The 8 Litre was W.O. Bentley’s finest grand tourer. It was also the last car he designed for Bentley Motors. Launched in 1930, it was the largest and most luxurious Bentley of its time.
Its launch coincided with the worldwide depression caused by the Wall Street Crash, however. Demand for the car slowed and the company encountered financial difficulties, leading to a change in ownership. As a result, only 100 examples of the 8 Litre were built between 1930 and 1932.
A ‘dead silent 100mph’
At the time of the 8 Litre’s launch, W.O. declared: “I have always wanted to produce a dead silent 100mph car, and now I think we have done it.”
Such was the power of the car’s 7,983cc, straight-6 engine, that the company guaranteed it would be capable of at least 100mph, regardless of the chosen coachwork.
The Bentley 8 Litre had the largest engine of any car available in the UK at that time. It featured a crankcase made of Elektron, a magnesium alloy. And its maximum power was between 200-230bhp, a huge output for the era. In December 1930, The Autocar recorded a ½ mile terminal speed of 101.12mph in a Bentley 8 Litre. Only one other car recorded a higher speed between then and 1939.
W.O’s personal car
The first production 8 Litre was delivered to the music hall star ‘Gentleman’ Jack Buchanan in October 1930. W.O. took the second car, chassis YF 5002, as his personal car, commissioning H.J. Mulliner to build a saloon body on the 12-foot short-wheelbase chassis. Originally registered GK 706, this car was W.O.’s personal transport from October 1930 for the next two years. He drove it for thousands of miles in Britain and Europe, and recalled travelling from Dieppe to Cannes, ‘…in the day, without having to switch on the lights, cruising at around 85mph for hour after hour’. For a present, his wife commissioned a painting by celebrated artist Ray Nockholds showing her back-seat view of W.O. at the wheel.
Reunited by the BDC
When Bentley Motors was taken over in 1931, W.O. Bentley had to sell his beloved 8 Litre. Later in his life, however, he was reunited with it at a Bentley Drivers’ Club celebration held in his honour.
The CEO’s company car.
In 2006 W.O’s 8 Litre was acquired by Bentley Motors and sympathetically restored. It has since become a symbolic ‘company car’ for each successive Bentley CEO, preserving a tradition that dates back to the company’s founder.
Bentley 8 Litre facts
- Launched in 1930 as ‘a dead silent 100mph car’
- Bentley guaranteed 100mph capability whatever the chosen bodywork
- Chassis YF 2002 registered GK 706 was the second 8 Litre built and became W.O. Bentley’s personal company car.
- Its 8-litre capacity made it the largest-engined car on sale in the UK at the time
- Engine crankcase of Elektron was a magnesium alloy for strength without excess weight. Power output was between 200-230bhp, exceptional for the era
- In December 1930, The Autocar recorded a ½ mile terminal speed of 101.12mph in a Bentley 8 Litre
- YF 2002 was acquired by Bentley Motors in 2006 as the CEO’s symbolic ‘company car’.