A Brief History of the Bentley
The Bentley is the pinnacle of luxury car elegance. No other vehicle on the road combines the same kind of performance, luxury, pedigree, and class into one package. Needless to say, we’re big fans of Britain’s elegant export.
But instead of breaking down the newest Bentley model on the market or the best cars for the money, today, we’re taking a different approach. We want to give an homage to one of our favorite car manufacturers.
Today, we’re giving a brief history of the Bentley. So pull up a chair, grab a drink, and let us walk you through the history of a truly exceptional driving machine.
The History of the Bentley: The Beginning
The idea for the Bentley came from Walter Owen Bentley, stemming from a car dealership he owned with his brother Horace Millner Bentley prior to World War I. W.O. always wanted to build his own cars, and in 1913 after seeing an aluminum paperweight, he did just that.
That fateful paperweight sparked the idea to substitute aluminum for cast iron to create lighter engine pistons. W.O. started production and the first Bentley aluminum pistons were used in Sopwith Camel airplane engines during WWI.
Building on his idea, in 1919 W.O. registered Bentley Motors Ltd. and got to work realizing his dream of creating his own automobiles. That October at the London Motor Show he debuted his first car chassis which drew the attention of Ex-Royal Flying Corps officer Clive Gallop, who then designed a four-cylinder engine for the car.
In September 1921, the first fully-equipped Bentley was born. That first car won critical acclaim for its performance in hill climbs and races at the Brooklands and would set the stage for Bentley’s initial popularity.
Bentley’s real coming of age party took place at the 1922 Indianapolis 500 where a modified Bentley road car started the race in 19th place and finish 13th. Their average speed clocked at 74.95 miles per hour.
The company continued to parlay that strong showing into more racing success throughout the 1920s, including a second-place finish at the 1930 French Grand Prix.
Entering The Modern Era
The Great Depression hit the already strapped for cash Bentley company square in the pocketbook. Unable to afford continued production, the business sold to British Central Equitable Trust after an open bid.
Though British Central Equitable Trust was actually a front for Rolls-Royce Limited. Not even W.O. knew he was passing his legacy onto a rival car manufacturer.
After the purchase production ceased until 1933 when the Bentley 3 1/2 liter appeared, claiming the moniker of “the silent sports car.” The car was well received and the moniker stuck around through up until the 1950s.
It was also during this time period the company moved to Crewe, England. The new factor would play a large role in the future of the company.
The next major change in the Bentley line came post World War II when the company debuted a pressed steel body that made assembling Bentley’s easier and facilitated overseas shipping.
In the 1950s the Continental fastback coupe debuted, marking the beginning of the Bentley Continental line. This new chassis name persists even today.
Rolls Royce fell into financial hardship in the 1970s due to the collapse of its heavily invested in aero-engine development division. Luckily for Bentley, the company was configured with Rolls-Royce Motors Limited as a separate entity.
The motorcar division survived for a period of time but was eventually bout by Vickers in August 1980. Following declining sales from the Rolls Royce era, Vickers transitioned the brand back towards its racing heritage.
From the acquisition through 1998 the Bentley branding slowly achieved sales parity with the Rolls Royce brand. In 1986 the sales ratio reached 40:60 Bentley to Rolls Royce, and by 1991 sales were equal.
Vickers announced the sale of Rolls-Royce Motors in 1997, and by 1998 Volkswagen AG had acquired the company for ?430m; outbidding BMW’s ?340m offer. Though after the acquisition BMW did start supplying components for updated Bentley car models.
Volkswagen focused on continuing Bentley’s success from the Vickers years, investing GBP 500 million in the Crewe factory while increasing production capacity. By 2010, the worker capacity increased to 3,500, up from 1,500 in 1998.
Thanks to the cash infusion the Bentley brand continued to increase in popularity, exceeding the production capacity of the Crewe factory and forcing production to Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory for a short period of time.
Today sales are fluctuating, with 2007 seeing over 10,000 vehicles produced for the first time, but sales then dwindling to 4,616 vehicles in 2009. Though by 2011 sales were back up to 7,003 vehicles per year.
In 2018, the Bentley brand remains strong with the vehicles remaining a popular option for those looking to combine preference and luxury. Whether buying new or renting for the weekend, a Bentley makes an excellent choice.
So there you have it; the history of the Bentley. We hope you enjoyed the article and learned a little something about one of the U.K.’s greatest exports. But on to more important things, like getting behind the wheel of one yourself.
Renting the best car for your vacation means getting the best deal on the vehicle you’re looking to enjoy for the weekend, or however long you’re renting for. While buying a Bentley outright is right for some others just want a few days behind the wheel.
But to rent the right Bentley you need the right rental agency. Someone with the newest cars for the best prices. And someone who keeps their vehicles in driving shape.
If you’re looking to rent a Bentley or other luxury car, that someone is us. Our specialists keep our cars looking great and in the best driving shape possible.
Whether you’re renting a vintage Bentley, modern Bentley, or otherwise, we have you covered. Let us put you in a luxury rental today. Don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.