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Bentley Crewe
General information
Location Crewe, Cheshire, England
Coordinates 53°6′14.66″N 2°28′20.47″W / 53.1040722°N 2.4723528°W / 53.1040722; -2.4723528
Opening December 1937
Technical details
Structural system Steel frame/brick

Bentley Crewe serves as the headquarters, design and manufacturing centre of Bentley Motors Limited, located on the outskirts of Crewe, Cheshire, England.


In preparation for what seemed an inevitable world war, Rolls Royce and the British Government looked to build a shadow factory to ensure production of aircraft engines.[1] Crewe with its excellent transport links through both road and rail, as well as being located in the northwest away from aerial bombing runs starting in mainland Europe and having extensive local un-developed farming lands, quickly appeared a logical choice. Construction started on the potato fields of Merrill's Farm in July 1938, with the first Rolls Royce Merlin produced five months later. At its peak in 1943 during World War II, 10,000 people were employed at the factory.[2]

Car production

With the war in Europe over, production of the new jet engines was concentrated at Derby. This meant a need to find a new facility to produce motor cars, which it was decided to move to Crewe.

In 1946, the plant produced its first motor car, the Bentley Mark VI/Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Based on the short lived Mk V, it was designed by Ivan Evernden as the first ever "standard" body car, using a pressed-steel body. The most successful Bentley ever manufactured, Crewe produced more than 5,000 Mk6's, almost as many Bentleys as were made in the entire 20-year pre-war period.

Producing the Derby designed Bentley R Type until 1955, it was replaced 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, as its successor, the S2 used the Crewe designed and developed all-aluminium Rolls Royce 6.25-litre V8, which has remained in production in various forms ever since.

While the R-Type and S-Type had a series of differences between the Bentley and Rolls Royce versions, the 1965 Bentley T-series/Rolls Royce Silver Shadow was simple badge engineering to create two different branded vehicles. The only parts difference was the radiator grill, with the Bentley version using a Rolls-Royce badged engine, meaning that it sold fewer vehicles which today are hence generally worth more. The first Bentley/Rolls Royce to use a monocoque, it was also the first Bentley/Rolls Royce car to use four-wheel disc brakes.

1980's badged engineered Bentley Mulsanne/Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit was the last Bentley to under-sell its Rolls-Royce sister, as in the same year Rolls-Royce Motor Cars division was sold to Vickers plc. A business strategy was developed which focused on building up the Bentley brand, resulting in 1982's 140 miles per hour (230 km/h) Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, nicknamed the "Crewe missile" which accelerated quicker than some Ferrari's. After this point, while the sister brands may have looked similar outside, under the bonnet the Bentley's were engineered and powered for the new and emerging class of self-made business people, while the Rolls-Royce was kept squarely in the traditional realms of the gentrified land owner. 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.

1998 saw 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 powered V8. In the same year, Vickers announced its decision to sell its car making division, which included both the Bentley brand, the Crewe factory, and the licensed rights to produce cars under the Rolls-Royce brand. BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen Group expressed interested in the sale, with Volkswagen eventually outbidding BMW, while Mercedes decided to revive the Maybach-brand. However, BMW had been negotiating directly with Rolls-Royce plc, who held a clause in their licensing contract with Vickers to both retain ownership of the brand, and take the brand rights back should Vickers decide to sell the car production company. BMW hence bought the brand licensing rights directly from Rolls-Royce plc, and agreed a handover plan with Volkswagen Group until the end of 2001. In 2000, BMW's new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars division announced the building a new manufacturing plant on the historic Goodwood Estate in West Sussex.


Having been heavily under-invested 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 re-developed to allow an expansion of the Bentley brand through a series of new models. 2003's introduction of the Bentley Continental GT was to nominally 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 ft·lbf) at 1,600-6,100 rpm.[3] 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.[4] Replacing the Arnage, and using a modified V8 to meet Euro V emissions regulations,[5] the car went on sale during 2010.[6]


  1. Pugh 2000, pp. 192-198.
  2. "Crewe hirstory". Jack Barclay. Retrieved on 2010-11-19.
  3. "Bentley Continental GT specification". Retrieved on 3 September 2009.
  4. "British luxury built from the ground up". The New Zealand Herald. - APN Holdings NZ Limited (19 August 2009). Retrieved on 1 September 2009.
  5. "The New Bentley Mulsanne Launch Date Announced". Retrieved on 2010-10-02.
  6. Joseph, Noah (2009-09-24). "REPORT: Bentley Mulsanne to spawn coupe and convertible to replace Brooklands and Azure — Autoblog". Retrieved on 2010-10-02.
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