Coach Class

As with most endeavours, even Italian post-war coachbuilding, there is no failsafe recipe for success. Particularly when illustrious British marques are involved. 

Bentley T1 Speciale, commissioned from Pininfarina in 1968 by British industrialist, Lord Hanson. (c) bonhams

From today’s perspective, it’s all too easy to get misty-eyed when recalling rather more halcyon periods in the evolution of the bespoke luxury automobile. For today’s coachbuilt cars seem to offer rather less grace than the standard vehicles they are based upon, thus underlining that rarity is no quality in itself. Yet even in the autumn days of traditional coachbuilding, when the arrival of the monocoque body had already spelled the end of the industry as it had existed in its heyday, not every sheetmetal change was for the better.

Not even in the case of Pininfarina, whose reputation surely requires no further elaboration here. The Hanson Pininfarina-bodied Bentley T1 coupé, unveiled in 1968, should have been a delightful cocktail of Anglo-Saxon formal and Italianate casual elegance. Clearly, the intention behind its appearance was to Continue reading “Coach Class”

Acceptable in the 80’s

Forty years since the launch of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and its siblings; time to reassess the marque’s least loved car.

1980 RR Silver Spirit/ Spur. (c) cars addiction

The late 1970’s was a challenging time for Rolls-Royce Motors. The company had been floated off in 1973 at the insistence of the British Government which, two years earlier, had rescued its parent company, the eponymous aero engine manufacturer, from bankruptcy and wanted it now to Continue reading “Acceptable in the 80’s”

Wide of the Marque

If the recent demise of the Bentley Mulsanne proves anything, it is that engineering expertise and bespoke craftsmanship alone do not make an ultimate luxury car.

(c) topspeed

As lapses in the exercise of due diligence go, the 1998 acquisition of Rolls-Royce Motors by the Volkswagen Group takes some beating. The maker of Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars had been hived off from the eponymous aero engine manufacturer in 1973, following its rescue and nationalisation by the UK government two years earlier. Rolls-Royce Motors was then purchased by UK engineering group Vickers in 1980.

Vickers’ core business was in defence and marine engineering and its new trophy asset became more of a liability as the costs of keeping pace at the pinnacle of automotive engineering grew ever greater. During the late 1990’s BMW supplied engines and other technology to Rolls-Royce Motors. When Vickers put the company on the block, the Bavarians appeared to Continue reading “Wide of the Marque”

This Elegance

Plus ça change… Bentley introduces a more heavily revised Bentayga than previously imagined. It’s both better and worse than before.

(c) tflcar

Successful products tend to be characterised by a number of factors: A fitness for the intended purpose, a sense that their intrinsic qualities are worth the outlay, and an essential honesty to their form, position and remit. Bentley’s Bentayga SUV has been a commercially successful product for the desired British luxury carmaker, with over 20,000 built since its less than rapturous introduction in 2015. Certainly the Crewe-based carmaker’s press release makes much of it being the market leader in its sector, but given that Bentley trades upon exclusivity, one must question whether this is something necessarily to boast about?

Nevertheless, Crewe has achieved this feat seemingly, by Continue reading “This Elegance”

Precious Metal

These days, coachbuilding usually acts as a euphemism for customised luxury vehicles of exceedingly high monetary and bafflingly dubious aesthetic value. Usually, but not always.

(c) motorauthority

Limited editions are all about chintzy brass plates and certificates printed onto vellum-look paper. While they may provide a draw to adolescent collectors of action figurines or collectible cards, to today’s class of the super rich, they’re a joke not even worth telling. Or at least one would think so.

In the car industry, a decade-long focus on offering increasingly high levels of customisation options in almost every class of automobile has resulted in a huge spread of personalisation. Just as the number of (non-SUV) body styles has decreased, the availability of customisation options has manifolded. This makes it increasingly more difficult for the luxury wheat to Continue reading “Precious Metal”

Lost In Translation

Crewe over-eggs the pudding.

(c) Autocar

Whilst the maker upon the end of this particular skewer cannot be held responsible for the quietening of the world, they’ve hardly brought anything positive to the table of late either. Values, like fashion and opinions, can change rapidly, and not always for the better. In a world obsessed by communication, attempting to Continue reading “Lost In Translation”

Aqua Calder

Admission time: Our South Yorkshire scribe admits to plutocratic leanings. Don’t judge him too harshly.  

(c) preowned.bentleymotors.com.

Guilty pleasures: We all have them but usually they’re tucked away deep – embarrassment or face-saving proving too strong a reason for them to flourish. Only recently, my guarding firewall gave way, allowing a fissure to appear and hotter temperatures to rise, potentially leaving me well and truly in hot water. If only with the DTW readership.

Being neither plutocrat nor a continent crosser, what drives this inner desire I crave for luxury motoring? Can anyone Continue reading “Aqua Calder”

The Beat Goes On

Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.

The gentleman in the red jacket points out the part that matters, photo (c) Auto, Motor & Sport

The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”

Rathcahir’s Folk Would Withold Even A Grain Of Truth

We return once more to my desperate attempt to make design semantics interesting to people outside the design profession.

