Bentley Motors Limited is a British based manufacturer of luxury automobiles and Grand Tourers. Bentley Motors was founded in England on January 18, 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley,
known as W.O. Bentley or just "W.O." (1888-1971). He was previously known for his successful range of rotary aero-engines in World War I, the most famous being the Bentley BR1 as
used in later versions of the Sopwith Camel. The company is currently owned by the Volkswagen Group.
A group of wealthy British automobile aficionados known as the "Bentley Boys" (Woolf Barnato, heir to diamond mining magnate Barney Barnato, Sir Henry Birkin, George Duller,
steeplechaser, Glen Kidston, aviator, S. C. H. "Sammy" Davis, automotive journalist, and Dr. Dudley Benjafield amongst them) kept the car's reputation for high performance alive. At one
point, on a bet, Barnato raced Le Train Bleu from Cannes to Calais, then by ferry to Dover and finally London, travelling on public highways with normal traffic, and won; the special-bodied
6.5 L car became known as the Blue Train Bentley. Thanks to the dedication of this group to serious racing, the company, located at Cricklewood, north London, was noted for its four
consecutive victories at the 24 hours of Le Mans from 1927 to 1930. Their greatest competitor at the time, Bugatti, whose lightweight, elegant, but fragile creations contrasted with the
Bentley's rugged reliability and durability, referred to them as "the world's fastest lorries". Perhaps the most iconic Bentley of the period is the 4.5 L "Blower Bentley", with its distinctive
supercharger projecting forward from the bottom of the grille. Uncharacteristically fragile for a Bentley, however, it was not the racing workhorse that the 6 L Bentley was. It became
famous in the popular media as the vehicle of James Bond in the original novels, but not in any film; rather, John Steed in the television series The Avengers did drive a Bentley on-screen.
A great deal of Barnato's fortune went to keeping Bentley afloat after he had become chairman in 1925; but the Great Depression destroyed demand for the company's expensive products,
and it was finally sold off to Rolls-Royce in 1931. It should be noted that Bentley was a very serious competitor to Rolls-Royce and that the 8 L Bentley was probably a better machine than
anything Rolls-Royce at that time had to offer.
* 1921-1929 3 L
* 1926-1930 6½ L
1928-1930 Speed Six
* 1926-1930 4½ L
* 1930-1931 8 L
* 1931 4 L
* 1933-1937 3½ L
1936-1939 4¼ L
* 1939-1941 Mark V
Bentleys of the Rolls-Royce era
Rolls-Royce merged the Bentley line into its own, so that the Bentley marque became just a Rolls-Royce without the distinctive grill and with a lower price tag. In the 1980s, however,
Bentley became a separate, high performance car line once again. The most notable car in the Rolls-Royce period was probably the Bentley Continental, which appeared in various forms
from 1952 to 1965, and again in 1992 with production ending in 2003. The Bentley factory in Crewe, Cheshire, is still known in the town by the name "Royce's". For more on Bentley Motors
from 1931 to 1998, see Rolls-Royce and Rolls-Royce Motors.
* 1946-1952 Mark VI
* 1952-1955 R Type and Continental
* 1955-1959 S1 and Continental
* 1959-1962 S2 and Continental
* 1962-1965 S3 and Continental
* 1965-1980 T-series
* 1971-1984 Corniche
1984-1995 Continental - convertible
+ 1992-1995 Continental Turbo
* 1975-1986 Camargue
* 1980-1987 Mulsanne
1984-1988 Mulsanne L limousine
1982-1985 Mulsanne Turbo
1987-1992 Mulsanne S
1984-1992 Eight - lower-priced model
1985-1995 Turbo R - turbocharged performance version
1991-2002 Continental R - turbocharged 2-door model
+ 1999-2003 Continental R Mulliner - performance model
+ 1994-1995 Continental S - intercooled
1992-1998 Brooklands - improved Eight
+ 1996-1998 Brooklands R - performance Brooklands
1994-1995 Turbo S - limited-edition sports model
1995-1997 Turbo R - updated Turbo R
+ 1996 Turbo R Sport - limited-edition sports model
1995-2003 Azure - convertible Continental R
+ 1999-2002 Azure Mulliner - performance model
1996-2002 Continental T - short wheelbase performance model
+ 1999 Continental T Mulliner - firmer suspension
1997-1998 Bentley Turbo RT - replacement for the Turbo R
Volkswagen Group ownership
In 1998, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors was purchased from Vickers (its owner since 1980) by Volkswagen for £430 million, after bidding against BMW. BMW had recently started
supplying components for the new range of cars, notably V8 engines for the Bentley Arnage and V12 engines for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. The Rolls-Royce name was not included in
VW's purchase; it was instead licensed to BMW (for £40 million) by the Rolls-Royce aero engine company.
BMW and Volkswagen came to an agreement whereby Volkswagen would manufacture both Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars until the end of 2002, whereupon the right to build Rolls-Royce
cars would be BMW's alone. During this period, Volkswagen reduced its reliance on BMW as a supplier: as of 2003, BMW engines are not used in Bentley cars.
In 2002, Bentley presented Queen Elizabeth II with an official State Limousine to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. In 2003, Bentley's 2-door convertible, the Bentley Azure, ceased production,
and the company introduced the Bentley Continental GT, a large luxury coupe. The car is powered by a version of VW's W-12 engine.
Demand had been so great that the factory at Crewe, Cheshire, had been unable to satisfy demand despite producing 4,500 vehicles a year. There was a waiting list of over a year for new
cars to be delivered. Consequently, production of the new Flying Spur, a four-door version of the Continental GT, was assigned to the Transparent Factory, where the VW Phaeton luxury car
is also assembled.
In April, 2005, Bentley confirmed plans to produce a 4-seat convertible model, the Azure, derived from the Arnage Drophead Coupe prototype, at Crewe beginning in 2006. By the fall of
2005, the convertible version of the successful Continental GT, the Continental GTC was also presented.
Bentley sales have been strong in 2005 with 8,627 sold worldwide, 3,654 of these vehicles were sold in the United States.
* 1998- Arnage saloon
* 1999- Hunaudieres Concept
* 2002- State Limousine
* 2003- Continental GT coupé
* 2005- Continental Flying Spur saloon
* 2006- Azure convertible
* 2006- Continental GTC convertible