Bentley are probably best known in the motoring field for 1930's racing – open bodied touring cars of immense power (for the period) and ability to race fast for long periods. The best known were the ‘blown’ (supercharged) four ½ litre, the six litre and ultimately the eight litre racing machines. Well engineered, strong and brutal machines capable of surprising docility – they were known as ‘the silent sports car’
The 1930's recession starting in the United States hit Bentley very hard, but this was one of many factors which impacted on Bentley's financial fortunes. The reality was that a huge amount of money had been spent on motor racing (which the Board had decided was ‘cheap’ advertising - and you could argue that the degree of exposure created by racing was ‘cheap’ compared to what would have needed to be paid to the press for anything close to equivalent). Bentley was facing bankruptcy. In November 1931, Bentley and Napier were in a London Court at the final stages of closing a deal whereby Napier would purchase Bentley. An unknown company - British Central Equitable Trust Limited - placed a last minute and surprisingly higher bid. The records show that the Judge reminded those present that he was presiding over a Courtroom – not an auction, and agreed to receive final bids by way of sealed letters later in the day. The result was that the British Central Equitable Trust Limited placed a final bid some £20,000 higher than the final Napier bid. A few days later, it became apparent that the unknown British Central Equitable Trust Limited was acting for Rolls Royce Limited and the recently purchased Bentley Motors was handed over to them immediately. Rolls Royce had not only killed off any opposition, but acquired a prestigious new marque as well as the services of their Chief Designer.
Model rationalisation sensibly followed with in the Mark VI Bentley also being made as a Rolls Royce Silver Dawn (initially for export outside of the United Kingdom only). Since the Mark VI Bentley/Silver Dawn models, common engineering emerged across the range until the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo of 1982.
The S1 Bentley has the final development of the Rolls Royce B60 six cylinder engine - bore of 95.25 mm and stroke of 114.3 mm with total swept volume of 4,887 cc This is an interesting engine in that it has overhead inlet and side exhaust valves - with a compression ratio of 6.6:1. While Rolls Royce never stated power or torque figures (output was always ‘adequate’), estimates put this engine at producing approximately 175 bhp (130 kW). A total of 3,072 S1 Bentleys were made.
The S2 has an identical body to the S1 with no exterior features to distinguish it from the S1. However, pressure for more performance resulted in a new engine of V8 configuration – bore of 104.14mm and stroke of 91.44mm with total swept volume of 6,230cc. Once again, official figures were never quoted, but power was estimated to be 200 bhp (150kw). A total of 1,865 S2 Bentleys were made.
The S cars have power brakes, four stage automatic transmissions, electrically adjustable suspension dampers, with full wood and leather interiors.
Rolls Royce is now owned by BMW and Bentley by Volkswagen.
Original Rolls Royce and Bentley 1946-65
The Illustrated Motor Car Legends – Rolls Royce