Earliest Bentley In Existence Returns To Isle Man To Celebrate Centenary Of Team Victory


Bentley took the EXP2, the oldest Bentley still in existence, to the Isle of Man last weekend to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first team victory at the island’s famed Tourist Trophy race.

The EXP2 was an instant success, leading the first event it ever entered (in 1921) before dropping out due to mechanical gremlins—it was, after all, an experimental car. It returned seven days later to the same track (Brooklands) and took victory at the hands of Frank Clement.

The victory emboldened W.O. Bentley, the company’s founder, who decided to enter the car (and two others) into the Isle of Man TT, which took place on June 22, 1922. He, along with Clement and Douglas Hawkes each ran a car at the 302 mile (486 km) event that was marked by its terrible weather.

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Although a Sunbeam ended up winning the race, Clement’s Bentley came second, followed closely by the others, and that was enough for the team win. It also proved the cars’ mettle and, at the hands of John Duff, a 3-Litre Bentley would set 21 world records over the course of the 24-hour race at Le Mans in 1925.

And it was that early success that Bentley celebrated last weekend when the EXP2 and 77 other Bentleys and period competitors returned to the Isle of Man to pay homage to the famous Tourist Trophy.

Taken together, the period racers are estimated to have been worth £40 million (US$48.4 million at current exchange rates) and some owners came from as far afield as Switzerland, America, and New Zealand to take part in the event. At 2:00 p.m., the cars gathered in the pit lane with the 1922 TT winning Sunbeam for a parade lap of the track and all 78 cars finished the lap successfully, no small feat or 100-year-old cars.

Although not the first Bentley ever built, the EXP2, as the name suggests, is the second vehicle the company made after its founding in 1919. The followup to the EXP1, which it is suspected was cannibalized in order to make later experimental models, the car was first intended as a test bed for Bentley’s very advanced 3.0-liter engine.

Since there was no better way to test cars at the time than racing, EXP2 was quickly entered into racing and continued competing until 1923, when it was sold. Bentley eventually got hold of the car and, 25 years ago, completed a thorough restoration, returning it to original spec. The prize of the Bentley Heritage Collection, EXP2 still drives to this day, celebrating the brand’s 100 years of engineering acumen.


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