The definition of luxury may have nothing to do with the streets but, paradoxically, it can be seen roaming through some of the least expected places, rims glimmering, wood and chrome finished steel bulk rolling silently through concrete labyrinth passage ways. It's an automobile that goes great with yachts and French Riviera vacations as well as New Zealand wool pin stripe suits and finely designed porcelain buttons embedded in solid gold.
Bentley has been a provider of quality stand-out privileged social and financial statement-vehicles since 1919. Founded by Walter Owen Bentley (1888-1971), Bentley Motors has grown into a world leading car-maker and also a symbol of Great Britain, as well as sole provider of wheels for the Queen through the 2002 released State Limousine.
The company's founder had primarily been known for designing and making reliable rotary engines that were fitted on aircraft during World War I, before successfully entering the auto-world. Before becoming notorious with the Bentley BR1 aero-engine during the war, Bentley had been in partnership with his brother H.M., selling French D.F.P. cars. It was during those times that he thought of establishing his own car-making business.
Soon after Bentley Motors was formed in January, 1919, the company was "allowing" Walter Owen to exhibit a chassis with an engine replica at the London Motor Show. The design was a success and the orders poured in. However, the company was unable to carry the deliveries out in time, with the first cars being ready for shipping only in September 1921, one year later than initially estimated.
Although, it had a lot of fans and enjoyed great value on the UK market, the company suffered a fate similar to that of Aston Martin, undergoing several ownership changes and financial trouble. Fortunately enough, its allies were constantly on the look-out and possessed vast riches that they used to keep Bentley on track.
Bentley was acquired by millionaire and 'Bentley Boy' enthusiast Wolf Barnato, who became the new owner of the company in 1925. Despite the steady cash flow that was used to stop Bentley Motors from sinking, the Great Depression wiped clean any desire for expensive automobiles, leaving Bentley poor and disoriented.
This time, help would come from giants from Rolls Royce, who bought the work shop in 1931. Thanks to the 'Bentley Boys', the marque managed to stay afloat and gained racing acclaim, with Barnato participating in the Le Train Bleu race (he drove in traffic from Cannes to Calais and finished first). Consequently, the model became known as the Blue Train Bentley. Moreover, further victories would be obtained by Bentley in the famous endurance race 24 hours of le Mans, the British carmaker emerging victorious for four consecutive times, between 1927 and 1930.
Until entering under the Rolls Royce tutelage, Bentley fitted a variety of engines on their cars: from the classic 3L and 4.5 Blower Bentley engine to the 6L or massive 8L mechanical heart in the 30's. Before parting ways with the Rolls Royce parent company in 1998 and moving to VW grounds, Bentley had greatly improved their offers and technological improvements, especially after becoming a separate car line again during the 80's. Models such as the type R, S and Continental represented only a small fraction of what would come in the following years. Later models included the beautiful Azure convertible, the Turbos Sport R and S models and the competitive Brooklands.
Starting with 1998, German carmaker VW Group took over as Bentley's parent company in a profitable partnership with BMW. The agreement between the two parts stated that VW would make both Bentley and Rolls Royce cars until 2002, when the rights to manufacture Rolls Royce vehicles would pass entirely to BMW. Until 2003, BMW was a constant supplier of engines for both car lines. Soon after BMW's withdrawal, the company launched a new model that would become even more popular than the Azure: the Continental GT. In fact, demands were so numerous that Bentley was reacquainted with the situation form the 20's, when it was unable to meet demands. The latest models from the British carmaker include the 2005 Continental Flying Spur saloon, the 2006 Azure convertible and it's Continental GT counterpart, and the 2008 Brooklands and GT Speed Coupe.