Extraordinary People

The world of Bentley is brimming with inspirational people: the perfectionists, the challengers, the visionaries, the dreamers and the true believers. People of extraordinary character. And from the moment W.O. Bentley conceived the idea of ‘a fast car, a good car, the best in its class,’ they’ve played their part in our inspiring story.

For a brand to command such loyalty - such passion and dedication from day one - is rare, but Bentley is no ordinary brand. For the characters who brought Bentley into being, and remain the driving force of the marque today, Bentley is a dream, a passion, a vision, a feat of engineering, a love story and a journey to new territories and beyond.

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W.O. Bentley

Walter Owen Bentley, known as ‘W.O.’, was an apprentice engineer with Great Northern Railways before going on to design prototype engines that breathed life into the Sopwith Camel Fighter and Sopwith Snipe Planes during the First World War. His astute vision and relentless passion for fast cars led him to found Bentley Motors in 1919. To this day Bentley continues to push the boundaries of exhilaration and unrivalled comfort.

W.O. knew that reliability, power and speed were the things that mattered most, and his invention possessed such ample amounts of these qualities that the Bentley Boys (& Girls) could hardly keep themselves away from the racetrack. Their antics on and off the circuit perfectly demonstrated Bentley’s credentials and before long W.O.’s vision and the marque’s iconic reputation were firmly and adoringly, fixed in the minds of people around the world. 

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Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato

Considered by W.O. as the best of all the Bentley team’s racing drivers, Woolf ‘Babe’ Barnato played an important part in shaping the marque from the early days. Being a true pioneer is never an easy ride, and it was his flamboyant leadership skills and undying dedication to W.O.’s car that led him to become the inspirational Chairman chairman of Bentley Motors in 1926, steering it through hard times when it was struggling for capital.

Inspired by challenge
It didn’t hurt that W.O.’s angel was also one of the richest men in the world and heir to a South African diamond mining business. A man of many talents, whether he was boxing, boat-racing (in his Bentley powered boat), or wicket-keeping, he always pushed himself to the limit. In 1928, 1929 and 1930, his hat trick of wins at Le Mans meant he won every each of the races he ever entered.

An incredible achievement
More importantly, his success was always achieved with elegance and style and in 1930, he was immortalised for racing the famous Train Bleu from Cannes to Calais as a bet, at the wheel of his Bentley Speed Six Coupe. To make the bet even more exciting, he claimed he could reach his London club before the train reached Calais. Driving non-stop through fog on pre-war roads, he averaged 43.3 miles per hour for 700 miles. Naturally he won the £100 bet, but had to hand over his winnings to the French authorities as a fine for racing on public roads. The money didn’t matter to him, the point he proved was priceless.

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Smith, Meyrick and Kane hugging in celebration of their 2nd place win | Bentley Motors

Keeping the Legend Alive

These extraordinary characters have carried the torch for Bentley - and illuminated their generations – for almost a century. Discover more about the men and women who created the Bentley legend and those who keep the flame burning today.

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