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BENTLEY CARS - the making of a legend

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Colegiul National Pedagogic “Constantin Bratescu”




Lucrare de atestat la limba Engleza

BENTLEY CARS

-the making of a legend-


CONSTANTA 2008

Contents

Argument………………………………………………………..  pg. 3

Biography of Walter Owen Bentley………….………………….pg. 4

History…………………………………………………………pg. 6

Racing..…………………………………………………………..pg. 23

Conclusion……………………………………………………….pg. 27

Bibliography……………………………………………………..pg. 28

ARGUMENT

First of all, I would like to say that I chose this theme because I am fascinated by cars. Nevertheless, I chose to write about Bentley because it is a real brand. It’s a story as passionate as the dedication that’s required to build a car,as elegant as the Arnage or a coupe,as stunning as the Continental GT. It’s a story as exhilarating as the performance of every vehicle graced with the winged B.I also admire that, A Bentley is unmistakable – all it takes is a glance at the twin headlights, matrix grille or the high waistline to know one. The paradox of the car is that although it is instantly recognisable, it takes time and effort to hand-build each one. That’s the assured Bentley hallmark.

W. O. Bentley

Walter Owen Bentley (September 16 August 3 ), often known as W.O. Bentley or just 'W.O.' was the founder of Bentley Motors. One of five brothers and four sisters, he was educated at Clifton College, a boarding school near Bristol, from 1902 until 1905 when he left to start work as an apprentice railway engineer with the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster.

After a period with the National Motor Cab Company, Bentley in 1912 joined his brother, H.M.(Henry)Bentley, in a company called 'Bentley and Bentley' selling French DFP cars. Unsatisfied with their performance, W.O. designed new aluminum alloy pistons and a tuned camshaft for the DFP engine, taking several records at Brooklands in and .

During World War I, he was a Captain in the Royal Naval Air Service, where he played a major role in improving the design and manufacture of Clerget engines for the Sopwith Camel and the Sopwith Snipe aircraft. These were known as the BR1 (Bentley Rotary 1) and BR2 and were made by Humber. For this he was awarded an MBE, and an award of £8,000 from the Commission for Awards to Inventors.

After the war, he founded his own motor car company, Bentley Motors, in 1920. W.O. designed a high-tech four-cylinder engine and sturdy chassis, the Bentley 3 Litre. This car was the first to use 4 valves per cylinder and dual spark plugs, and its durability earned widespread acclaim. The 3 Litre won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1924 and following models repeated this each year from 1927 through 1930. His racing manager was an old school friend, Richard Sidney Witchell. Bentley set many records at Le Mans: Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato is the only driver to win on all three times he entered, giving him the highest victory percentage.

Bentley's racing success failed to keep the motor car company afloat, and W.O. was forced to sell a majority share to raise cash. The Bentley Boys came up with the money, with Woolf Barnato, heir to the Kimberly diamond mines, becoming the majority shareholder. W.O. stayed on to design another generation of cars, the six-cylinder 6½ Litre, but his control was slipping. Against his wishes, Barnato allowed the supercharged 'Blower' version of his 4½ Litre car to be built, but durability was poor and the car failed on the track.

The Wall Street Crash affected Bently's business greatly, especially as the company had just launched the 8 Litre as a grand car for the ultra-rich. After unsuccessful attempts to save the company, Barnato and Bentley were forced to sell to an anonymous holding company, British Central Equitable Trust, in . This turned out to be archrival Rolls-Royce, who had been disturbed by the 8 Litre's encroaching on the market turf of their Phantom II. W.O. remained with the company until , working on the 3½ Litre and other models. But Rolls-Royce closed the racing department, and Bentley eventually decided to go.

Bentley moved with the majority of the racing department staff to Lagonda, which was recently saved from receivership by Alan Good. There, Bentley again went racing, and his Lagonda MG45 Rapide, won Le Mans in 1935. His 4480 cc V12 engine was a masterpiece of engineering, developing 180 hp (134 kW).

After World War II, Lagonda was bought by David Brown, who combined it with Aston Martin. Brown had purchased Lagonda largely to gain Bentley's engineering expertise, and immediately placed his 2.6 L straight-6 engine under the bonnet of his DB2. This durable DOHC engine would continue in use at Aston through .

Bentley remained as an engineer at Aston Martin for a time, moving to Armstrong-Siddeley where he designed a twin overhead cam 3 litre engine before retiring.

W.O. married three times, first to Leonie who died in 1919, then to Poppy and finally in 1934 to Margaret. He had no children. He died in as a revered patron of the Bentley Drivers' Club. His widow Margaret lived until 1989.

