W.O. Bentley

W.O. Bentley

W.O. Bentley


Walter Owen Bentley was born in 1888 as ninth of 11 siblings. He started off with locomotives working as apprentice for the Great Northern Railway and racing motorcycles in his spare time before turning to cars in 1910. In 1912 he, together with a brother, bought a company that imported products from a little French car manufacturer known as DFP. Bentley started to upgrade the engines and entered the cars in races to make them better known. Bentley was among the first ever to make aluminium pistons for car engines, and the first to have it in a production car.

During the First World War Bentley was busy constructing parts for airplane engines. After the war Bentley sold his firm and with the money he started to construct his own car. In 1919 the prototype was ready. Bentley copied the 1914 Mercedes valve gears and cam drive for the 3-litre engine, while the chassis was a copy of the 1914 GP Peugeot L45. The car got an enthusiastic reception, but it lasted until 1921 before Bentley was ready for production. In 1925 came the 6-cylinder 6.5-litre model, a later racing variant of that car became known as the “Speed Six”. In 1927 the 6.5 litre car was developed into a 4.5-litre variant. Again Bentley used racing for publicity.

In 1923 John Duff started with a Bentley in the first Le Mans 24 Hour race finishing 4th. The next year Duff won the race making the Bentley name famous. Through 1927-1930 Bentley cars were victorious four years in a row at Le Mans, with Woolf Barnato making a hat-trick and putting the Bentley name into racing history forever.