Bentley


The History of Bentley

   

Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer of cars founded on 18 January 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley. Bentley had been previously known for his 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. Since 1998, the company has been owned by the Volkswagen Group of Germany.
Before World War I, W.O. Bentley had been in partnership with his brother H.M. Bentley selling French DFP cars, but he had always wanted to design and build his own range of cars bearing his name. In August 1919, Bentley Motors Ltd. was registered, and a chassis with dummy engine was exhibited at the London Motor Show in October of that year.  An engine was built and running by December, and orders were taken for deliveries starting in June 1920; however, development took longer than estimated, and the first cars were not ready until September 1921.
It was on a visit to the DFP factory in 1913 that W.O. noticed an aluminium paperweight, and had the inspired idea of using the lightweight metal instead of cast iron to make engine pistons. The first Bentley aluminium pistons went into service in aero engines for the Sopwith Camel, in service during the Great War.
The company was always underfunded, and Bentley turned to millionaire Woolf Barnato for help in 1925. As part of a refinancing deal, which resulted in his effectively owning the company, Barnato became chairman. A great deal of Barnato's fortune was devoted to keeping Bentley afloat, but the Great Depression destroyed demand for the company's expensive products, and it was finally sold to Rolls-Royce in 1931.
A group of wealthy British motorists known as the "Bentley Boys" (Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry Birkin, steeplechaser George Duller, aviator Glen Kidston, automotive journalist S.C.H. "Sammy" Davis, and Dr. Dudley Benjafield among them) kept the marque's reputation for high performance alive. Thanks to the dedication to serious racing of this group, 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".
Rolls-Royce had bought Bentley secretly using a company named the British Central Equitable Trust; not even Bentley himself knew the true identity of the purchaser until the deal was completed. A new company, wholly owned by Rolls-Royce, was formed as Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. As W.O. Bentley was little more than an employee, he left to join Lagonda in 1935 when his contract was up for renewal. The Cricklewood factory was closed and sold, and production moved to the Rolls-Royce works in Derby.
When a new Bentley car appeared in 1933, the 3½-litre, it was a sporting variant of the Rolls-Royce 20/25 - and although disappointing some traditional customers, it was well-received by many others. Even Bentley himself was reported as saying, "Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley than any other car produced under that name".
After World War II, production of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars was moved to an ex-wartime engine factory in Crewe, Cheshire. Bentleys increasingly became Rolls-Royces without the distinctive grilles and with a lower price tag, and by the 1970s and early 1980s, sales had fallen badly, with at one time less than 5% of production carrying the Bentley badge.
The parent company failed in 1970 following problems with aero engine development, and the car division was floated off to become Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. and remained independent until bought by Vickers in August 1980.
Under Vickers, Bentley began to regain its high-performance heritage, typified by the 1980 Mulsanne. Bentley's restored sporting image created a renewed interest in the name and sales as a proportion of combined company output began to rise. In 1986, the Rolls-Royce:Bentley ratio was 60:40; by 1991 it was 50:50.
In 1998, Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors were purchased from Vickers by Volkswagen Group for £430 million, following a bidding war with BMW. BMW had recently started supplying components for the new range of Rolls and Bentley cars, notably V8 engines for the Bentley Arnage, and V12 engines for the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. Volkswagen Group believed that the Rolls-Royce name was included in the purchase, when in fact it belonged to Rolls-Royce plc, the aero-engine company, and was used by the automobile division under licence. It also emerged that BMW's aeronautical division had a joint venture agreement with Rolls-Royce plc, and that the German company was able to terminate its supply deal with Rolls-Royce with 12 months' notice, which would not be enough time for Volkswagen Group to re-engineer the cars.
BMW and Volkswagen Group entered into negotiations, and an agreement was reached whereby Volkswagen Group would manufacture both Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars until the end of 2002, licensing the name from Rolls-Royce plc; on 1 January 2003, the right to build Rolls-Royce cars would transfer to BMW. BMW licensed the brand from Rolls-Royce plc and paid £40 million to Volkswagen Group, but the deal did not include any manufacturing facilities, staff, or intellectual property on present or future models. BMW also agreed to continue its supply agreements, which gave Volkswagen Group the time it needed to reduce its reliance on BMW as a supplier. Bentley reintroduced the venerable Rolls-Royce V8 engine into the Arnage, initially as an additional model, and all BMW engine supply ended in 2003 with the end of Silver Seraph production.
Demand had been so great, that the factory at Crewe was unable to meet orders despite an installed capacity of approximately 9500 vehicles per year; there was a waiting list of over a year for new cars to be delivered. Consequently, part of the production of the new Flying Spur, a four-door version of the Continental GT, was assigned to the Transparent Factory (Germany), where the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury car is also assembled. This arrangement ceased at the end of 2006 after around 1000 cars, with all car production reverting to the Crewe plant.
In April 2005, Bentley confirmed plans to produce a four seat convertible model—the Azure, derived from the Arnage Drophead Coupe prototype—at Crewe beginning in 2006. By the autumn of 2005, the convertible version of the successful Continental GT, the Continental GTC, was also presented. These two models were successfully launched in late 2006.
A limited run of a Zagato modified GT was also announced in March 2008, dubbed "GTZ."

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