Today, Bentley is synonymous with luxury. You may rarely see them in real life, but you’ve probably seen them in a rap video or on MTV’s Cribs. Bentley has an interesting history and it may surprise you to know they are German owned today (more on that later).
Owen Bentley started the company in Crewe, England in 1919. From this period until World War II, Bentley was merely a chassis and engine. So the carriage on top could look like anything, and since it was mainly the rich who could afford these horseless carriages, they were undoubtably customized to suit the owner.
The original Bentley fell on hard times (like many companies) after the stock market crash of 1929, and ended up being sold to their competitor, Rolls Royce in 1931. This began the long relationship between the two makes of cars, so if you’ve been confused by which is which, that is because there is often little technical difference between same model year cars.
Bentley’s have generally been considered a “cheaper” Rolls Royce, however they are still assuredly in the super premium segment of cars. When Volkswagen bought Rolls Royce/Bentley in 1998, it was the beginning of a greater differentiation between Bentleys (and also when they started appearing in American celebrities garages). Bentley became more of a sporting luxury car, while Rolls Royce retained it’s conservative luxury reputation.
Bentley’s are generally hard to find, although their production numbers have increased in the past decade, there are still under 20,000 built per year (and usually less then 10k per model). You’ll find them all over the world, they are especially coveted by royalty in former British colonies. What’s your favorite Bentley?