It all started in 1912 when Walter Owen Bentley – or W.O. as he preferred to be called – went into partnership with one of his brothers to import French cars into Britain. On one of their trips to France, W.O. discovered a paperweight made of aluminium. He was intrigued by the material and wondered if it could be used in vehicle manufacture. His engineering mind took over, and he created a new alloy he thought might work – 88% aluminium and 12% copper.
Back home, W.O. set the wheels in motion for what would eventually become his legacy. He created a new, lighter piston from his new alloy for the French vehicles, which enabled them to set an 89.7mph record for a flying mile. When World War One broke out, W.O. created the BR.1 rotary aircraft engine – which led to the Sopwith Camel being the most successful British fighter aircraft in the war. He was awarded an MBE as well as a sum of £8 000 from the Commission of Awards to Inventors, which gave him the capital he needed to fulfil his dream and start his own motorcar company in 1919.
One hundred years later, we’re celebrating the centenary of Bentley Motors. All the company’s vehicles are now manufactured in a single factory in Crewe, North West England, where 4 000 extraordinary men and women put together what are arguably the world’s most luxurious sedans.
To mark this special event, and to pay homage to the founder, Bentley’s bespoke division, Mulliner, has created a rare and exceptional vehicle of which only 100 will be produced: the Bentley Mulsanne W.O. Edition. With 505hp and 735Nm of torque, power and elegance is what one can expect. This spectacular vehicle also pays tribute to designer H.J. Mulliner, who created the 1930 Bentley 8 Litre, regarded by many as the most sought-after Bentley ever produced – beautiful, powerful and way ahead of its time.
As one might expect, in the world of collectable cars, supply and demand drive price. The standard 2019 Bentley Mulsanne – an incredible vehicle in its own right – can be had for £300 000. The Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner, however, will and should cost far more. Potential buyers are being considered by application only. Thanks to the limited production numbers, this vehicle will instantly become a collector’s item.
What is it that makes a particular marque or brand of car great or stand out above the rest? In my view, it can be a few things: production consistency, company values, quality control, heritage or design. The most important factor, however, is the vehicle’s racing pedigree. In the case of Bentley, the car won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France five times in seven years during the 1920s.
Another characteristic that can make a car highly sought after is its competition heritage. An example would be if the car had been driven by a champion race car driver in any of the world’s great races: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours Nürburgring in Germany, or the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the US, also known as The Race to the Clouds. In fact, competition racers are fetching staggering prices at auctions – of the top 10 cars sold at the 2018 Sotheby’s Monterey auction, eight were competition racers, the winner being a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Do collectable cars such as the Bentley have a place in an investment portfolio? Many of the passionate collectors I’ve spoken to will most likely never sell their vehicles. This doesn’t mean, however, that they shouldn’t be considered a good investment. The reality is that as an alternative asset class, the value of classic cars will be unlocked over time, as has been proven over many decades. Careful estate planning and executorship are essential to ensure the family can continue to enjoy the benefits of owning these vehicles.
The best way to start your journey into the exciting world of classic cars is to learn as much as you can from experts and other owners of these collectables. Find out the mistakes to avoid and you could be the proud owner of one or more exceptional vehicles with provenance, valued at an excellent price.
HEAD-TURNERS AT THE KNYSNA MOTOR SHOW
The 2019 Knysna Motor Show, sponsored by Sanlam Private Wealth, will be held on Sunday 28 April on the Knysna High School sports fields on Waterfront Drive. In celebration of Bentley’s centenary, there will be no fewer than 20 of these iconic cars on view, as well as an impressive display of collectable Mercedes-Benz classics, with six 300SLs and nine 190SLs from the 1950s. Other makes to be honoured include Morgan, which celebrates 110 years in 2019, and Mini Cooper, which turns 60 this year.
Organised by the Garden Route Motor Club, the Knysna Motor Show will feature more than 400 classic cars and motorcycles of all categories. Gates will be open from 09:00 to 16:00. Tickets cost R50 at the gate.