Bentley is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its venerable V8, the longest serving engine of its type in production. Originally fitted to the S2 model of 1959, the lasting appeal of the Bentley engine is proven by its continued application today in the luxurious Mulsanne limousine.
The V8 of this engine with 35,898 produced from 1959 Designed, engineered and hand-built in Crewe, England, the latest twin-turbo version of the Bentley 6¾-litre V8 engine requires 15 hours of skilled craftsmanship to build. However, whilst every part of the original S2 engine has been re-engineered over the decades, the basic principles and dimensions that have defined the engine for the last 60 years remain the same.
The development of the first Bentley V8 engine began not long after the company moved to its current headquarters in Crewe. In the early 1950s, Jack Phillips, Senior Engine Designer, was asked to undertake a confidential study to find a replacement for the six-cylinder engine used in the Bentley Mark VI, R-Type and S1.
His brief was to build an engine that was at least 50 per cent more powerful than the six-cylinder it would eventually replace, while occupying the same space under a bonnet with no increase in weight. A ‘V’ configuration was the natural choice and it is a testament to Phillips and his team that the engine ran just 18 months after the start of the design process.
From the very beginning of production, engines were ‘run in’. They ran on a test bed for more than 500 hours at full throttle and covered hundreds of thousands of miles in real-world conditions to prove their worthiness. A department of skilled inspectors would then strip down the mechanics to ensure the highest standards were maintained.
The resulting 6.2-litre V8 engine was 30 lb lighter than the six-cylinder model. It made its debut in the Bentley S2 of 1959. The car featured air conditioning, power steering, electrically-operated ride control and press button window lifts – the most luxurious equipment for a car of that era.
Tosan Aduayi reports on motoring periodically from Dallas – firstname.lastname@example.org
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