The phrase ‘Racing Bentleys’ brings to mind the manufacturer’s GT3 cars or the Le Mans prototype Speed 8.
Video: Meet EXP2, the oldest racing Bentley in the world
But cast your eyes back a century, and you’ll find the forebearer of the modern motor – the 1919 Bentley EXP2. The second Bentley ever to be built, the first to win a race, and now the oldest surviving example, EXP 2 is symbolic of the manufacturer’s innovative and successful racing heritage.
EXP stood for experimental – the prefix given by Bentley to its pre-production models – and 2 denoted its position in the manufacturing order.
Built at Bentley’s then new works in Cricklewood, north London and fitted with an aluminium, two-seater body, EXP 2 featured an innovative 3-litre monobloc engine, with four valves per cylinder, twin spark plugs and twin magnetos. Later, this engine was replaced with a 3-litre TT racing engine, and then production engine no. 144 in 1921. It was rebodied in March 1921.
Weighing 680kg and making 175bhp, EXP 2 boasted an impressive top speed of 79mph, combining speed with reliability.
In all of its guises it proved incredibly successful, and during its career, EXP 2 amassed 11 wins and 7 second places – a feat almost unheard of in the ‘20s. The ‘works’ car recorded Bentley’s debut race victory at Brooklands on May 16, 1921, with Frank Clement at the wheel, before winning again at the June 1921 Brooklands meeting.
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