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More on Bentley in these books:

King: The Derby Built Bentleys 

Bentley - 50 Years of the Marque


Car of the Month - January 2019
Walter Owen Bentley's early career
 The start of Bentley Motors in January 1919

Bentley 3-Litre Prototyp, #EXP1
Bentley 3-Litre Prototype, Chassis-No. #EXP1. The first incarnation of what W.O. Bentley had planned: "To build a fast car, a good car, the best in its class."

In 2019 Bentley Motors will celebrate their 100th Anniversary. The appropriate date for the foundation of Bentley Motors is 18th January 1919 when "...Bentley Motors' … Certification of Incorporation was signed by the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies..." From 1919 onward a team of designers led by  Walter Owen Bentley worked on development of Bentley Motors' first model, i.e.  the Bentley 3 Litre that was launched at the November 1919 Olympia Show.

Bentley 3 Liter

Walter Owen Bentley was a highly talented engineer and at fairly young age had impressive achievements to his credit. An apprenticeship in railway engineering at G.N.R. in Doncaster had been followed by a brief period at King's College London, studying theoretical engineering. In his first employment with the National Motor Cab Co. he supervised service and overhaul of a fleet of some 400 UNIC taxis. In 1912 with his brother H.M. Bentley a motor car dealership was acquired which held a concession for the French DFP. DFP did mean Doriot, Flandrin & Parant, a motor car manufacturer from Courbevoie, France. The Bentley brothers’ business soon did flourish so well the French motor car manufacturer arranged for their M. Leroux to act as liaison with the French factory. Leroux did tune cars that W.O. Bentley entered successfully in competitive events. An early example so to speak of the idiom "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday".

W.O. Bentley &  DFP 2-Liter
Bentley with a 1912 DFP 2-Litre with a streamlined aluminium single seater body by Hutchinsons. At Brooklands racecourse that car, prepared by Leroux and driven by Bentley took the ten lap record at 66.78 mph.

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A tremendous advantage was that W.O. Bentley increased his engines' power and reliability by using light alloy pistons. Stress on bearings was reduced due to less weight of aluminium pistons compared to iron ones. A major bonus was light alloys’ better heat dissipation reducing risks of distortion. Having found a superior alternative to pistons made from cast iron or steel was kept secret by Bentley & Bentley – and it appears went unnoticed by other manufacturers. W.O. Bentley behind the steering wheel of relatively small DFP cars fitted with high-performance engines became a fierce competition for race-cars of greater engine capacity.

Bentley & Leroux - DFP 12/40 H.P.
Bentley and Leroux with a DFP 12/40 H.P. during the 5th International Tourist Trophy race in the  Isle of Man, 10th/11th June 1914. Out of 23 starters only six finished. Although Bentley completed the course with a time gap behind William Guinness in the winning Sunbeam it made good publicity because competitors’ cars were powered by engines of greater capacity.

That made for good publicity along the lines of 'David versus Goliath'. The installation of area dealerships and a modest advertising campaign were first steps to exploit the Bentley brothers’ business success. However the activities came to a standstill with the outbreak of World War I. W.O. Bentley became an officer and had to concentrate entirely on war-related tasks. Nonetheless the roots of the success of Bentley Motors founded in January 1919 can be tracked to the early career from the pre-war period. 

Bentley & Leroux - DFP 12/40 H.P.

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