An Extraordinary Life
"To build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class.."
We are proud to be able to honour W.O. Bentley here at Grange, who founded Bentley Motors on 10th July 1919 and is renowned worldwide for building cars which boasted an unrivalled blend of performance and the finest craftsmanship and materials.
Get to know the man who forever changed the motoring world by reading his profile below.
Before Bentley Motors Was Founded
W.O. Bentley - or Walter Owen Bentley, though he preferred to be called by his initials - was born in 1888 and was the youngest of nine siblings.
Long before he founded Bentley Motors, he had a love for motion and automobiles. He bought and then dismantled a second-hand bicycle when he was nine years old, for instance, in order to find out exactly how the contraption worked. Then at the age of 16, he left school and begun a five-year apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway - a role which saw him working on the footplate of a steam locomotive.
During his time working for the Great Northern Railway, W.O. purchased a Quadrant motorcycle and began to get involved in the racing scene, along with two of his brothers. His potential as a racing star was realised in 1907, when he finished the London-Edinburgh trial aboard his motorbike in a time that saw him qualify for a gold medal. The feat was made even more impressive by the fact that he broke down and yet managed to repair his bike during the trial. More golds came his way at the London-Plymouth and London-Land's End trials.
It was not just his racing skills which were catching the eye though. W.O.'s skills in engineering saw him go into business with one of his brothers in 1912, where they imported French cars made by Doriot, Flandrin & Parant (DFP). It was during a visit to DFP's offices in France that W.O. picked up an aluminium paperweight and wondered whether the lightweight material could be used to improve the pistons used within car engines.
Arguments were made that aluminium would be too weak and prone of melting, though W.O. solved these issues by adding some copper to create a new alloy. These new pistons were initially fitted to W.O.'s own competition car and DFP vehicles, which went on to win races before W.O. displayed how aluminium pistons could be fitted to fighter aircraft engines to make them more powerful and reliable after joining the Royal Naval Air Force following the declaration of the First World War.
Bentley Motors' Birth
Soon after the First World War was over, W.O. set up his own car company, Bentley Motors, on 10th July 1919. His goal was a simple one to understand: "To make a fast car, a good car, the best in its class."
The first car to be released by Bentley Motors was the 3-Litre, which Autocar magazine acknowledged as being "intended to appeal to those enthusiastic motorists who desire a car which, practically speaking, is a true racing car with touring accessories". The six-cylinder 6 ½-Litre engine followed soon after - first as a Big Six model and then as a Speed Six variant two years later - before the four-cylinder 4 ½-Litre was released.
W.O.'s final creation was the six-cylinder 8-Litre. It's a car many consider to be the Bentley founder's masterpiece, especially since many at the British company proclaimed at the time of its construction that it would be more than capable of hitting 100mph; no matter the body type chosen by its owner. Only 100 editions of the 8-Litre would be made though, due to the impact of the Wall Street Crash that struck soon before its launch. However, Bentley is to honour this extraordinary vehicle with the release of the Bentley Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner in celebration of Bentley's Centenary.