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About BentleyWalter Owen Bentley liked to win. He competed in motorcycle racing at the Isle of Man and Brooklands. He and his brother, H.M., bought into the French Doriot, Flandrin, & Parant car company, eventually modifying the cars for racing before WWI. Helping with the war effort, he developed the BR1 and BR2 for Sopwith airplanes. And in August 1919, W.O. registered Bentley Motors Ltd. The first 3 Liter engine came to life in October of that year.
The decade following the founding of Bentley was full of high performance, world renown, and the "Bentley Boys"--a group of wealthy motorists financially backing the brand. Funding the majority of the works, after 1926, was diamond heir Woolf Barnato.
The engine W.O. built was well received, but he needed a frame to handle it. A year was spent building a chassis that lived up to W.O.'s expectations. As coachwork grew heavier and more elaborate, more powerful engines were... View more built. 6.5 Liters and 4.5 Liters soon took over. The cars ran well enough to capture five 24 Hours of Le Mans 1st place finishes in six years, including four straight from 1927 to 1930. 1929's race saw 1st through 4th place captured by a Bentley car.
But the fun wasn't to last. Barnato's money ran short in 1930 and the company was placed in receivership. Rolls-Royce bought Bentley in 1931. Using the name British Central Equitable Trust, the deal was completed before W.O. knew the identity of the true buyer. Less than pleased with his role under Rolls-Royce, W.O. left for Lagonda in 1935.
It wasn't until after WWII that Bentley began producing complete vehicles. Prior to that, rolling chassis were sent to the buyer's choice of coachbuilders. The first complete factory assemblies were Bentley Mark VIs, available in 1946 from their newly converted factory in Crewe, England. A follow-up vehicle, 1952's R-Type Continental, had a top speed of just less than 120 mph.
In 1970 Rolls-Royce would financially collapse under their aero engine development. The motorcar division was spun off into its own entity, independent until Vickers plc purchased the company in 1980.
It wouldn't be until that purchase and the release of the Bentley Mulsanne that the company would regain its identity. It was the first reference to any racing heritage the brand had under Rolls-Royce's control. The Mulsanne gained a Turbo variant in 1982, making it the fastest Bentley yet built, with a top speed of 135 mph. By 1992, Bentley was outselling Rolls-Royce two to one.
While the sister company was being fought over by Volkswagen and BMW in 1998, Bentley was to remain the property of VW. The workforce soared from 1,500 before the acquisition to almost 3,500 in early 2010. 2007 saw the company's first 10,000-car year.
Future prospects for the company include a strategy to cut CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy across the product range. The company still uses Mulliner--now fully integrated with Bentley--to customize and fit bespoke features into new models for what the company calls "the realization of the personal vision of the individual Bentley customer". View less
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