Through 80 years these legendary Bentleys, the creation of the celebrated W O Bentley, and not to be confused with the Bentleys produced by Rolls-Royce since its acquisition of the remains of Bentley Motors in 1931, have remained the object of fascination and desire of all motoring enthusiasts. WO launched his first model, the 3-litre, in 1921, as a sporting car for the discerning driver, intending that it should provide 80mph performance, with exceptional reliability based on the quality of its engineering and construction. It became the favourite of wealthy young sportsmen and, to prove a point, 3-litres won at Le Mans in 1924 and 1927. While still in production it was joined in 1927 by the 90mph 4½-litre, still a four-cylinder, which won at Le Mans in 1928. The best-known Bentley, the supercharged 4½, was offered in 1929 and was a genuine 110mph car at a time when most cars struggled to achieve 60mph.
The author commences with an account of the design and development of the 3-litre prototypes against the background of WO’s experience as a designer, particularly his work on aero engine design in World War I.
Then comes a detailed examination and analysis of the production 3-litre – its engine, transmission, chassis and running gear – and its evolution through the “Standard” model, Speed Model and Super Sports, with extracts from contemporary reports and road tests. This is followed by equivalent coverage of the 4½-litre and 4½-litre supercharged models. The author gives an account of the cars’ illustrious competition history, principally at Le Mans, and reviews the range of bodies offered by coachbuilders, from stark two-seaters to overweight limousines.
Ten outstanding examples of the cars have been photographed specially for this book and are featured in detail in some 150 colour shots. There are also more than 150 black-and-white photographs drawn from archive sources.
Offering an in-depth examination of theses splendid, charismatic Bentleys, this book provides an unrivalled store of knowledge for the many who care passionately about them, and serves as a tribute to the men who made them.