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The Bentley Flying and Winged B

The Bentley wings are recognised around the world as a sign of exceptional craftsmanship, exhilarating performance and a fascinating century-long story. Here we take a look at the evolution of this inspiring symbol, as both a breathtaking bonnet mascot and an elegant bonnet badge.

The Flying B

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THE FLYING B

In the 1920s, a bonnet mascot was the ultimate automotive accessory. These miniature sculptures embodied effortless power and speed and announced your arrival in style.

As well as creating Bentley’s winged B badge, celebrated artist F. Gordon Crosby also designed an ‘Icarus’ bonnet mascot. This appeared in some of the first Bentley catalogues but never went into production, perhaps because of copyright infringement.

Instead, owners of Cricklewood-era Bentleys from the mid-1920s were offered the option of the first company-approved Flying B mascot – an ornate, upright brass ‘B’ featuring wings held horizontally, also thought to be a Crosby design.

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FLYING HIGHER

By the 1930s, Bentley’s Derby-built ‘silent sports cars’ had become lower and sleeker. So in 1933, artist Charles Sykes, the designer of the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, was commissioned to create a new mascot.

Sykes designed a single wing with a forward-leaning ‘B’ in the Art Deco style, with facets that allowed the ‘B’ to read correctly when viewed from either side. However, the single wing wasn’t popular, so the design was altered to feature a pair of wings.

An alternative rearward-leaning Flying B was also available for MR and MX series overdrive Bentleys, to signify their sporting character. Owners had to remember to twist these mascots sideways before opening the bonnet, or risk denting the bodywork.

The return of the Flying B
After the war, a smaller version of the dual-wing Flying B mascot appeared on Crewe-built Bentleys until the 1970s, when it was withdrawn due to pedestrian safety legislation that banned prominent solid ornaments.

In 2006, the Flying B made a triumphant return, thanks to a mechanism that made it fully retractable. It was offered on the Azure, Arnage and Brooklands, and is still available today on the Mulsanne.

Special editions of the Flying B mascot have been offered by Bentley's Mulliner division, for limited edition models, including a dark tint version and even including a gold Flying B. 

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A SENSE OF FLIGHT

In 2019, Bentley’s Centenary year, the new Flying Spur took the definitive four-door grand tourer in a new direction – accompanied by a new iteration of the Flying B. To mark the occasion, we held a competition among all Bentley designers to redesign the mascot for our second century. The winning design, by Hoe Young Hwang, was inspired by the owl.

Poised and serene when stationary, the owl reveals immense power and agility in motion – much like the new Flying Spur. The minimalist, contemporary shape of the new design represents an owl gliding over a calm lake in pursuit of prey, the mascot’s widening base tracing out the wake created on the water. With every detail of this captivating car designed around the driver and passengers, particular attention was paid to creating a breathtaking wing span when viewed from the cabin.

Cast out of stainless steel, the new Flying B is hand-polished and crafted using a process normally reserved for turbine engines. It fuses the traditional asymmetrical feathers with a distinctly modern touch – when the car is unlocked, the mascot is electronically deployed and the feathers illuminate in a carefully choreographed welcome sequence perfectly synchronised with the lighting of the headlamps.

The Winged B

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THE FIRST WINGED B

Before the first mascot was created, the Bentley Wings existed in a two-dimensional form. When W.O. Bentley started his car company in 1919, he needed a logo that summed up his quest to push the boundaries of performance. He turned to his friend F. Gordon Crosby, the most famous motoring artist of the pre-war years, who brought distant motor races and continental tours to life for readers of The Autocar.

Crosby created the original Winged B – with the ‘B’ of Bentley inside a pair of wings chosen to represent the exhilaration of motion – and perhaps also a reference to W.O. Bentley’s background as a designer of engines for fighter planes in the First World War. Crosby gave each wing a different number of feathers to make it completely unique – and stay one step ahead of fraudulent imitations.

 

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THE WINGS CHANGE DIRECTION

In the 1930s, when Bentley was under Rolls Royce ownership, the Bentley wings were streamlined, with the downward-pointing feathers straightened out to become horizontal. Each wing was also given 10 feathers, losing the asymmetry of the original.

The logo was revised again in the 1990s and, as a nod to Crosby, the asymmetry was restored and the central ‘B’ revised to echo the original. Then in 2002, a definitive new corporate identity was created, including the winged ‘B’ that is still in use today, one that embodies modern Bentley values while still respecting its origins.

A Centenary celebration
To celebrate 100 years of Bentley, a version of the Winged B was created exclusively for cars built during the Centenary year. The Bentley ‘B’ and the oval around it were outlined in a special metallic finish named Centenary Gold, and the dates 1919 and 2019 added either side of the ‘B’ – a fitting tribute to Crosby in a year that also marked a century since his original design.