Contents: Current / Cricklewood Era (1919-1931) / Rolls-Royce Era (1931-1980) / Vickers Era (1980-1998) / VW Era (1998 - Present)
Full List of Bentley Cars Ever Made
The definition of luxury may have nothing to do with the streets but, paradoxically, it can be seen roaming through some of the least expected places, rims glimmering, wood and chrome finished steel bulk rolling silently through concrete labyrinth passage ways. It's an automobile that goes great with yachts and French Riviera vacations as well as New Zealand wool pin stripe suits and finely designed porcelain buttons embedded in solid gold.
Bentley has been a provider of quality stand-out privileged social and financial statement-vehicles since 1919. Founded by Walter Owen Bentley (1888-1971), Bentley Motors has grown into a world leading car-maker and also a symbol of Great Britain, as well as sole provider of wheels for the Queen through the 2002 released State Limousine.
The company's founder had primarily been known for designing and making reliable rotary engines that were fitted on aircraft during World War I, before successfully entering the auto-world. Before becoming notorious with the Bentley BR1 aero-engine during the war, Bentley had been in partnership with his brother H.M., selling French D.F.P. cars. It was during those times that he thought of establishing his own car-making business.
Soon after Bentley Motors was formed in January, 1919, the company was "allowing" Walter Owen to exhibit a chassis with an engine replica at the London Motor Show. The design was a success and the orders poured in. However, the company was unable to carry the deliveries out in time, with the first cars being ready for shipping only in September 1921, one year later than initially estimated.
Although, it had a lot of fans and enjoyed great value on the UK market, the company suffered a fate similar to that of Aston Martin, undergoing several ownership changes and financial trouble. Fortunately enough, its allies were constantly on the look-out and possessed vast riches that they used to keep Bentley on track.
Bentley was acquired by millionaire and 'Bentley Boy' enthusiast Wolf Barnato, who became the new owner of the company in 1925. Despite the steady cash flow that was used to stop Bentley Motors from sinking, the Great Depression wiped clean any desire for expensive automobiles, leaving Bentley poor and disoriented.
This time, help would come from giants from Rolls Royce, who bought the work shop in 1931. Thanks to the 'Bentley Boys', the marque managed to stay afloat and gained racing acclaim, with Barnato participating in the Le Train Bleu race (he drove in traffic from Cannes to Calais and finished first). Consequently, the model became known as the Blue Train Bentley. Moreover, further victories would be obtained by Bentley in the famous endurance race 24 hours of le Mans, the British carmaker emerging victorious for four consecutive times, between 1927 and 1930.
Until entering under the Rolls Royce tutelage, Bentley fitted a variety of engines on their cars: from the classic 3L and 4.5 Blower Bentley engine to the 6L or massive 8L mechanical heart in the 30's. Before parting ways with the Rolls Royce parent company in 1998 and moving to VW grounds, Bentley had greatly improved their offers and technological improvements, especially after becoming a separate car line again during the 80's. Models such as the type R, S and Continental represented only a small fraction of what would come in the following years. Later models included the beautiful Azure convertible, the Turbos Sport R and S models and the competitive Brooklands.
Starting with 1998, German carmaker VW Group took over as Bentley's parent company in a profitable partnership with BMW. The agreement between the two parts stated that VW would make both Bentley and Rolls Royce cars until 2002, when the rights to manufacture Rolls Royce vehicles would pass entirely to BMW. Until 2003, BMW was a constant supplier of engines for both car lines. Soon after BMW's withdrawal, the company launched a new model that would become even more popular than the Azure: the Continental GT. In fact, demands were so numerous that Bentley was reacquainted with the situation form the 20's, when it was unable to meet demands.
Today, Bentley continues to make big gains in the luxury automobile segment. In 2022, the carmaker reported a sale of 14, 659 vehicles, a number that represents a massive 31% jump over the previous record (achieved in 2020). Bentley is responsible for some of the most expensive cars in the world. Its entry-level SUV, the Bentayga, starts at about $180,000 (without options), and its exclusive “coachbuilt” models such as the Mulliner Bacalar can reach up to $2 million. Electrification is a big deal in the automotive industry right now and Bentley is in the thick of it with strategic plans to field plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles by 2026 and fully electric models by 2030. It's safe to assume then that Bentley's model lineup in the near future will look vastly different to what it is now.
Bentley New Flying Spur
Current Bentley Models
In-depth guides, reviews and pricing. Every Bentley you can buy today
Bentley Models from 1919 to 1931 (the Cricklewood Years)
Bentley Motors was born in January 1919 and was the idea of Walter Owen Bentley (known as ‘W.O"), a well known aeronautical engine designer, amateur racer and car importer. W.O had developed the BR1 and BR2 aluminum-piston rotary aero engines before founding Bentley. In October 1919, Bentley Motors’ first-ever engine, the 3-litre (with aluminum pistons), burst into life in New Street Mews, London.
