|Location||Crewe, Cheshire, England|
|Structural system||Steel frame/brick|
Bentley Crewe, located on the outskirts of Crewe, Cheshire, England, is the headquarters and design and manufacturing centre of Bentley Motors Limited. The site covers an area of 521,111 m² (52.1 hectares), of which 166,930 m² (16.7 hectares) is indoors.
In preparation for war, Rolls Royce and the British Government searched for a location for a shadow factory to ensure production of aero-engines. Crewe, with its excellent road and rail links, as well as being located in the northwest away from the aerial bombing starting in mainland Europe, was a logical choice. Crewe also had extensive open farming land. Construction of the factory started on a 60-acre area on the potato fields of Merrill's Farm in July 1938, with the first Rolls Royce Merlin aero-engine rolling off the production line five months later. 25,000 Merlin engines were produced and at its peak, in 1943 during World War II, the factory employed 10,000 people.
In 1946 the factory produced its first motor car, the Ivan Evernden designed Bentley Mark VI [note 1] which was based on the short lived Bentley Mark V. It was the first Bentley (or Rolls-Royce) with a standard pressed-steel body rather than different bodies designed and made by bespoke coach builders. The Bently Mark VI was the most successful Bentley ever manufactured: Crewe produced more than 5,000 Mark VIs, which equaled the total number of Bentleys made in the 20 years before World War II.
The Derby designed Bentley R Type was produced until 1955 when it was succeeded by the Bentley S1/Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, the first car wholly designed, developed, and built at Crewe. It was also the last Bentley fitted with a six-cylinder engine. Its successor, the Bentley S2, used the Crewe designed and developed 6.25-litre, all-aluminium, Rolls-Royce V8 engine, which has remained in production in various forms ever since.
R-Type and S-Type Bentleys
While the Bentley R-Type and S-Type differed significantly from the corresponding Rolls Royce models, the 1965 Bentley T-series/Rolls Royce Silver Shadow differed only in badges and radiator grills. The Bentley models even used a Rolls-Royce badged engine. As a result, fewer Bentleys were sold, making them more valuable today. The Bentley T-series/Rolls Royce Silver Shadow were the first models with monocoque construction and four-wheel disc brakes.
The 1980 badge engineered Bentley Mulsanne was the last Bentley to undersell its Rolls-Royce sister, in this case the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. When the Rolls-Royce Motor Car division was sold to Vickers plc in 1980, Bentley changed its image, resulting in the 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, nicknamed the "Crewe missile", which accelerated faster than some Ferraris. After this point, while the two marques looked similar, Bentleys were designed to appeal typically to wealthy businessmen, while Rolls-Royce maintained their appeal to the traditional wealthy. The result was a surge in Bentley sales, which by 1985, had over taken Rolls Royce sales for the first time since car production moved to Crewe.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley split
1998 brought the launch of the all-new Bentley Arnage/Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, the last dual-brand model powered by a BMW 4.5litre twin-turbo V8 engine. In the same year, Vickers announced its intention to sell its car division, which included the Bentley brand and the Crewe factory but not the Rolls-Royce brand which would again be owned by Rolls-Royce in the event of a sale. BMW, Mercedes Benz, and the Volkswagen Group expressed interest, but Volkswagen eventually outbid BMW, while Mercedes withdrew, instead deciding to revive the Maybach brand for their luxury cars. However, BMW did buy the Rolls-Royce brand name from Rolls-Royce. They also agreed with the Volkswagen Group a handover plan, which would complete at the end of 2001. In 2000, BMW's new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars division announced that they would build a manufacturing plant on the historic Goodwood Estate in West Sussex.
Having been heavily underinvested for some time, Volkswagen Group invested £500M in the two years after its takeover of the Crewe plant. It also revived development on the Rolls-Royce V8 which it owned the rights to, resulting in the sub-division of the Bentley Arnage into the Green-label (powered by the BMW V8), and the Red-label (powered by the redeveloped RR V8). Very quickly the Red-label out sold the Green-label, and resulted in Volkswagen further developing the engine. Today's version shares no components with the original version used in the S1, but shares its lineage and is according to director of engineering Dr Ulrich Eichhorn:
Today’s V8 is a descendant of the 1959 engine but massively improved. It now has over 100 percent more power, over 100 percent more torque, 40 percent less fuel consumption and produces 99.5 percent fewer emissions.
With the end of production of Rolls-Royce badged cars in 2002, the factory was redeveloped to allow an expansion of the Bentley brand through a series of new models. 2003's introduction of the Bentley Continental GT was nominally to replace the previous Rolls-Royce-based Continental R and T, but was the first Bentley-only developed vehicle since the merging of the brands in 1931. Equipped with a 5,998 cubic centimetres (366.0 cu in) (6.0 litre) twin-turbocharged W12 engine, which produces a DIN-rated motive power output of 560 metric horsepower (412 kW; 552 bhp) at 6,100 rpm, and torque of 650 newton metres (479 lbf⋅ft) at 1,600 rpm. Torsen-based permanent four-wheel drive is standard, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour (0.0 to 62.1 mph) in 4.8 seconds, and go on to reach a top speed of 318 kilometres per hour (197.6 mph). 2005 saw the introduction of the 4 door derived version, the Continental Flying Spur. Due to a lack of capacity at the Crewe upon the car's introduction, some Flying Spurs destined for markets other than the USA and UK were built at Volkswagen's Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany. This arrangement ended in 2006, when all assembly work reverted to Crewe.
Unveiled at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the Bentley Mulsanne is notable as the first flagship car to be independently designed by Bentley Motors in nearly 80 years; the last being W.O. Bentley's iconic 8 litre model in 1930. Replacing the Arnage, and using a modified V8 to meet Euro V emissions regulations, the car went on sale during 2010.
- An almost identical body was used some years later for the first standard steel Rolls-Royce, their Silver Wraith
- Pugh 2000, pp. 192-198.
- "Bentley Crewe History 1914 - 2006". Jack Barclay. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Markus, Frank. "Bentley Continental GT specification". Car and Driver. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
- "British luxury built from the ground up". The New Zealand Herald. NZherald.co.nz - APN Holdings NZ Limited. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
- "The New Bentley Mulsanne Launch Date Announced". Carpages.co.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
- Joseph, Noah (24 September 2009). "REPORT: Bentley Mulsanne to spawn coupe and convertible to replace Brooklands and Azure — Autoblog". Autoblog.com. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2010.