Early Bentley engine restored for the marque’s centenary

| 23 Oct 2019

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This 96-year-old Bentley engine has been rebuilt by apprentices at the firm’s Crewe HQ as part of the marque’s centenary celebrations.

And how better to fire the imagination of trainees and encourage a fresh generation of classic-car enthusiasts than by getting hands-on with a piece of history?

Over 700 hours, the team has painstakingly brought this 1923 3-litre, four-cylinder unit back to life, stripping it down to its component parts.

Each item was then photographed, bagged and logged, then cleaned prior to recommissioning and reassembly.

The apprentices also designed and crafted the plinth on which the engine is now displayed, the supporting legs of which are inspired by the original car’s chassis.

The engine in question is number 212, originally paired to chassis 209 before going to an unknown coachbuilder who fitted the bodywork.

Eventually, this engine was passed on to the Royal Artillery Corps School in Bovington, Dorset, where it was used from 1935 onwards as a training aid to teach students about the workings of the internal combustion engine – so you could say it has come full circle. 

Its restoration to the colours used by the Royal Artillery Corps School is in recognition of that part of its history.

The Royal Artillery Corps returned the engine to Bentley in 2011, where it’s been stored until this project kicked off.

The entire project, including budgeting, planning and risk assessment, was managed by the apprentices.

“Everybody involved in the restoration felt privileged to be presented with an opportunity to work with such an important piece of history. It allowed us to develop new skills and techniques which will help in our future careers,” said Amy Denton, an advanced paint apprentice at Bentley Motors.

“We completed the assembly on time and transported it to the centenary event in Crewe where it was displayed next to a current W12 engine, clearly showing how far Bentley’s superlative engines have advanced over the last 100 years.”


Check out our Bentley special issue

Bentley at 100: Driving the first ‘Blower’ Bentley

Tackling the Mille Miglia in a Blower Bentley