Oldest Bentley Returned to Isle of Man

Bentley EXP2 Returned to Isle of Man

The oldest Bentley in the world – the EXP2 – returned to the Isle of Man last weekend, marking 100 years since it helped win the 1922 Isle of Man TT team trophy. It was joined by 77 other Bentleys and period-appropriate competitors to pay tribute to a racing circuit that is arguably one of the most challenging in the world.

The morning of June 25 saw all 78 Bentleys gathered together on the Douglas promenade, forming one of the largest displays of Bentley 3-Liter models ever assembled. We estimate that the entire collection of cars on display would be worth roughly $50,000,000. This was a rare opportunity for the public to get a close look at such a varied and valuable group of classic British sports cars.

The following morning, June 26, the 78 Bentleys formed up in the pit lane, along with the race-winning 1922 Sunbeam, in preparation for a parade lap that was to begin at 2:00 PM local time. In near perfect symmetry the skies opened up just as they did 100 years ago, with heavy rain and strong winds uncomfortable, to the the least, driving conditions for the owners and drivers of the classic race cars.

Fortunately, the clouded receded and the winds calmed down – unlike the race in 1922 – and the parade lap began with a police escort that lead the cars through the towns, mountains, and famed corners of the challenging circuit. The weather clearing up provided a chance for spectators to take in some of the earliest Bentleys built as they completed the lap around the island, all 78 of them returning to the pit lane over 90 minutes.

The EXP2 was the second Bentley ever produced and the first to win a race, taking victory at Brookslands on May 16, 1921. Following that win, W.O. Bentley entered three 3-Liter cars in the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man, a race that covered 302 miles in the aforementioned terrible weather. Drive Frank Clement, winner of the race at Brooklands, finished 2nd in the TT, closely followed by the other two Bentleys, winning the team victory and giving showing the potential Bentley had for the upcoming 24 hour race in Le Mans. By 1925 John Duff took 21 world records in a 3-Liter over 24 hours, with the 4.5-Liter Bentleys going on to win Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.

When W.O. Bentley founded his company in 1919 he spent two years developing the chassis and engine of the first production model, the 3-Liter of which 1,622 examples were built between 1921 and 1929. The key to developing the first production Bentleys were the Experimentals, or the EXPs. While EXP1 seems to have been lost to time, EXP2 is the oldest Bentley in existence and a fitting tribute to the 100th anniversary of the team win at the Isle of Man TT.

Bentley owners traveled the world over to remember the marque’s 1922 victory, with some visiting from as far away as New Zealand, America, and Switzerland. It was a memorable event for everyone lucky enough to attend and is likely the most significant gathering of classic Bentleys ever assembled.