Soon after production began in 1921, in a new factory in Cricklewood, in north London. The first 3-litre production car, the first car ever named after its cylinder capacity, was delivered in September that year. Like many founders of the time, W.O believed racing was the best way to promote the new company and embarked on an ambitious program of motor sport, with Bentley winning its first event in May 1921 and the 3-litre competed at Le Mans five times and won twice.
Great cars followed the 3-litre. Deliveries of the six-cylinder 6 1/2-litre began in 1926, while the 4 1/2-litre, launched in 1927, had a modular four-cylinder version of the 6 1/2-litre’s motor and is probably the most fondly remembered of all the Cricklewood cars: it won Le Mans in 1928. The Speed Six, W.O Bentley’s own favorite, used a modified 6 1/2-litre engine and won Le Mans twice (1929 and 1930). There was also the legendary ‘Blower Bentley’ – a supercharged 4 1/2-litre and the amazing 8-litre.
Thanks to the Great Depression, Bentley decided to switch gears and produced a more economical 4-litre version. It didn't work and Bentley went through more turmoil before ending up being owners by Rolls-Royce. Future Bentleys would be made, at least for the remainder of the ’30s, at Rolls-Royce’s home in Derby.
Bentley 3-litre (1921 - 1929)
Bentley 4½-litre & "Blower Bentley" (1926 - 1930)
Bentley 6½-litre (1926 - 1930)
Bentley 6½-litre Speed Six (1928 - 1930)
Bentley 8-litre (1930 - 1931)
Bentley 4-litre (1931)
Bentley Models from 1931 to 1980 (the Rolls-Royce Years)
Crewe was a railway town until construction began in July 1938 and a short five months later the first Merlin airplane engine was built to support the war effort. At its peak in 1943, 10,000 people were employed at the factory. Car production ceased during the war years but when the war ended, the factory at Derby was committed to building new-era jet engines. Car production moved to Crewe, where employees had to be retrained to build cars.
The Bentley Mark VI launched in 1946 and was the first new Crewe-built vehicle. It was based on the short-lived Mark V; the major change was the new Pressed Steel body, designed by Ivan Evernden. It was the first-ever ‘complete’ Bentley. Before the Mark VI, Bentley had made only the chassis and engines. The engine capacity was increased to 4 1/2 litres, up from 4 litres, for the last year of the Mark VI’s life, before it was replaced by the R-Type, the first Bentley to be offered with an automatic transmission.
The most famous and influential R-Type model was the Continental. This two-door, four-seat vehicle, mechanically based on the R-Type saloon, had a body designed by Bentley chief stylist John Blatchley and built by HJ Mulliner. Inspired by the one-off pre-war Embiricos Bentley coupe, it became a seminal piece of post-war design. In 1955, the R-Type was replaced by the S1, the first car to be developed and built at Crewe. The S1 was longer and roomier than the R-Type; automatic transmission was standard. It was also the last Bentley fitted with a six-cylinder engine.
Its successor, the S2, saw the debut of the all-aluminum 6.25-litre V8. The S2 was the first Bentley that had power steering as standard. The S3, distinguished by its four-headlamps in the front wings, followed in 1962. The T-series, launched in 1965, was Bentley’s first ever car made with a unitary construction, as opposed to a separate chassis. It had independent self-leveling suspension for superior ride comfort and was the first Bentley to use four-wheel disc brakes. Two-door and convertible Continentals were offered. In 1968, engine capacity increased to 6.75 litres, the capacity of the current Arnage.
In 1977, the T2 was launched. It had fully automatic split-level air conditioning, a world first, and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. The reality is that when production moved from Derby to Crewe there were very few differences between Rolls-Royce and Bentley models.Bentleys would be little more than a rebadged Rolls-Royce with a different model name, and a different grille. The only exceptions to this policy were the R-type Continental Models. Pure Bentley’s with no Rolls-Royce equivalent. In 1971 (the year WO passed away), Rolls Royce PLC hit financial trouble after a series of issues with an aero-engine.
In order to protect the company, the UK government devised a rescue plan which split the automotive venture away from the aerospace venture, making Rolls-Royce Motor Cars an independent manufacturer which owned the Bentley brand. During this period of independence the Bentley brand saw only a face-lift of its T-series model.
Bentley 3½-litre (1933 - 1937)
Bentley 4¼-litre (1936 - 1939)
Bentley Mark V (1939 - 1941)
Bentley Mark V (1939)
Bentley Mark VI (1946 - 1952)
Bentley R Type (1952 - 1955)
Bentley R Type Continental (1952 - 1955)
Bentley S1 and Continental (1955 - 1959)
Bentley S2 and Continental (1959 - 1962)
Bentley S3 and Continental (1962 - 1965)
Bentley T1 (1965- 1977)
Bentley T2 (1977- 1980)
Bentley Corniche (1971 - 1984)
Bentley Camargue (1975 - 1986)
Bentley Models from 1980 to 1998 (the Vickers Era Years)
Managing director of the time, David Plastow, promised members of the Bentley Drivers Club a Bentley resurgence; and so it was to prove. In 1980, Rolls-Royce merged with Vickers. Building up the Bentley marque was a key strategy to improving the company’s performance. The Bentley Mulsanne, launched in 1980, was another badge-engineered car – sharing much with the Silver Spirit – but at least the name, redolent of Bentley’s Le Mans history suggested better things to come.
