EXP 2, the oldest remaining Bentley, is still a driver — ready to take on the challenging Isle of Man TT Circuit 100 years after its first visit.
The oldest Bentley in the world has returned to the Isle of Man to celebrate 100 years since it was part of the team that showed up and won the RAC Tourist Trophy race way back in 1922. The party included 77 other classic Bentley models and a lap around the circuit that has barely changed over those 100 years.
In 1919, W.O. Bentley founded the company that bears his name. His goal was to develop cars using the same ideas for aluminum pistons he came up with during the first World War.
It took 2 years for Bentley to develop an engine and chassis for the first production model. Called the 3-Litre, it was built from 1921 through 1929. Part of the development process saw the construction of EXP (Experimental) 1 and EXP 2, as well as later development cars.
Second Bentley Built Is Oldest Remaining
Even Bentley no longer knows the fate of EXP 1, saying it may have been cannibalized to build the later EXP models. The company does know exactly where EXP 2 is.
After 2 years of testing and racing, the car was sold. Decades later, around the turn of this century, Bentley completely rebuilt EXP 2, and it became part of the automaker’s Heritage Collection.
EXP 2 was the first Bentley to notch a race win. With Frank Clement behind the wheel at the Brooklands Circuit, the car earned that victory in May 1921.
Team Effort Grabbed 1922 Tourist Trophy
In June the following year, Bentley decided to enter three of his 3-Litre models at the RAC Tourist Trophy. Don’t confuse that race with the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.
That motorcycle madhouse around the island is its most famous race. But in 1914 and again in 1922, the RAC Tourist Trophy was held on the same 37.7-mile circuit of public roads.
While none of the Bentleys took first place on the track, that there were three of them helped Bentley to win the combined team event. There were only five finishing entries, after all. Bentley the company says that this was the push for Bentley the man to send the cars to Le Mans for that 24-hour race.
EXP 2 wasn’t actually used in the race; rather, it was used to help the team’s drivers practice and prepare on the TT circuit leading up to the event.
Massive Gathering Marks 100 Years
To celebrate, 78 Bentley vehicles showed up on June 25. Bentley calls this “one of the largest static displays of Bentley 3-Litre models ever seen.” It’s hard to imagine more of the cars together at any other time, past or present. Bentley estimated the value of the car show at more than $48 million — enough to make any insurer cringe.
There was more than just a static show. On June 26, the big group of Bentleys joined up with another group of period competitors. Including the 1922 Sunbeam that was the first to cross the finish line back that same year.
The day started with heavy rain and wind, just like 100 years prior. Unlike the first time, the weather improved. And so, the group of cars took a 90-minute parade lap of the full circuit with a police escort through the villages, mountains, and roads of the Isle of Man circuit.
We’re not sure if they would have been so keen to take these priceless cars around the island in the rain, though we hope they would have.