Micropost: The Brunei Bentleys

The Sultan of Brunei was a fan of the storied British marque.

Bentley B3. Image: drivetribe.com

In the closing decade of the last century, Bentley’s most important and valuable customer was His Majesty, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei. With a net worth estimated to be around $28 Billion, the Sultan is one of the World’s richest men. He has been absolute ruler of the tiny but very wealthy sultanate since succeeding his father, who abdicated in October 1967. Now 74 years old, the Sultan has been a controversial ruler and is responsible for much repressive legislation in Brunei. That is, of course, a subject for discussion and debate elsewhere.

Today, we take a look at some of the bespoke Bentleys based on the Continental R that formed part of what was once one of the largest private car collections in the world, amassed by the Sultan and his brother, Prince Jefri. It is thought that the collection once numbered around 2,500 vehicles, but many have since been disposed of or allowed to rot following a financial and reputational crisis that engulfed the royal family.

It is thought that the Sultan ordered around 240 bespoke Bentleys throughout the 1990’s, around 200 of which were based on the Continental R. Some of these actually predated and anticipated production models, such as the 1994 Supershort, which was the basis for the 1996 Continental T, and the 1993 Convertible, on which the 1995 Azure was based.

Bentley Buccaneer. Image: rrsilverspirit.com

There were four-door saloons in three sizes; a standard-wheelbase version, a long-wheelbase version with a 4” (100mm) stretch in the rear door, and an extra-long Limousine version with a 17” (432mm) fixed panel and glazing between the front and rear doors. These bespoke models were not one-offs in most cases. A total of 43 saloons were provided, nineteen SWB, twenty LWB and four limousine versions. There was also a five-door Sports Estate derivative, of which thirty were supplied, including six armour-plated versions

All of the above cars were recognisably based on the Continental R and retained the front-end styling of the donor car. There were also a number of models that were completely rebodied, with names that ranged from the mundane B2 and B3 to the rather more imaginative, such as Imperial, Spectre, Monte Carlo, Grand Prix and Buccaneer. In design terms, these are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.” In other words, the designs were of highly variable quality.

Bentley Grand Prix. Image: rrsilverspirit.com

Limitations of space prevent us from including photos of all these creations, and the photos available online are of variable quality, but if you would like to explore further, please visit this fascinating website and scroll down to the section titled ‘Brunei Models’.

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

11 thoughts on “Micropost: The Brunei Bentleys”

  1. The Buccaneer looks a bit like a preview of VW Continentals models. Although it seems much lighter and more visually compact. The first Continental by VW was always very heavy to my eye, especially proportions were not right for big personal coupe in my opinion. 90’s continental was much better in this department, it looked lighter even if it was actually much bigger car. The 2011 facelift has greatly improved Continental’s appearance in my opinion.

    The Grand Prix on the other hand looks like a not-so-successful kit car, which shows that Bentley didn’t have much resources for real bespoke designs.

    1. Hi Stradale. I’ve fixed the broken photo link in your post.🙂

  2. Here’s another Brunei beauty, the Highlander:

    It looks like a mutated Jaguar of some sort.

    1. Wow, it’s very… 90’s. I actually think that back then a lot of people would like it. 90’s design for me was a bit like going back to 50’s design forms (mostly British of Italian), but without caring about overall proportions and size of the car. Everything looked a bit blobby because of that. It looks like luxury version of 1996 Taurus 😉

    2. Gosh, it’s a dead ringer for the Taurus:

      I knew I’d seen something very similar, but couldn’t place it. Well observed, Kamil. 👍

    3. Curiously, the first thought that crossed my mind was, “first-gen Passat CC”. Curious, because it doesn’t resemble it in any of its details! The Taurus and Jaguar comparisons seem apt. Maybe it has a sort of tabula rasa quality to it, where we each project onto it a reflection of our own experienced carscapes? (Better stop, I’m started to sound like an undergraduate lit. crit. exercise here!)

  3. The Buccaneer could have done with more refining, otherwise like the Java, Rapier and Dominator despite the latter three being based on the BMW 5-Series and Range Rover respectively.

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