gateway to a world of luxury and performance.
Bentley's fortunes would dramatically change during the Great Depression. The demand for Bentley's cars dwindled and they were eventually put up for sale in 1931. The winning bid turned out to be from Rolls-Royce who acquired Bentley. Their founder, Walter Owen, would eventually leave Bentley and move to Lagonda in 1935 after Rolls-Royce closed the racing department. He went on to win the 1935 Le Mans.
After WW2, Lagonda was bought by a certain David Brown who wanted their engine for the upcoming Aston Martin DB2.
During the Rolls-Royce era, they began to intertwine production which was considered badge-engineering by critics. The relationship between Rolls-Royce and Bentley came to a tumultuous end in 1998 when Bentley was acquired by VW who sought to revive the brand by investing heavily in modernising their Crewe plant. Bentley's current design team consists of 100 experts from around the world who work closely with engineers, production people, and craftspeople.
Bentley's Return to Le Mans
After a 68 year hiatus, Bentley returned to Le Mans in 2001. The goal was to complete a three-year campaign. Their first 2 years were strong as they finished 3rd and 4th respectively but 2003 was the year they added their sixth Le Mans crown and also turned back the clock by re-creating the famous Savoy dinner celebration where they brought the winning car into the Savoy hotel.
The Return of Bentley
Bentley has strived to continue redefining luxury and performance to create the best car and this was achieved when they released the ground-breaking Continental range which was heralded by Top Gear as the 2nd best Grand Tourer in 2013 and it was also placed 37th in the all-time greatest British-built cars by auto express.
"As one would expect, sire. Comfortable, beautiful to behold and exquisitely put together". - Top Gear reviewing the Contintental.
Bentley's assault on the GT market was confirmed with the Continental GT and marked the return of Bentley to where they belong which is at the top of their class.
Next in Our Series
Bentley's history has seen them reach the pinnacle of motorsport and also luxury and performance where they will continue to execute the vision of their founder whose legacy is still alive today after over 100 years. Is Bentley's story the best of all time? Or is there another? The next story in our series is Bristol Cars.