There are few surviving automakers with history as rich and storied as that of the venerable Bentley Motors. The marque, which started as a builder of tremendously robust and highly successful road and race cars that were the undisputed stars of Brooklands and Le Mans during the pre-war period, gradually evolved into an old-world luxury powerhouse, and onward to the modern era it has evolved as supplier of often glitzy, ultra-luxe glam-mobiles under the Volkswagen Group umbrella.
Considering Bentley has just over a century of history under its quilted-leather belt, we figured a dip into the British automaker’s photographic history was in order. After scouring the archives, we put together a tidy cross-section of Bentley through history with some photos you’ve likely never seen. Of course, this is far from comprehensive; we just dusted off some footage we think represents Bentley’s indomitable spirit through the ages.
As always, we picked out a few of our favorites below, but don’t forget to click in to see the full gallery.
Bentley Speed Six at Brooklands, 1929
Aside from multiple overall wins at Le Mans, Bentley established itself as a mainstay at high-speed events held at repurposed airfields and oval circuits like Brooklands. The famed Bentley Boys and their fleet of big Bs conquered the racing world for a few years in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and without victories at places like Brooklands, there would be no Bentley today.
Bobsled and Bentley, 1956
According to the caption, this surreal scene was captured on the streets of Cortina d’Ampezzo ahead of that year’s winter Olympic games. We don’t know who had more fun—the fellas in the big-ass Bentley, or the athletes in the bobsled.
Bentley Race Car in Garage, 1930
Here’s what race prep looked like before workshops were medical-grade spotless with gauzy gloves and white floors. Bonus points for the man down in front with the pipe.
Bentley, Meet Hedge
Leslie Nielsen and His Vintage Rolls-Royce, Bentley
Legendary actor and funnyman Leslie Nielsen was a noted Bentley and Rolls-Royce connoisseur, as seen here at his Hollywood home in 1992.
Picnic at the Regatta, Bentley Style
With a trunk that capacious, we’d use any event to throw a picnic at every opportunity, too.
Bentley: Fit for Royalty
Unsurprisingly, Bentley’s history frequently intersects with that of the royal family. Here’s the royal Bentley limo that shuttled Prince Charles and Princess Diana during their visit to the Czech Republic in 1991.