Book Review: 100 Years of Bentley

by | Oct 9, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I doubt that I’ll never own a Bentley automobile. Heck I’ve never even sat in one but a guy can dream can’t he? Nevertheless I have what my wife might call an unhealthy attraction to these expensive cars. I think it’s partly because I’m an Anglophile that comes with having English grandparents (on my mothers side) and who knows what else. That’s why I was excited to review 100 Years of Bentley and I’m here to say that it’s a great read on many, many levels.

The first part of the book centers around W.O. Bentley who trained as a railroad engineer but was a Renaissance Man with many interests, including photography. But before there were Bentley automobiles, W.O. was the importer and ultimately racer of the French automobile DPP, a marque I’d never heard of before reading this informative book. He was so devoted to engineering that when along with his brother H.M. he started Bentley Motors W.O. brought in one of his racing clients as part owner and to run the company, while he focused on making better, faster cars.

Bentley has been part of Le Mans since the race began and author Andrew Noakes takes you behind the scenes and into the pits for some fascinating details of both the races themselves and the race cars. In the chapter Glory Days you’ll plunge into the minutia of the engineering and design—there’s even technical drawings—of Bentley race cars.

Production values for the book are as befits a high-quality coffee table book with rich, thick, semi-gloss pages, a red ribbon page marker and an impressive slip case. The photographic reproduction of all, including some extremely old, images is good and the quality of the contemporary photographs of the cars is nothing short of stunning. While the design is workmanlike, the use of a solid black page with white type to kick off each chapter, while elegant, is a finger mark magnet. Be careful turning those pages.

The saga continues with the sale of Bentley with the author’s detailed reportage taking you behind with scenes of corporate infighting between Napier and Rolls Royce that foreshadows what is to come many years later. The author then goes on to detail the splitting or Rolls Royce cars from Rolls Royce aviation that gave ultimately birth to a masterpiece—The Bentley Continental.

The more recent part of the Bentley saga takes some twists beginning with a food fight between Volkswagen and BMW, with VW getting control over Bentley and BMW taking Rolls Royce. In case your wondered what happened, like I was, the author perfectly explains the machinations leading to the Solomon-like decision splitting Rolls Royce and Bentley between these two suitors. The book then moves on to happier times with a look at Bentley’s successful return to LeMans and even the return of the Bentley Boys in the EXP Speed 8.

The final chapter goes into the current crop of Bentley vehicles. And yes the book includes the Bentley SUV. In those early LeMans racing days, Ettore Bugatti once said, “Mr. Bentley, he builds fast lorries.” He means trucks (Englishisms are scattered throughout Mr. Noakes’ detailed prose) and darn if modern Bentley doesn’t build the Bentayga SUV. There was even a diesel version that probably had W.O. spinning in his grave… To balance out this look at power trains, the author wraps up the book with a hint at hybrids and electrification for future Bentley cars,

There’s lots more here. I’ve barely skimmed the highlights of the fascinating history of a storied marque that I’m grateful is still building fast, interesting cars. And a big thank you for Andrew Noakes for pulling it all together for all of us admirers of Bentley automobiles.

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: White Lion Publishing
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781319154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781319154
  • Price: $51.22 (Amazon Prime, as I write this.)