By Rod Ward
The story of Bentley cars is like an echo of so many other great British marques. The firm was founded by a charismatic and dynamic engineer and entrepreneur, in this case Walter Owen (WO) Bentley, then financial failure led to the firm being taken over by a competitor, in this case Rolls-Royce, only a decade after its foundation. Rolls-Royce itself suffered financial problems in the 1970s, resulting in the car-making operation, including Bentley, coming under the control of Vickers. In the last act, around the turn of the 21st century, a foreign owner, in this case Volkswagen Group, took over and revived Bentley’s fortunes. In this publication we tell this complex story, whilst describing the car designs and larger than life personalities involved along the way. WO’s exciting car designs from the vintage years are still regarded by many enthusiasts as the only ‘true’ Bentleys, but the Derby-built Rolls-Bentleys from the 1930s also have their adherents. Postwar production at Crewe saw the first ‘standard steel’ factory-bodied Bentleys, which sold very well until the marque was allowed to fade into the shadow of Rolls-Royce, in spite of the reputation and style of the superb Continental sports coupes. After a difficult period in which they had to warily co-operate with BMW, Volkswagen were finally able to develop the Bentley marque to the internationally desirable brand it is today.