Bentley Motors. The name has hung on the front of the headquarters at Crewe since BMW's ownership of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars left the Volkswagen-owned brand with the resources and facilities in the North West.
Now, 25 years after my car was hand-built there I decided it was time to take the long journey back to see how things have changed since the German owners separated the top luxury brands in automotive.
The factory was established in the 1930s (when Bentleys were being built in Derby) to produce aircraft engines and the first Rolls-Royce Merlin engine was produced in Crewe at the end of 1938. At the factory's peak in 1943 it employed 10,000 people, but didn't build cars until after the Second World War.
The first motor car to be built at Crewe left the factory gates in 1946 (the Mark VI) and the R-Type followed and was built at the plant until 1955. The R-Type led to the introduction of the Continental variant - an aluminium-bodied streamlined coupé with coachwork by Mulliner.
It has higher gearing and could reach 100mph in third gear, with almost 120mph possible in fourth gear.
After a tour of the factory where assembly of the latest Flying Spur was underway, alongside the Continental GT, a 1954 R-Type was waiting for a trip out to lunch.
This almost perfect example is worth perhaps £750,000 and has tripled in value during the last five years. This one was sourced in Switzerland and bought by Bentley Motors in 2003 for £100,000.
It's 4.7-litre straight six engine produces 172bhp at 3,800rpm aided by twin SU carburettors. Only 207 R-Type Continentals were built, and just 15 of those were by a coachbuilder other than Mulliner (six Park Ward, three Graber, five Franay and one Pininfarina).
This one had red leather bucket seats (no seatbelts) and room inside for four well-heeled adults. Long, even by today's luxury car standard, the Continental measured more than 17ft long (5,240mm).
It was perhaps the most special car I've ever had the good fortune to travel in, and although its performance and refinement had less impact now than in the 1950s it felt every inch the pinnacle of automotive luxury.
The stop off before returning to HQ was Bentley's parts storage facility in Orion Park. More of this in a later blog.
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