The renaissance proper began in 1982, when the Mulsanne Turbo was launched. This 140mph Bentley – nicknamed ‘Crewe’s Missile’ – accelerated faster than some Ferraris and yet still had all the refinement and civility one expected from a Bentley. Bentley sales were booming. Soon Bentley, not Rolls-Royce would become the dominant marque at Crewe, The Eight, which followed in 1984, had a chrome mesh radiator, like a racing ’20s Bentley, and used stiffened suspension.
The Mulsanne Turbo was replaced by the Turbo R (for Roadholding) in 1985 and was a defining moment in Bentley’s history – it was even faster and more refined but, most significantly, represented a breakthrough in dynamic handling. When launched in 1991, the Continental R became the first unique-to-Bentley coupé since the S3 Continental of 1965. This in turn spawned the Azure of 1995, the first all-new Bentley convertible for 30 years.
A year later saw the launch of the shorter, wider and faster Continental T coupé (derived from the R) with its 6.75-litre engine ultimately to develop 420 bhp and a claimed top speed of 170 mph. The all-new Arnage saloon was launched in 1998 and initially used a BMW-derived 4.5-litre twin turbo V8, although the Crewe-produced 6.75-litre V8 would remain in production in the Azure and Continental R and T models.
Bentley Continental (1984 - 1995)
Bentley Continental Turbo (1992 - 1995)
Bentley Mulsanne (1980 - 1992)
Bentley Mulsanne L (1984 - 1988)
Bentley Mulsanne Turbo (1982 - 1985)
Bentley Mulsanne S (1987 - 1992)
Bentley Eight (1984 - 1992)
Bentley Turbo R (1985- 1995)
Bentley Continental R (1991 - 2002)
Bentley Continental S (1994 - 1995)
Bentley Continental T (1996 - 2002)
Bentley Continental R Mulliner (1999 - 2003)
Bentley Brooklands (1992 - 1998)
Bentley Brooklands R (1996 - 1998)
Bentley Turbo S (1994 - 1995)
Bentley Continental S (1994 - 1995)
Bentley New Turbo R (1995 - 1997)
Bentley Azure (1995 - 2003)
Bentley Continental T (1996 - 2002)
Bentley Turbo RL (1997 - 1998)
Bentley Bentley Turbo RT (1997 - 1998)
Bentley RT Mulliner (1997 - 1998)
Bentley Models from 1998 to Present (the VW Years)
Vickers wasn’t really in the business of luxury car building, and in 1997 announced it would sell off the Crewe factory and the car-making side of the firm. The cost of developing new models was becoming prohibitive. BMW expressed an interest, so did Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz. At the last minute, Volkswagen AG made a big move and purchased the company from Vickers in 1998. BMW refused to lose the battle, and thanks to a pre-arranged agreement between Rolls-Royce PLC and BMW, the Bavarian company managed to acquire the license to use the Rolls-Royce name and logo.
In the end, Volkswagen AG agreed to build cars under the Bentley brand only, conceding the Rolls-Royce brand to BMW. Volkswagen wasted little time in differentiating the new Bentley era from the Rolls-Royce/ Vickers era. The biggest investment program in Crewe’s history went ahead with over £500 million spent to rebuild and re-equip the entire Crewe factory, re-engineer and improve the Arnage and develop new models. The first model produced was a thoroughly modern two door coupe and boy did the new Continental GT wow crowds and sell like hotcakes. It was followed by the four door Continental Flying Spur.
It wasn’t until the Arnage was retired that, a brand new “Grand Bentley” was introduced, invoking the “Mulsanne” name once again. Bentley models now have their underpinnings from VW group platforms, and very little remains of the pre-Volkswagen Era, except the Crewe factory HQ. Most recently, the Bentley brand has offered its first SUV and while enthusiasts hate it, the model sells well and will be a huge commercial success.
Bentley Arnage (1998 - 2009)
Bentley Hunaudieres Concept (1999)
Bentley State Limousine (2002)
Bentley Continental GT (2003 - 2011)
Bentley Continental Flying Spur (Gen 1) (2005 - 2013)
Bentley Azure (Gen 2) (2006 - 2009)
Bentley Brooklands (Gen 2) (2008 - 2011)
Bentley Continental GT (Gen 2) (2011 - 2018)
Bentley Flying Spur (Gen 2) (2013 - 2019)
Bentley Mulsanne (2010 - 2020)
Bentley Bentayga (2016 - 2020)
Bentley Bentayga (2020 - Present) *facelift
Bentley New Flying Spur (Gen 3) (2019 - Present)
Bentley Continental (Gen 3) (2018 - Present)
Bentley Continental GT Mulliner