Well this is really cool. You might think of Bentley as being rather staid and very British, but they are not opposed to doing things for the sake of style or just because it’s cool. When they ran (and won!) at Le Mans, the drivers wore all-white suits that mimicked those worn by the Bentley boys back in the 1920s. And now, members of the Bentley apprentice program have restored a historic engine as part of the company’s centenary year celebrations.
And what a beast of an engine it is!
Seriously, just look at this thing. It’s big and square and looks like something you’d see propelling the RMS Titanic and not a car. Yes, I know, given the weight and size of old Bentleys, there’s a joke to be made here about that, but I’m going to let it slide.
This is engine number 212, and although it’s early history is sort of vague, we do know the engine was owned by the Royal Artillery Corps School for over 70 years. Yeah, I know, that’s odd. I mean, what were a bunch of gunnery types doing with . . . oh, never mind. It originally sat in chassis #209, then passed to an unknown coach builder for custom bodywork. Somehow it ended up in the hands of the Royal Artillery Corps School in Bovington, Dorset in 1935. The Royal Artillery Corps used it as a training aid to teach students on the workings of the internal combustion engine.
Quite the audio/visual aid.
The Story of Engine 212
Engine 212 is a four banger with a 3.0 displacement, so that’s about a large beer can per cylinder. The mill was stripped down to the individual components, reassembled, then affixed to a purpose-built base for the centenary exhibition at Bentley’s headquarters in Crewe. The gang giving it a re-do are a group of trainee men and woman apprentices working at Bentley Motors. They spent 700 hours on the beast. To put that into perspective, that’s 17 and a half weeks of work if it were a single gearhead turning wrenches alone.
Engine No. 212 was originally built in 1923, just four years after W.O. Bentley founded the company. So think of this like Ford doing a full factory rebuild of a Model T engine with a bunch of Vo-Tech students from Detroit. Cool move chaps!
What The Bentley Apprentices Did
The apprentices handling the restoration were extremely thorough, stripping down the entire engine to individual components. The parts were photographed, bagged, numbered, cataloged, and then logged on a computer for easier reassembly. All the parts were cleaned and blasted to remove old paint. The engine was then repainted in the colors used by the Royal Artillery Corps School as recognition of their part of the engine’s history. Nice nod Bentley!
What Is The Bentley Apprentice Program?
Much like any other large company, Bentley offers a bunch of apprenticeship programs: engineering, sales, marketing, HR, purchasing, and finance just to name a few. (Yeesh, I wonder what being a bean-counter at Bentley is like?). Currently Bentley has over 130 apprentices on hand. They are all three -or four-year programs that allow a person to develop a balance of automotive skills and qualifications. The apprentices managed this entire engine restoration project themselves, including the planning, budgeting, and risk assessment.
“Everybody involved in the restoration felt privileged to be presented with an opportunity to work with such an important piece of history,” said Amy Denton, an advanced paint apprentice at Bentley Motors. “It allowed us to develop new skills and techniques which will help in our future careers.”
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.