Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bentley’s Classic Designs

Models built between the company’s founding in 1919 and takeover by Rolls-Royce in 1931 are known as vintage Bentleys. At that time, Bentley only produced the chassis, or frame and working parts, and the body was created by one of several coachbuilders. It was one of these models, the Bentley Blower (shown), that Ian Fleming chose as James Bond’s car in his 007 books.

In the early days of the firm, Bentley made its mark on the racetrack, competing at Brooklands in Surrey, England, the Indianapolis 500, and the 24-hour Le Mans race in France. John Duff and Frank Clement privately entered a three-liter Bentley in the first 24-hour Le Mans in 1923. The next year, they returned to officially represent the company, and took first place. Here, Duff and Clement display their winning automobile at the 1924 race.

The fledgling company was kept afloat by an investment from wealthy motorist Woolf Barnato in 1926. Four years later, he wagered he could beat the famous Blue Train from Cannes, France, by road and even be in his London club before it reached Calais. He pulled up in the Bentley Speed Six outside the club four minutes before the train arrived at the Calais station.

In 1938, famed auto designer Georges Paulin—who had custom made bodies for the major brands of the day, including Peugot and Bugatti—conceived the Embiricos Bentley for a Greek banker. The car was developed further and released to the public in 1940 as the Corniche model. Paulin’s design would inspire the look of Bentleys for years to come.

The Bentley S1, released in 1955, was the first car to be both engineered and built at Crewe. The body was a foot longer than the R-type, giving it a roomier interior.

The T-type followed in the ’60s and was identical to Rolls-Royce’s Silver Shadow, apart from the radiator and branding. It was the first Bentley to have four-wheel disc brakes

Launched in 1980, the Mulsanne shared a design with Rolls-Royce’s Silver Spirit. A 140 m.p.h. turbo version—with better acceleration than many Ferraris—was introduced two years later.

Debuting in 1991, the Continental R featured an all-steel body and was the first Bentley since 1963 to have an original design that was not shared with a Rolls-Royce model.

The Arnage, launched in 1998, was a flagship model for the company until production of the vehicle ended in 2008.

The 2011 Continental Supersports recently broke a world speed record on ice, reaching 205.48 m.p.h. off the coast of Finland.

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