Bentley History

Early years

 
W. O. as a child

“W O”, as he was universally known, was born the youngest of nine children of a comfortably-off late Victorian family.  He began his working life at sixteen years of age as a premium apprentice at the Doncaster Locomotive Works of the Great Northern Railway in 1905.  For the next three and a half years of ‘sweat and dirt’ (as he described them), W O 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.

 
WO astride his Rex motorcycle

In 1906, W O 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.

 
W O at Isle of Man in D.F.P.

From this modest beginning came W O’s life-long love of motor sport, soon to evidence itself again in the D.F.P. car, for which he and his brother H M  bought the UK agency in 1912.  The new company, called Bentley and Bentley, eventually established a modest niche in the motoring world with their much-improved D.F.P. 12/15 model.  In 1913 came the aluminium piston, which W O is credited with developing for automotive purposes.  The 12/40 D.F.P. Speed model, with aluminium alloy pistons, brought the brothers commercial and competition success, including Brooklands Class records, before World War One brought their business life to an abrupt temporary halt.

 
BR2 aero-engine

Lieutenant W.O. Bentley RNVR served his country well in World War One.  His BR1 and 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.

Bentley Landmarks

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 Tottenham Court Road 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 nurse caring for a dying patient nearby disturbed by the noise, one wag present commented 'A happy sound to die to'.

The prototype 3 litre engine 
The prototype 3 litre engine

The chassis was the work of Frank Burgess, the ex-Humber designer who WO Bentley had met during the First World War, and recognised 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.

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.

Exp2  At Brooklands 
Exp 2 At Brooklands

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.

WO Bentley & Leslie Pennel in their '22 TT car 
WO Bentley & Leslie Pennel in their '22 TT car

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.

Frank Clement cornering hard at Pontlieve 
Frank Clement cornering hard at Pontlieve

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 at scrutineering 
Duff and Clement at scrutineering

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.

6.5 litre engine 
6½ litre engine

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.

White House Crash 
White House Crash

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.

4.5 litre touring

A 4½ litre at speed

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 victorious team

'29 winning team 
1929 winning team and cars - 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th

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, and 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 won the BRDC 500 Mile Race, driven by Jack Barclay & Frank Clement. 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.

4.5 litre blower 
A supercharged 4½ litre vdp
four seater

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.

Clement cornering in the No.2 car
Clement cornering in the No.2 car

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.

Dudley Froy in the Barnato Hassan Birkin flat-out on the Byfleet banking

Dudley Froy in the Barnato Hassan Birkin in a supercharged
4 1/2 litre single seater

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.

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.

3½ litre Mulliner Sports Saloon
3½ litre Mulliner Sports Saloon

So popular was this car with famous motoring personalities of the day, the Company 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 (Now a Director of the re-launched Bentley Motors), 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.

Eddie Hall in his 3½ litre
Eddie Hall in his 3½ litre at the 1934 TT

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 weeks 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 model, in response to a perception that the model was underpowered. The new model was called, not unsurprisingly, the 4¼ litre Bentley




Embiricos at Brooklands
The Embiricos at Brooklands

4¼ litre chassis B27LE, fitted with the streamlined body manufactured by the Parisien coachbuilders, Portout, 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.

Mk V Bentley
Mk V Bentley

The Mark V model was launched at the Motor Show. Sadly, the war intervened and only 15 examples of this promising model were ever produced, making them something of a collectors item today. Four of these cars were to be the high specification 'Corniche' version - the fore-runner of the Continental family.

As the country slowly reverted to a peacetime economy, Rolls-Royce moved its Motor Division out of Derby in May, 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.

Mk Vl Standard Steel Saloon
Mk Vl Standard Steel Saloon

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 philosophy in the post-war world.

Embiricos on its way to 6th in the 1949 Le Mans race
Embiricos on its way to 6th in the 1949 Le Mans race

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 had reached the letter 'R'.

R' Continental Mulliner Fastback
'R' Continental Mulliner Fastback

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 designed by HJ Mulliner, the Fastback, and marketed as the fastest production four-seater in the world. 208 were built, and they represent a pinnacle for the marque post-war.

S1 Continental drophead
S1 Continental drophead

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.

The V8
The V8

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.

corniche
Corniche

However, the important step forward was the introduction of a monocoque constructed chassis, all-round disc brakes, independent suspension at both ends with hydraulic self levelling, and much more. However, the Company recognised, as it still does today, what a gem of a powerplant it has in the V8.

Mulsanne
Mulsanne

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.

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 engine in the Mulsanne acquired a turbo to attribute it with some special performance attributes, which it most certainly did. 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 'respectability' back into the name 'Bentley'. Sales, now comfortably outstripping the parent marque testify to this


Continental 'R'

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.

