Thursday, December 17, 2009

Palace on Wheels for Bentley Cars

The Bentley brand is to luxury cars what Everest is to mountains. Founded by Walter Owen Bentley, Bentley Motors came into being on 18 January 1919. In August 1919, Bentley Motors Limited was registered. The first Flying B insignia appeared on the 1920 Bentley 3 1/2 Liter test car, which was built near Baker Street in London, and the first production car, another 3 1/2 Liter, was delivered to Bentley's first customer in 1921. Bentley saw its first win at Brooklands in 1921. A privately owned Bentley took 4th place in the first Le Mans in 1923, prompting W.O. Bentley to support a factory team.

Engines grew larger, with a 6 1/2 Liter, a 4 1/2 Liter, a supercharged Speed Six, and an 8 Liter that weighed two and a half tons rolling out of the Cricklewood factory. Walter Owen Bentley's dedication to quality created beautiful cars and this bring in a financial crisis. By 1931, things were no better and Rolls-Royce 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. Hence the original Bentley Motors Limited existed for only twelve years, from 1919 until 1931.

The first Rolls-Royce-produced Bentley, the 3.5-litre, debuted in 1933. The Mk VI of 1946 was the first Bentley to be built using Rolls-Royce components, and the 1952 R-Type Continental was the last Bentley built without a Rolls-Royce equivalent. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces were built side-by-side at the Crewe facility, with a Bentley-badged clone for every Rolls-Royce that rolled off the assembly line. The tide turned for Bentley Motors Limited with the introduction of the 1982 Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, named for the straight at Le Mans.

In 1984, the Bentley Corniche was renamed the Continental, harkening back to the company's roots. The Bentley Continental R, which debuted in 1991, was the first Bentley to have its own dedicated body since 1954. With Bentley outselling Rolls by the early '90s, the companies celebrated 50 years of partnership by using a green background on the Flying B for all 1993 models. Volkswagen bought Rolls-Royce in 1998, including Bentley. BMW then bought the rights to the Rolls-Royce name and announced that Rolls and Bentley would be two separate companies after 67 years.

In 2001, Bentley returned to Le Mans and again dropped out in 2003. The 2006 Bentley Azure became the resurrected Bentley's flagship luxury sedan. Since its introduction at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the Bentley Continental lineup has expanded from one very fast sedan to seven even faster sedans and convertibles, including one flex-fuel vehicle. Each has the 6L W12 engine, but the Continental Supersports, as part of Bentleys commitment to reducing its carbon footprint company-wide, can run on either gasoline or bio-fuels. Bentley latest creation is the 2009 Mulsanne sedan.


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