Article first published in Forbes Monaco September/October 2020 issue.
As Covid continues to disrupt air travel, Bentley makes a road trip a cool alternative. And the journey begins in Cheshire.
With the U.S. imposing a 14-day quarantine from travelers from Europe, many local Americans had to cancel their annual stateside vacation, opting instead to stick close to home as the uncertainty of coronavirus continues to restrict our movements.
On the upside, confinement is in the rear view mirror, and Bentley has delivered its new Continental GT V8 Convertible, joining its W12-powered sibling.
Out on the open coastal roads the Continental GT Convertible’s muscular proportions and sharp, sculptural lines need no social distancing from high performance with exceptional handling and refinement in all road conditions.
“A convertible Bentley is the ultimate romantic Grand Tourer,” says Bentley Head of Interior Design, Darren Day, adding that at a speed of up to 50 km/h, the roof sweeps open in just 19 seconds.
The Z-fold roof insulating materials and operating mechanism have created a Convertible Grand Tourer with a three-decibel (50%) reduction in overall noise levels compared to its predecessor at typical cruising speeds.
Laminated acoustic glass for the windscreen and side windows gives a -9 dbA (88%) improvement at an audio frequency of 3.15 Khz (the typical frequency of passing car noise) and an optional, removable wind break reduces turbulent airflow in the front cabin for all- season open-top Grand Touring.
Seats feature integrated neck warmers that waft warm air across the neck and shoulders. Three-mode heated seats, a heated hand-stitched steering wheel and heated armrests provide warm, soft-touch leather surfaces.
Seven exterior roof colors, including a new option of traditional British tweed, along with eight interior roof liner finishes and up to 56 individual combinations, can be chosen to suit any owner’s specification.
Every Bentley is as individual as the owner. The British manufacturer of the world’s widest range of handcrafted cars takes personalized luxury to a new level for drivers. At the £25 million production facilities—aka the Body in White workshop—in Crewe, Cheshire, a car’s 400 hour journey to completion begins. 570 kg of steel and aluminum will come together by 83 Bentley employees working by hand and by eye, the master metalworkers expertly complete hundreds of meters of welding and 5,800 individual welds.
Every aspect of the car comes together inside the main assembly hall, where 702 Bentley employees operate from two lines, one for the Bentayga and one for Continental and Flying Spur models. (The flagship Mulsanne is hand built in a separate assembly area.) When all the elements—fitted dashboards; married engines; iconic matrix grill united with the front fenders; wheels attached; windscreens bonded; and seats inserted—come together by hand, each car is then checked by eye for quality against a 500-650 point checklist.
Some 3,000 bull hides are used every week in Bentley’s Leather Workshop and the contrast stitching alone takes anywhere between 20 and 40 hours to complete.
Not all checks can take place while the car is stationary, so each undergoes a four-mile drive on a rolling road, and 14 miles on the Cheshire roads around the factory, where specialists listen and feel for sounds and vibrations to ensure the character is absolutely right.
To ensure the car is completely watertight, each car undergoes the “monsoon test”—1,820 liters of water tinted with a trace of UV dye sprayed on the car before it is thoroughly checked under UV light.
Loyalists to the luxury brand are familiar with the history of engine production at the Bentley Pyms Lane factory, where around 26 thousand Merlin Engines were produced between 1938 and 1945. Today Bentley is the world’s largest producer of the W12 engine for the Volkswagen Group for all W12 engine production since the end of 2014.
Every car’s 400-hour journey to completion begins at Bentley’s Crewe, Cheshire, factory.
The heart of each Bentley is the engine, and each one is handcrafted. Every single component of the 63⁄4-litre twin-turbo V8 and 6-litre W12 is selected and installed by hand by a small team of dedicated engine technicians. The key internal components are individually chosen to form a matching, balanced set so that the engine runs perfectly smoothly—a skill that takes years to perfect.
Is it any wonder that the polished and perfected Continental GT Convertible is the pinnacle of open-top luxury motoring? No mask necessary.