Strive for Perfection

An extraordinary heritage

An extraordinary heritage

A group of cars parked in a room.

Boasting a comprehensive array of Bentley’s most significant models of the past 104 years, the Heritage Collection at Crewe connects the marque’s past, present and future

“If a car is locked up and undriveable, it’s no longer a car. It’s a machine without a purpose,” says Mike Sayer, Head of the Bentley Heritage Collection. “So that’s why one of the golden rules for this place is that we’re going to take these cars and register them all. The whole point of keeping the collection running is that it’s not a museum, the cars are a dynamic, usable asset that can help tell the story of the brand.”

To this end, part of the marque’s original Crewe factory site has been repurposed as a home for some of the most significant Bentley models in the company’s 104-year history. The Heritage Garage complements the existing “Lineage” exhibition in CW1 House, Bentley’s on-site showroom, providing a showcase for the 42-car-strong Bentley Heritage Collection. The Heritage Garage houses 22 cars from the collection, initially spread from 1919 onwards but eventually focusing on those models built in Crewe – everything from 1946 onwards.

The new facility means that, for the first time ever, every car in Bentley’s Heritage Collection is now kept on the company’s Crewe campus. The collection has undergone a significant development and expansion programme over the past couple of years, and now represents the entire company history.

An extraordinary heritage

A group of people looking at antique cars in a museum.
The Heritage Garage, Bentley's newest addition to its Crewe-based collection of classic models
An old green car is parked in front of a building.
The collection's 1929 Six Speed – a key chapter of the marque's prewar story
A black bentley parked next to a red car.
An elegant 1963 example of the S3 Bentley Standard Saloon
A group of bentley cars parked in a parking lot.
A 1991 Turbo R, the model that heralded the rebirth of Bentley as a sporting brand
A group of people looking at antique cars in a museum.
One of the collection's two Blowers, Team Car No. 2 – the world's most valuable Bentley
A group of cars parked in a room.
Some of the most significant models in Bentley’s history

Visitors to Crewe, whether customers, VIPs or media guests, are now able to view an unbroken chain of Bentley production models, all kept in perfect working order and road-legal condition. The plan is for the collection to be split across three different areas. Significant Cricklewood models (1919–31) and Derby-era Bentleys (1931–39) will live in a redeveloped display in CW1 House, while the Heritage Garage houses Crewe-built models. Meanwhile, the eight motorsport cars in the collection (including Speed 8s from Le Mans, Ice Speed Record and Pikes Peak cars and GT3 racers) will form a separate display.

The Heritage Garage is located within Crewe’s original 1930s brick-built factory and was previously the “project forum”, where models such as the 2003 Continental GT were planned and developed. The light and airy setting is at the heart of the factory and is visible to employees and visitors alike as they walk through the building.

As Bentley continues to evolve, the Heritage Collection plays an important role in providing a clear picture of the company’s roots and the origins of its new and future models. “Having now rebuilt the collection to fully chart our history, we have an ongoing commitment to add to it with each significant new model we launch,” says Sayer. “For example, the collection now includes the 2019 Bentayga Hybrid, which was both the first ever plug-in hybrid Bentley and an important step in our ‘Beyond 100’ strategy towards electrification.”

Every one of the 42 cars in the collection has some special significance in Bentley’s history. The Cricklewood section of the Heritage Collection contains some of the marque’s most iconic pre-war treasures. The starting point is EXP2, the second car built by WO Bentley and the oldest Bentley in the world. Two Blowers – one of them Team Car No. 2, the most valuable Bentley in existence – come next, along with a 1929 Speed Six, and the 1930 8 Litre that was WO’s personal car for two years.

Bentley’s Mark VI was both the first car to emerge from the Crewe factory and an instant sales success. The Heritage Collection example, AGO 2, is finished in two-tone green over black and provides a vital link between the 4¼-litre Embiricos of 1938 and the iconic R-Type Continental of 1952.

“Having rebuilt the collection to fully chart our history, we have an ongoing commitment to add to it with each significant new model we launch”

The Jack Phillips-designed aluminium alloy V8 engine, which made its debut in 1959, provides another important narrative link. In naturally aspirated form it powered the Heritage Collection’s elegant 1963 S3 Bentley Standard Saloon, 176 FGH, and the convertible Bentley Continental of 1984 – A455 YGJ, the chairman’s own company car.

Bentley’s sales and global fame saw a dramatic improvement when the 6.75-litre V8 was turbocharged. Examples of this powertrain in the Heritage Collection include the 1991 Turbo R and the 2001 Arnage Red Label, the first model produced under Volkswagen Group ownership. Finished in Fireglow red, Bentley’s heritage example marks one of the turning points in the company’s history.

The 6.75-litre V8 continued the Bentley tradition of effortless torque all the way through to 2020. In its final iteration as the powertrain for the Mulsanne, the V8 developed 512PS and 1020Nm of torque, for a top speed of 184mph and a 0–62mph time of 5.1 seconds. The collection’s Mulsanne was the second ever model off the production line, chassis number 000002. It is finished in Imperial Blue with an interior trimmed in Shortbread.

The Continental GT, launched in 2003, sparked a revolution for Bentley and Crewe, propelling the company from a maker of fewer than 1,000 highly coachbuilt cars a year to more than ten times that figure. The collection’s chassis number VIN 20001, a right-hand-drive model in Cypress Green, was the very first Continental GT off the Crewe production lines.

Bentley soon became as noted for the compact and immensely powerful 6.0-litre W12 engine as it had been for the 6.75-litre V8. Heritage Collection models powered by the W12 include three generations of Flying Spur and both generations of the high-performance Continental Supersports coupé. Also powered by the versatile W12 is the 2016 “first of line” Bentayga, chassis number 00001, one of the most significant models launched in Bentley’s 104-year history.

Meanwhile, the advanced Bentley 4.0-litre V8 is represented by the Continental GT V8S, launched in 2014, the first all-new Bentley V8 since the mid-1950s. An upgraded version of the 4.0-litre V8 is offered today across every Bentley model line.

“It’s vital to be able to chart our journey to date and where the Bentley of today came from,” says Sayer. “The expanding Heritage Collection will play a key part in that process, providing driveable examples of every chapter of the company’s long history.”