British car club highlights 90 years of Bentley excellence

British car club highlights 90 years of Bentley excellence

Porsche 956 and 962 performance demonstration.  Dominic James
Porsche 956 and 962 performance demonstration. Dominic James

The Goodwood Members' Meeting was an epic weekend of British motor racing that recreated the atmosphere and camaraderie of the original BARC Members' Meetings held at Goodwood throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Bentley supported the event last month with a display of 10 iconic cars spanning 90 years of Bentley history from 1929 through to 2019.

1929 Speed Six

The Bentley Speed Six is one of the marque's most iconic pre-war vehicles. A high-performance version of the 6½-litre, the Speed Six became the most successful racing Bentley, winning Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 in the hands of Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin and Glen Kidston. Bentley's own example, GU 409, was originally built for a W.F. Watson and fitted with a Weymann saloon body by Victor Broom, and was delivered in September 1929.

1949 Mark VI

The first new production model from Crewe after World War II was unveiled in May 1946 and named the Mark VI. Using independent front suspension and the existing 4½-litre straight six engine, the Mark VI quickly became the biggest-selling Bentley with 5,000 cars produced between 1946 and 1952. Some 73 years later the Mark VI -- AGO 2 -- returned to Crewe. Fitted with an H.J. Mulliner body resplendent in two-tone green over black, AGO 2 is a key design link between the famous Embiricos Bentley and Mk V Corniche of the 1930s, and the iconic R-Type Continental of 1952.

1963 S3 Standard Saloon

In 1955, the R-Type was superseded by the S-Type. Essentially an updated and improved version, with a separate chassis, straight-six engine and factory-produced body. At the time, the standard factory-bodied S-Type saloon cost £3,295 (a surprisingly modest 2.75 million baht in today's money). There were three iterations of the S-Type from 1955 to 1965. The 2nd generation (S2) introduced a new V8, power steering as standard and the end of a manual transmission. The final generation was very similar to the S2, with the most-visible exterior difference being a four-headlamp layout. The car joining the heritage fleet was a 1963 S3 Standard Saloon -- often regarded as the prettiest of the saloon body styles -- finished in Garnet paintwork and registered 176 FGH.

1984 Continental

The Bentley Continental in 1984 was heavily based on the T-Series introduced in the 1960s. Bentley's new example, A455 YGJ, represents one of the company's most challenging times, with sales volumes at the lowest point in its history. The situation improved with significant changes to how the company was run, and the adoption of forced induction to Bentley's 6¾-litre V8 unveiled in the shape of the Turbo R at the 1985 Geneva Motor Show.

1991 Turbo R

In the early 90s, Bentley's popularity had grown significantly, mainly due to the success of the Mulsanne Turbo. Turbocharging had returned the performance edge to Bentley's products, which were now the fastest, most comfortable and most luxurious saloons in the world. The Turbo R, "R" for road-holding, built on the success of the Mulsanne Turbo with more power and a stiffer chassis, but with no compromise to luxury or quality. Bentley's 1991 Turbo R -- J101 PKL -- is a fine example of the car that set Bentley back on a path of success.

2001 Arnage Red Label

When Bentley was bought by the Volkswagen Group in 1998, the first order of business was to replace the 4.4-litre V8 of the Bentley Arnage with the leviathan 6¾-litre V8 from the two-door Continentals. Doing so created the Arnage Red Label, which debuted at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show offering a level of torque unmatched by any other saloon -- 835Nm. Redesigned front suspension and bigger brakes accompanied the engine, along with a stiffer body shell. Finished in Fireglow red, Bentley's example (Y662 SEO) marks one of the turning points in the company's history.

"Bentley is undergoing the biggest and fastest transformation in its 102-year history, as part of the Beyond 100 strategy. As the brand defines its new direction, it's vital to be able to chart our journey to date and where the Bentley of today came from. The expanding Heritage Collection will play a key part in that process, providing driveable examples of every chapter of the company's long history. We're really looking forward to sharing the new cars with colleagues, customers, visitors and the media over the coming months," said Mike Sayer, head of Bentley's Heritage Collection.

V10 F1 demonstration. Photo: Michal Pospisil

Racing through history

The Members' Meeting, presented by Audrain Motorsport, was a weekend of motor racing, high-speed track demonstrations and fun-packed festivities. The event offers uncrowded, intimate and access to all areas, and is only open to members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club community in West Sussex.

The brand new T.33 supercar was making its very first appearance in public. In addition, as part of the festivities honouring Porsche's dominance, the formidable 956s and 962s demonstrated their abilities on the racetrack in the first of two separate events.

The sound of the V10 engines, which created the iconic soundtrack for Formula 1 throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, filled the track during the second race.

Some of the most famous drivers from the period of the V10 engine got together with up to 20 cars from the dominant manufacturers of the time, including Ferrari, McLaren and Williams. The Members' Meeting featured incredible grids of racing machines from classic tin-tops and GTs, to motorcycles and open wheeled Formula 3 and F1 machines.

Drifting skills were on show. Dominic James

The Hailwood Trophy bike race. Dominic James

Photo: Dominic James

Saturday night festivities. Photo: Drew Gibson

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