A flash of inspiration
In his early years of racing, W.O. Bentley imported French cars made by Doriot, Flandrin & Parant. On a visit to DFP’s office in France, he picked up an aluminium paperweight and wondered whether the lightweight material could be used to improve the pistons used in engines. It had previously been considered too weak and prone to melting, but W.O. realised that adding a little copper to create a new alloy might solve the problem. And it worked.
He started by fitting the pistons to his own competition car, and began winning races with ease. When the First World War broke out, he joined the Royal Naval Air Service where he introduced aluminium pistons to make fighter aircraft engines more powerful and reliable. Finally, when the war was over, W.O. could use his invention to revolutionise the world of automobiles – and Bentley Motors was born on 10 July 1919.