Bentley has celebrated 100 years to the day of their first race victory. In celebration of the achievement, Bentley brought out the winning car itself, known as EXP2, to lead a parade of 3-Liter Bentleys at the Brooklands Racetrack in Surrey.
EXP2 is the second car that W.O. Bentley company ever constructed. Manufactured in 1921, it is the oldest Bentley in the world.
24 3-liter cars from across the country gathered at the remaining section of the banked Brooklands circuit where it achieved its first win back on May 16, 1921.
“Motorsport success is a huge part of Bentley’s heritage, as it is for the Bentley Drivers Club. We were, therefore, determined to mark the centenary of the first Bentley racing win on 16 May 1921 at Brooklands on the very same date this year with the actual car, EXP2 itself, kindly provided by Bentley Motors.”
Bentley Drivers’ Club Chairman, Richard Parkinson
EXP2 claimed victory in the Whitsun Junior Sprint Handicap with ‘works’ driver Frank Clement behind the wheel. It was the first of many victories for the 3-liter model culminating in two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – first in 1924 with Clement and John Duff behind the wheel, and once more in 1927. In addition, Duff also used a 3-liter in 1925 to capture 21 world records over a period of 24 hours.
For Bentley, the early victories of the 3-liter embedded motorsport in the company’s foundation as well as enabling greater than 1,600 3-liter units to be manufactured and sold.
EXP2 – The Oldest Bentley in the World
Upon founding the company in 1919, W.O. Bentley took two years to develop the engine and chassis for his first production model: the 3-liter, in which the company ended up producing 1,622 units from 1921 to 1929.
The Experimentals, or EXPs for short, were key to their development program. The first was EXP1, which was the first car to carry the Bentley badge. Unfortunately, EXP1 has been lost to history with the possibility that the EXP1 was cannibalized to make the other EXPs. The second vehicle, EXP2, is considered to be the oldest Bentley in existence.
Originally, the EXP2 was created with a plain two-seat body, to serve as a development testbed for the chassis and engine. Later on, it was rebodied with a dark red bodywork as well as an aluminum bonnet, created by coachbuilders JH Easter of Chagford Street.
The EXP2’s first race was held just nine days before it took its first win. On May 7, 1921, Frank Clement drove it at Brooklands, but it failed to finish. The next weekend, the EXP2 brushed off the ill-luck of the first race and took to the track again, though this time claiming its first victory.
For two years, the EXP2 served a dual purpose of development testing and racing.
25 years ago, the example had a complete rebuild to bring it back to its original specification. It is, unsurprisingly, one of the most important cars in the Bentley Heritage Collection.