Like so many of the companies that pioneered the birth of the UK car industry in the early days of Twentieth century, the early history of Bentley was based around a particular individual, in this case, W.O. Bentley.

W.O and his brother H. M. Bentley had a dream which they managed to fulfil at the end of the First World War when they founded Bentley Motors Limited.

From the outset, it stood out that W.O. was the driving force behind the company.

A talented designer and engineer, W.O was sadly lacking in business acumen, meaning that just three years after their founding Bentley found themselves in severe financial trouble.

The uncertainty that this situation caused placed a cloud on the horizons for the Bentley brothers, who were entirely focused on their goal was to produce great cars, with little attention paid to the "bottom line".

Make great cars they did, with the company beginning to gain something of a cult following in the Twenties in upper-class England.

After a Bentley 3 Litre Sport snatched victory at the gruelling 24 Hours race of Le Mans in 1924, W.O. Bentley’s cars became well-known and highly regarded among a growing group of wealthy British motor car enthusiasts, known as the "Bentley Boys."

One of the most prominent leaders of the group was a young man by the name of Woolf Barnato.

Barnato had considerable financial rescources at his disposal and stepped in to help the company with financing.

He did so on condition that he was given fiscal control over the company in the processconfining W.O. to the more comfortable role as a chief designer, a luxury which was paid for by losing control of the company he and his brother had formed.

Under Barnato’s leadership, the company repeated their success on the racing circuits, winning Le Mans in four successive years from 1927 to 1930.

Unfortunately, Barnato’s timing could have been better, with, once again, the company’s now considerably healthier fortunes, once again were severely diminished, this time by the Stock Market Crash of 1929.


Immediately following the Stock Market Crash came the Great Depression, which ran through most of the Thirties, which decimated the luxury car market throughout the world, dramatically reducing the demand for Bentleys.

With Bentley tottering on the brink of bankruptcy. Woolf Barnato succeeded in negotiating a form of working partnership with Napier & Son, another UK manufacturer of quality cars.

To everyone's surprise, just before contracts were about to be signed Napier were surprisingly outbid by a little-known organisation known as the British Central Equitable Trust.

When the contracts were signed it rapidly emerged that the British Central Equitable Trust was nothing more than a front for Rolls-Royce, the world leader in the luxury car sector.

Delighted with the coup that they had pulled off, Rolls-Royce wasted little time in forming a new company and transferring all of the Bentley production to Rolls-Royce’s plant in Derby.

Without standing too much on ceremony, Bentley’s production facilities in Cricklewood were rapidly barred and shuttered.

Under the new arrangement, Rolls-Royce and Bentley never produced complete cars but instead supplied a full drivable chassis to a specialist coachbuilder, usually Park Mulliner, to finish the body.

This situation remained until the end of World War II when Rolls-Royce decided that in the future they would produce cars, under both the Bentley and Rolls-Royce marques at their factory in Crewe. Production was based on a "standard steel" four-door saloon body.

This went on to become Rolls-Royce/Bentley’s standard production procedure.

Most of the Bentleys produced in the Fifties were four-door saloons, with the body built by some UK coachbuilders.

After the takeover, WO Bentley spent a few years working with Rolls-Royce.

This never comfortable arrangement continued until the mid-Thirties after when WO left the company to joinLagonda, remaining with them for a number of years, before winding down a gear or two to become a successful designer and consultant within the auto industry, remaining an active figure well into the Sixties.

At the end of the Second World War Bentley took their time to release any new models, with the first the R-Type released in 1952.

The R-Type proved itself by selling steadily - enough that it would not be replaced until 1955 with the release of the larger, more ostentatious S-Series.

The S-Series.l remained in production for ten successful years, inheriting a brand-new V8 engine in 1959.

The Rolls-Bentleys of the Sixties have lacked a little of the status of the actual Rolls-Royce models, but that Gothic radiator style still retains something of a sporting air, even if the rest of the car has become progressively more and more opulent.

In August 1959 the company's new 6230-cc V8 engine appeared in the S2 models, the unit formed from light alloy castings, and weighing no more than the 4887-cc six-cylinder that it replaced.

When the third post-war generation VY of Bentleys and Rolls-Royces arrived in 1965, the changeover was virtually complete.

Apart from using the still-modern 6230cc V8 engine, and its automatic transmission, every single component was new.

The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow version of this design went on to become the best-selling car of that marque: it was only marketing pressures which gradually pushed the Bentley T-Series equivalent back into the shadows.

Even though the only difference between the brands was the radiator and badging, for mechanically and in their equipment they were identical.

Power steering was standard, as were disc brakes on all four wheels. The steering, brakes and self-levelling suspension were supplied with high-pressure hydraulic power provided by pumps and accumulators on the engine.

Bentley and Rolls-Royce continued with this tried and tested production formula until close to the end of the 20th century, when the two marques were separated once again and sold off, with Bentley becoming a subsidiary of Volkswagen while BMW swallowed up Rolls-Royce.

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