100 years of Bentley: Fast cars, Inspirational stories

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Founder of Bentley Motors, Walter Owen Bentley youngest of nine siblings was born in 1888.

Born with a love of motion. W. O. Bentley left school at 16 to start an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway, eventually achieving his childhood dream of working on the footplate of a steam locomotive, hurling coal into the firebox to keep the steam pressure up. He completed his apprenticeship after five years, but by then his obsession had moved to the road

In July 1919, W. O. Bentley received £8,000 from the Commission of Awards to Inventors, which provided the much needed capital to fulfill his dream and start his own company.  On 10 July 1919, Bentley Motors was born. “The policy was simple,” W.O. said. “We were going to make a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.” It was a goal he would achieve again and again.

While W.O. was developing the very first Bentley, it was clear that he intended to appeal to those enthusiastic motorists who desire a car which, practically speaking, is a true racing car with touring accessories – an aim that is still part of Bentley’s DNA today.

The Bentley 3 – Developed and successfully tested on the 24 hour race track in 1923.

Bentley 3 Liter

After the success of the 3 Liter, his six-cylinder 6 ½ Liter engine was launched in 1926, originally as the Big Six and two years later as the Speed Six. In 1928, he created the four-cylinder 4 ½ Liter, and in 1930 the six-cylinder 8 Liter. These were road cars first and foremost – but they had the power and endurance to achieve incredible results in competition.

The 8-Liter was W.O.’s final creation, and is widely considered to be his masterpiece. Such was the power and torque of the straight-six engine, the company proclaimed that the 8-Liter would be more than capable of 100 mph, regardless of the type of body the owner had chosen.

Bentley 8 liter 1926

W.O. said “I have always wanted to produce a dead silent 100 mph car, and now I think that we have done it.”

With the Wall Street Crash occurring shortly before the launch of the 8-Liter, only 100 were ever made. But the influence of this extraordinary car, and of the extraordinary man who created it, lives on.

End of Part 1

Juan Manuel
the authorJuan Manuel
Track racing, competing, it's in my blood. It's part of me, it's part of my life; I have been doing it all my life and it stands out above everything else.