The seed of the original starter company Bentley & Bentley was planted when two brothers got their first taste of revenue from selling cars for the French company Doriot, Flandrin & Parant. Founded in 1912, the company later developed into Bentley Motors in 1919. As with most early auto manufacturers, their roots began with the building of rotary engines for airplanes, and those roots are found in the wings of the Bentley Logo.
The brothers’ passion for superb and luxuriously built cars propelled the them to focus on world class craftsmanship. Walter Owen Bentley’s mission statement to construct “a fast car, a good car, the best in its class,” became a tangible reality in July of 1919 when W.O., as he was commonly referred to, and his brother, Horace Millner Bentley opened the doors of Bentley Motors Limited located in Cricklewood in north London.
It took the brothers two years to craft their first Bentley, the 3 Litre EXP 2. Then came the Bentley Boys, a group of six talented, speed-seeking, race-minded men who became such Bentley enthusiasts that they gained global recognition by winning the LeMans five out of eight years.
In 1938, Bentley broke ground in Crewe, England. Like all other automotive companies, they needed to brand themselves with an distinctive and befitting hood ornament.
There were two types of logos proudly displayed on a Bentley. The “Winged B” or “Flying B” as it was known, was displayed on early models and the “Flat B” on later models, both of which elude to the cars’ ability to obtain high speeds. On the “Flat B” badge, the colors of the “B” in black, green or red labels depict the engine manufacturer, size and output capabilities. Additionally, the “Flat B” logo has a different number of feathers on each side of the “B” and was used as a clever way to thwart forgers.
Bentley was acquired by Rolls Royce in 1931 which held the company until 1970. Vickers bought Bentley in 1970 and then sold in July 1998 to Volkswagen AG, which is the current owner of the Bentley brand.
Today’s Crewe plant employs over 4000 highly skilled and precision-driven employees. Every new Bentley owner is gifted with a photo album of the assembly processes of the very car the customer purchased. Owners can enjoy their album accompanied by a drink known as “The Bentley Cocktail,” concocted by three of the Bentley Boys after winning the 1924 LeMans. Cheers!
Jason Paynter is a classic car appraiser, collector and unabashed enthusiast. He is the author of the book, Drop, Throttle, Oversteer: Collecting & Investing in Classic Cars, and host of the Classic Car Corner podcast, on iTunes, Spotify and all your other favorite outlets. He lives in Louisville, KY with his beautiful wife and three sons who are (heaven help him) of driving age. Jason is also a certified appraiser and would be more than happy to assist in helping valuate your collection or answer any of your questions about cars. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.