Known simply as ‘W.O.’, Walter Owen Bentley founded Bentley Motors with his brother, ‘H.M’ in 1919. Showcasing their first car chassis at the London Motor Show that October, albeit with a dummy engine, they enlisted the help of Clive Gallop, an ex royal flying corps officer, who had the engine up and running by December the same year. After a lengthy development, 1921 saw their first car on the road, earning widespread acclaim for its durability.
The Bentley Boys
Bentley’s reputation was kept high by the ‘Bentley Boys’, a group of rich British motorists who were dedicated to serious racing, taking Bentley sports cars to numerous victories in the 1920s. In fact Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato bought the company in 1925, creating the famous supercharged Bentley Blower car.
These Bentley Boys were responsible for Bentley’s wins at Le Mans. They first won in 1924, with Captain John Duff winning in his own Bentley, and from 1927 to 1930 they held on to the title each year as they improved their engines, pit procedures and team discipline.
Nearly 73 years to the day that two Speed Sixes came first and second at Le Mans, Bentley did it again in 2003, the sixth victory for them at a Le Mans race.
Favourites with celebrities for their sleek, classic good looks and undeniable performance, Bentley has gained fans up and down the A-list. Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. owns a Bentley Continental GT, as does rapper Ludacris, opting for a metallic blue hue for his. Closer to home, boxer Amir Khan chooses to cruise in a Bentley Continental and HRH Prince William owns a Bentley Flying Spur.
The latest in the line
Today, Bentley cars still represent aspiration and achievement. Each car is hand finished by traditional artisans; created, not merely assembled. The latest model, the New Continental GT, has sleek lines and the exquisite craftsmanship Bentley are world-renowned for. With a look that reaches a whole new level of luxury, the New Continental GT is the first production car ever to have been created with the Super Formed precision technique, allowing more complex, sharply defined body lines. With 0-60 in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 207mph, this Bentley definitely fulfils W.O.’s desire to be best in class.