Bentley Motors was founded January 18, 1919 by W.O. Bentley in Cricklewood. Bentley had been selling French DFP cars with his brother Horace, but this didn’t seem enough. He wanted to design a luxury car that would carry his name throughout the generations.
In 1919, a four-valve cylinder engine was designed and built for Bentley’s car. The durability of Bentley cars earned the company widespread acclaim and his cars were entered into car racing events and tested at hill climb events in Brooklyn.
Bentley motors entered several motorsport events, even when the company was still a struggling newcomer to the industry. These events cemented the popularity and credibility of Bentley cars. The first motorsport event Bentley entered was in 1922 at Indianapolis for a 500 mile race. Douglas Hawkes was entered as the driver and H.S. Browning as the driving mechanic. The race was dominated mostly by specialized cars designed by Duesenberg but that didn’t stop Hawkes from completing the race. Although they ended up in 13th place, they entered another motorsport event, the RAC Tourist Trophy in 1922 which was held in England.
In 1923, Bentley entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s sports car race in endurance racing. During this event, Bentley’s team was ranked in 4th place. The following year, 1924, Bentley entered the 24 Hours of Le Man and this time took the first place. This feat was repeated in 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. Aside from 1st place positions, Bentley’s other teams placed in 5th during the 1928 event, 3rd and 4th in 1929 and also 2nd in 1929 and 1930.
Winning the 24 Hours of Le Man helped pave the way in establishing Bentley cars as one of the leading automobile brands in the world.
Bentley cars carry the emblem of winged “B” badge and mascot in the hood of the car. From 1921 t0 1931, six Bentley car models were released in the market.
In 1921, the Bentley 3-liter was released. Originally a sports car, another version was made available as a coachbuilder for non-racing customers. In 1926, a new model was released, replacing the Bentley 3-liter. The new model, Bentley 4½ liter and Blower Bentley was redesigned to create a more powerful car by increasing the engine’s displacement. These models were used by customers for personal transportation and fitted with varying body styles. This model was also entered in the 1927 24 Hours of Le Man, landing the company into the 1st position for four consecutive years.
Other popular models of the Bentley cars are the Bentley 6½ liter (1926-30), Bentley 6½ liter Speed Six (1928-1930), Bentley 8 liter (1930-31) and Bentley 4 liter (1931).
When Wall Street crashed in 1929, Bentley was one of the companies that were greatly affected. The Great Depression led to the diminishing demand for cars and other expensive products. Rolls-Royce acquired the company and renamed it to Bentley Ltd. The original factory in Cricklewood was closed, the production stopped for almost two years. Unhappy and dissatisfied with the way Bentley Ltd was being managed, its founder, W.O. Bentley left the company in 1935 after his contract with Rolls-Royce expired.
In 1933, a new Bentley model was released—Bentley 31/2 liter. This was designed to have a similar appearance with Rolls-Royce cars, specifically the Rolls-Royce 20/25, much to the disappointment of some loyal customers. However, this new design was well received by public and W.O Bentley himself was reported to having praised the new model.
Today, Bentley Motors is still manufacturing cars that are true to its name and legacy. New models of Bentley cars combine not only luxury but comfort, durability and technology as well.