W. O. Bentley

Automotive Engineer
Born Sep 16, 1888

Walter Owen Bentley, MBE engineer; designer of aero engines, designer and racer of motor cars, founder of Bentley Motors Limited in Cricklewood near London. He was known as "W.O. " without any need to add the word Bentley.

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1888 Birth Born on September 16, 1888.


1902 13 Years Old Bentley, born in Hampstead, London, was the youngest of his Adelaide-born parents’ nine children. His father was retired businessman Alfred Bentley, and mother was Emily, née Waterhouse. As the son of a prosperous family he was privately educated at Clifton College in Bristol from 1902 until 1905, when at the age of 16 he left to start work as an apprentice engineer with the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster in Yorkshire. … Read More


1909 20 Years Old 1 More Event
In 1909 and 1910 Bentley raced Quadrant, Rex, and Indian motorcycles.
1910 21 Years Old He did not finish in either event; in 1910, his Indian’s rear tyre burst on the second lap … Read More
1912 23 Years Old In 1912 he joined his brother, H. M. (Horace Millner) Bentley, in a company called "Bentley and Bentley" that sold French DFP cars. … Read More
1914 25 Years Old W. O. married three times. In 1914 he married Leonie Gore, daughter of Sir St George Ralph Gore, ninth baronet of Magherabegg. … Read More


1919 30 Years Old After the war, in early 1919, W. O. and his brother founded Bentley Motors Limited. … Read More
1920 31 Years Old 1 More Event
A plaque marks the building in what is now Chagford Street NW1. W.O.’s first complete Bentley 3 Litre car began road tests in January 1920 and the first production version, made in Cricklewood, was delivered in September 1921. … Read More
1922 33 Years Old 1 More Event
W.O.’s motto was "To build a good car, a fast car, the best in class." His cars raced in hill climbs and at Brooklands, and the lone 3 Litre entered by the company in the 1922 Indianapolis 500 mile race and driven by Douglas Hawkes finished thirteenth at an average speed of 74.95 mph.
1923 34 Years Old In 1923, when a rather skeptical W.O. was persuaded to attend the inaugural Le Mans race, he saw John Duff and Frank Clement’s private entry take fourth place.
1924 35 Years Old A Bentley 3 Litre won at Le Mans in 1924.
1925 36 Years Old Neither of the two Bentleys entered in the 1925 race finished it, but subsequent models won again in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930, with the factory team managed by W.O.’s old school friend Richard Sidney Witchell. … Read More
1928 39 Years Old W. O. continued his design work as Barnato’s employee. The racing version of the W.O.-designed six-cylinder Speed Six—the road car was introduced in 1928—proved to be the most successful Bentley in competition, and won Le Mans in 1929 and 1930. … Read More


1930 41 Years Old Although Barnato continued racing Bentleys with distinction, and even though the company sold a hundred of its 8 Litre model, which was launched as a grand car for the ultra-rich in October 1930 (Bugatti sold three of his equivalent model, the Royale), the Great Depression took its toll.
By July 1931 Barnato’s financial support had dwindled, and Bentley Motors went into voluntary liquidation. … Read More
1932 - 1934 3 More Events
1935 46 Years Old Rolls-Royce promoted its new line of Bentleys as "The Silent Sports Car". W. O. left Rolls-Royce at the end of April 1935 with a sense of freedom. … Read More
1936 47 Years Old Unable to persuade Harry Grylls to join his engineering staff at Staines, W. O. obtained Stewart Tresilian's services from February 1936. … Read More


1947 58 Years Old In August, 1947, J. R. Greenwood, Chairman of Lagonda, announced that although work had begun on the first 1,000 of the new Bentley-designed -litre cars, the project had been cancelled owing to continuing production difficulties and the recently imposed double purchase tax. … Read More


1971 82 Years Old 1 More Event
Following his lengthy obituary printed in The TImes 16 August 1971 the same newspaper printed two more contributions. Woolf Barnato (1895–1948) served a term as president. W. O. agreed to become patron in 1947. … Read More
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