Bentley History & Timeline

2022 Bentley Continental GT Driving on a Mountain Road

Bentley is one of the most illustrious names in the automotive industry, and even a brief glance at the highlights of Bentley history can show why the brand’s motor cars continue to attract praise around the world. If you have any interest at all in the history of Bentley motor cars, look no further. Our introductory timeline provides more than enough information to help you dive deeper into one of the most exciting legacies in manufacturing.

Exploring the History of Bentley Motor Cars

  • 1919 — Walter Owen (“W.O.”) Bentley founds Bentley Motors on January 18th.
  • 1921 — The history of Bentley motor cars truly begins with the delivery of the brand’s first automobile in September.
  • 1926 — Captain Woolf Barnato acquires Bentley and invests heavily in the business.
  • 1927–1930 — A group of high-profile British motorists drive Bentley cars to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, four times in a row.
  • 1931 — Following a decline in demand after the market crash of 1929, Bentley is acquired by the British Central Equitable Trust. Later, it is revealed that the British Central Equitable Trust is a front for Rolls-Royce.
  • 1933 — The Bentley 3½ litre arrives on the scene. It was essentially a sportier variant of the Rolls-Royce 20/25. From this time on, until 2004, all Bentley models will share chassis and engine components with their Rolls-Royce counterparts.
  • 1934 — Bentley production starts to take place at Derby, formerly a Rolls-Royce factory. Derby continues to produce Bentley Motor Cars until the end of World War II, when production is moved to Crewe.
  • 1946 — Bentley begins to produce the Mark VI, a steel-bodied sports car that departs from convention by offering a “standard” or stock saloon coach. 
  • 1952 — The Type R and the Type R Continental are introduced. The Continental would long be a hallmark of the Bentley nameplate.
  • 1970s — Starting off the decade in a poor financial position, Bentley models gradually take up less and less space within the overall Rolls-Royce production scheme.
  • 1980 — Vickers plc purchases the brand and sets about reclaiming Bentley’s high-performance heritage and reputation. The Bentley Mulsanne is introduced in the same year.
  • 1997 — Vickers sells almost the entirety of the Rolls-Royce brand—except for the Rolls-Royce name and logo—to Volkswagen AG. BMW (which had previously supplied Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles with engines) works out a deal with Volkswagen in order to maintain control over the production of Bentley motor cars.
  • 2003 — Volkswagen AG becomes the sole producer of Bentley motor cars, while BMW founds a new entity (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited) using its acquired rights to the Rolls-Royce name and logo.
  • 2007 — Volkswagen invests heavily in Bentley production following its purchase. In 2007, Bentley sells more than 10,000 models in a single year for the first time.
  • 2020 — Bentley announces that every new vehicle sold by the brand will be 100% electric by 2030.

Learn More with Bentley Pasadena!

If you have more questions after browsing through our Bentley history timeline, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’d be happy to provide you with answers or help you learn more about the Bentley history of your favorite models. In the meantime, you can get up close and personal with Bentley’s current plans and future aims by exploring our Bentley guides and our blog!


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