2019 Classic Car Anniversaries

2019 was a bumper year for classic car anniversaries.  Bentley celebrated 100 years and the Mini 60 years.  This blog reviews six classic cars celebrating their birthdays that have featured SMITHS instruments in the dashboards.

Bentley – 100 years

Bentley Motors Limited was founded by W. O. Bentley in Cricklewood, North London in 1919.  From the outset, Bentley developed a reputation as a supplier of high-performance luxury motor cars.  The automotive engineering excellence was never more prominent than when Bentley cars dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1924 and 1930, winning five times.

Sadly, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression stifled demand for expensive motor cars and, in 1931, Bentley was acquired by Rolls-Royce.  However, there was a great synergy between Rolls-Royce and Bentley although many critics claimed that the Bentleys were simply badge-engineered Rolls-Royces.  This did not stop author Ian Fleming choosing a 1933 grey Bentley convertible as the car of choice for James Bond.

In 1971, the Rolls-Royce group was rescued from collapse by the UK Government.  This period proved difficult for Bentley, with very low demand.  The acquisition of Rolls-Royce by Vickers in 1989 rejuvenated the Bentley brand.  The present owners are Volkswagen, who purchased the Rolls-Royce group in 1998 and have transformed the brand into a modern classic.

Mini – 60 years

The Mini is, arguably, the most popular small production car in the world.  From the outset, the Mini featured SMITHS instrumentation, which continues to be manufactured at the CAI facility near Swansea for the global network of Mini enthusiasts.

There are seven ‘classic’ Minis spanning from 1959 to 2000, from the Mark 1 to the Mark VII.  The Mini has starred in films (The Italian Job) and has had many famous owners.  In 2001, BMW relaunched the Mini, which has since reached new levels of popularity.

Austin-Healey 3000 – 60 years

Just over 42,000 Austin-Healey 3000 sports cars were produced between 1959 and 1967.  60 years later and it is now a much-desired classic car.  Incredibly, over 91% of Austin-Healey 3000s built in 1963 were destined for the USA, highlighting the demand for British-designed sports cars across the Atlantic.  The striking SMITHS instrumentation was bespoke designed for the car.

Jaguar Mk2 – 60 years

The Jaguar Mk2 has an emphatically British look and style.  Launched in 1959, the Jaguar Mk2 was very popular with nearly 84,000 cars produced up until 1967.  An appearance as the car of fictional detective Inspector Morse in 1987 introduced the car to a whole new generation of motoring enthusiasts.

As with all Jaguar classic cars, the instrumentation was provided by SMITHS. 

Rolls-Royce Phantom V - 60 years

In 1959, Rolls-Royce launched the Phantom V.  The large, ultra-exclusive, four-door saloon included a dashboard featuring gauges designed and manufactured by SMITHS Instruments.  In nine years, 516 were produced and were owned by people including British royalty and The Beatles' John Lennon.

Marcos Cars – 60 years

Marcos Cars is a sports car manufacturer with origins in North Wales.  Although the manufacturer has had a turbulent history, they produced some memorable racing cars such as the Marcos Luton Gullwing and 1800GT.  Marcos Cars was founded in 1959 by Jem Marsh and Frank Costain, but ceased trading in 1971.  They relaunched in 1981 with the Marcos V6 Couple, but again hit financial difficulties in 2000.  In 2002, Marcos Engineering revived production, lasting until October 2007.  Apart from the first Marcos car, the GT Xylon, SMITHS instruments featured in all the cars including the Luton Gullwing and Spyder.

2019 proved to be a very special year for classic cars and we look forward to the anniversary celebrations of 2020.

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Tags: Austin Healey 3000, Bentley, Classic Car, Jaguar, Jaguar Mark II, Mini,

Categories: Case Histories

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