1999 Arnage
1999 Arnage

 Vickers, the owners of the car Company, put it up for sale and, after a two-way battle, Volkswagen win, 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 are that VW gain control of Bentley, the factory at Crewe, and all the company assets, along with Rolls production for four years. However, BMW will take control of Rolls-Royce on 1 January 2003.

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

Bentley return to Le Mans with a works team for the first time in 71 years, with the EXP Speed 8 - a purpose endurance racer designed and built 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 anticipated. In the most appalling weather conditions, which caused the retirement of one of the two Bentleys, the number 8 car finished 3rd.

The 2001 Exp Speed 8
The 2001 Exp Speed 8

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, a developed version of the 2001 car, 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 Continental GT
The Continental GT

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.

Racing

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.

 
After scrutineering, Le Mans, 1924

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 program 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.

 
Sunday morning in the pits, Le Mans, 1927 

Prior to each race, the cars were meticulously prepared under the watchful eye of Nobby Clarke, the Works Manager.  The mechanics were rehearsed; drivers practiced 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.

 
Barnato leads in Old Mother Gun, Le Mans, 1928

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 un-necessarily 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 the 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, 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.

Year

Race

Place

Car

Drivers

Le Mans

4th

3 litre

Duff/Clement (P.Entry)

Le Mans

1st

3 litre

Duff/Clement (P.Entry)

Le Mans

3 litre
3 litre

Duff/Clement (P.Entry)
Benjafield/Kensington Moir

Le Mans

3 litre
3 litre
3 litre

Davis/Benjafield
Clement/Duller
Thistlethwayte/Gallop

Le Mans

1st
-
-

3 litre
4½ litre
3 litre

Davis/Benjafield
Clement/Callingham
Duller/d’Erlanger

Le Mans

1st
5th
-

4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre

Barnato/Rubin
Birkin/Chassagne
Clement/Benjafield

Le Mans

1st
2nd
3rd
4th
-

6½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre
4½ litre

Barnato/Birkin
Kidston/Dunfee
Benjafield/d’Erlanger
Clement/Chassagne
Howe/Rubin

Le Mans

1st
2nd
-
-
-
-

6½ litre
6½ litre
6½ litre
4½ litre SC
4½ litre SC
4½ litre SC

Barnato/Kidston
Clement/Watney
Davis/C Dunfee
J Dunfee/Harcourt-Wood
Ramponi/Benjafield
Birkin/Chassagne

Le Mans

4½ litre

Bevan/Couper (P.Entry)

Le Mans

4½ litre

Mary/Trevoux (P.Entry)

Le Mans

4½ litre

Gas/Trevoux (P.Entry)

Le Mans

6th

4¼ litre

Hay/Wisdom (P.Entry)

Le Mans

8th
14th

4¼ litre
4¼ litre

Hall/Clarke (P.Entry)
Hay/Hunter (P.Entry)

Le Mans

3rd

-

Exp Speed 8

Exp Speed 8

Wallace/Leitzinger/
van de Poele
Brundle/Ortelli/Smith

Le Mans

4th

Exp Speed 8

Wallace/Leitzinger/
van de Poele

Le Mans

1st
2nd

Exp Speed 8
Exp Speed 8

Kristensen/Capello/Smith
Herbert/Blundell/Brabham

1st (6)

2nd (3)

3rd (2)

 

Frank Clement at speed in 1924 at Le Mans  Old Number 7 at Arnage

 

The 1928 team at Le Mans scrutineering Sir Henry Birkin playing catch-up at Le Mans in 1930

 

The start at Le Mans in 1949 The latest Bentley winner at Le Mans in 2003

CONCLUSION

Also, as a socially responsible manufacturer, Bentley has a comprehensive environmental policy to minimise impact on the local and global environment. Bentley is one of the world’s most respected brands. Its recent success is directly attributable to the skill and passion of the team at its headquarters in Crewe, Cheshire and at regional offices across the world.  A career with Bentley gives you the opportunity, across a wide range of disciplines, to directly contribute to this success.There is more to Bentley that meets the eye, that Bentley is more than just a car and that there is a lot of hard work involved in the making of this vehicle.

Bibliography 

Books:

Frankel, Andrew – “Bentley – the story”, Manchester, 2003

Green, Johnnie – “BENTLEY - 50 Years of the Marque”, may 2000

King Bernard L. – “Bentley Motors - On The Road

Roßfeldt, Klaus-Josef – “Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars From the Dawn of the 20th Century into the new Millennium”, September 1998, A collector's leather edition

Robson,Graham – “BENTLEY, A Legend Reborn”, Express Publishing House

Wood, Jonathan – “Rolls-Royce and Bentley: Spirit of Excellence”, 2002

Websites:

Website – www.bentleymotors.com

Website – www.bdcl.org



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