The Bentley Arnage Engine Saga

The ownership changes of famous marque of cars can be a little baffling at times. In 1980 Rolls-Royce motors was bought by Vickers; but by 1998 the Crewe factory, together with the rights not only to build the Spirit of Ecstasy but also the copyright of the Rolls-Royce grill were in the hands of Volkswagen.

To complicate matters though the Rolls-Royce trade name – as well as it's logo – was sold to BMW. This meant of course that Volkswagen may have thought that they could build a Rolls-Royce, but they couldn't.

But then, neither could BMW, because what is a Rolls-Royce without it's distinctive grille? The compromise was necessary and eventually it was agreed that Volkswagen would have the right to continue building Rolls Royces for the time being, but the marque would revert to BMW, whilst Volkswagen could then build Bentleys. Are you still with me so far?

All this political pushing and pulling was having a bad effect on sales of both Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. By 1994 Vickers had decided to buy engines from BMW but this company was hinting that if VW bought the company it would stop providing it with engines. This was quite unsettling for potential buyers who were worrying about the future spares situation.

When the Arnage was first launched in 1998 it had a 32 valve BMW twin turbocharged 6.75 litre V8 engine. Bentley responded to the threat of lack of availability of engines by resurrecting a 16 valve single turbocharged 6.75 pushrod operated engine, originally designed for the Turbo R; this was not an improvement since the engine was heavy, which necessitated firming up the body and fitting bigger brakes and wheels. Despite these measures braking efficiency suffered, and the older engine not only drank more fuel but also created more emissions, which meant that some drastic alterations had to be made, which resulted in a reduction in power. This version was launched as the Red Label.

At the same time Bentley made modifications to the BMW engine and this was launched as the Green Label. This was a superior machine altogether to the Red Label. It was not only lighter, giving a better weight distribution and therefore better steering, but it was also more powerful, more responsive, more reliable and as it proved many years later, longer lasting.

Nevertheless the Red Label has it's fans since there are those who consider that a Bentley should only have a British built engine; they are entitled to their opinion but there is no doubting the superiority of the more modern BMW unit.

To be fair numerous improvements were made to Bentley's own engine over the coming years so that just about everything was changed by the time the car was coming to the end of it's production run in 2009.Prior to that this good solid luxurious car went through numerous engineering improvements and changes to the bodywork and although corrosion was an issue on earlier models rust proofing improved considerably on later ones. It was very well received by the motoring press which could only criticise the cost of both buying it and running it; the appearance, performance and comfort receive little or no criticism!

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