1970 Bentley T-1**: source

Far from being a distant irrelevance to those practicing design, researchers cotton on to things which merely take time to be understood.  If we are wondering today why current design is so over-wrought, there are those to whom this will not be a surprise.  Should you be so diligent as to

Continue reading “Rathcahir’s Folk Would Withold Even A Grain Of Truth”

Micropost: Solution to the So 1998 Puzzle

Thank you, readers for engaging with the puzzle I set during the summer and which I have so far neglected to return to. Relief is at hand!

1996 Opel Calibra: source

The question was “What is the connection between the Opel Vectra “A” and the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph?” If you wish to find out the answer you must Continue reading “Micropost: Solution to the So 1998 Puzzle”

Inflammatory Writ

Every story needs an origin fable. Today, we look to a time before the light, when darkness cloaked the earth and the ground trembled beneath the wheels of the Dominator.

1996 Bentley Dominator. Image credit: (c) Motor 1

In the beginning the Lord created Cayenne. And the Lord saw that it was good, and he blessed it and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it”, and it was so. And lo, as the profits had foreseen, Cayenne begat Bentayga  who begat Urus, who begat Cullinan. And the Lord looked upon his works, and he was pleased.

On the seventh day, the Lord was tired, and he thought; “a little nap wouldn’t kill me” And so, the Lord slept but while he slumbered, the confounded things proliferated like the seven plagues, so when the Lord awoke, he was greatly vexed and rent his garment. And the Lord wailed, “what have I done?”

Most ideas appear good in isolation. It’s only when they are tested in real world conditions that one can Continue reading “Inflammatory Writ”

The Gongoozler

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Octane. The edition lay around the house and I dipped into it at various moments. What did I discover?

Octane, Feb 2018

Tuesday, in the railstation I saw Octane and bought it along with the Interntional New York Times. I felt I needed to read more text on paper. The cover story first attracted my attention, a very Octane style of article where they discuss several generations of the same car. The first copy of Octane I bought, about eight years ago, dealt with the Maserati QP. This edition put the Bentley Continental under the spotlight. The cover showed a 1952 R-Type Fastback, the 2004 Continental and its successor.

I have to credit Octane for Continue reading “The Gongoozler”

Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento

Bentley’s Bentayga SUV turned out to be an instant smash sales success. Yet the car that was intended to preview it was not only met with fright – it also cost its chief designer his job. 

bentley-exp-9-f-suv-concept-photo-453675-s-986x603
Dirk’s swansong, photo (c) Car and Driver

Dirk van Braeckel’s career at Volkswagen had been one of sustained corporate ladder climbing. Having joined VAG’s Audi branch in 1984, he rose through the ranks at Ingolstadt, before being chosen to help re-launch the much-maligned Škoda brand. He did as he was asked with some aplomb, leading to a generation of Škodas that were not just competently styled, but, more importantly, conveyed a sense of thorough quality.

With hindsight, this first generation of VAG-engineered Octavia, Fabia and Superb models must be considered as conservative, competent, long-lasting pieces of design which stood the test of time without anyone really noticing. Continue reading “Dirk’s Demise vs Luc’s Lamento”

Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?

Among the numerous small obsessions nurtured, nay, incubated at DTW is a concern for brightwork. Here’s another example of the art:

2016 BMW 425d DLO garnish

The car is a BMW 425d, complete with the rather supernumerary, superfluous and unnecessary label in the rearmost sideglass. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’d expect of a lesser marque in the 1980s? (Prizes for finding the kind of thing I have in mind). We’ve reflected on brightwork here (very good) and here (interesting) here (shocking, frankly) and here (a bit technical but ultimately rewarding) but not here (more people need to read that one). At this point, readers might be wonder when we are going to Continue reading “Combing The Hair Underwater Again, Are We?”

Photo for Sunday : 2017 Bentley Continental

Driven to Write’s star of the Frankfurt motor show may surprise you.

It’s more than a little Bentayga. Image: Carbuyer

Since we founded Driven to Write three and a half years ago, (where has the time gone?) I think I’ve written almost nothing on the subject of Bentley – a glaring omission on my part and one for which I ought to make amends. There are a number of reasons for this Crewe-shaped hole in my DTW outpourings, but I suppose if I was pinned to a wall (or similar stout object) and forced to explain, I’d Continue reading “Photo for Sunday : 2017 Bentley Continental”

May The Song I Sing Be Seamless As Its Way Weaves From the World’s Beginning To Our Day

Lamb wool rugs, coverlets, wraps. I’d forgotten about the 2003 Continental’s rugs until now.

2008 Bentley Continental Flying Spur: source

The 2003 Bentley Continental Flying Spur came with lambs wool rugs if one ordered the “Premium Specification”. This detail deserves a little reflection.

To purchase a Conti Flying Spur one needed more than two hundred thousand dollars. One rug could not really have cost more than a few hundred dollars. The very nice Norwegian Roros rugs cost about 150 euros. Adding a Bentley crest adds another twenty euros. I would have thought the rugs would have been standard too. However, the rugs are also a bit extraneous. First, I can’t imagine a lot of passengers would need the rugs except perhaps small napping children. The grown adults won’t Continue reading “May The Song I Sing Be Seamless As Its Way Weaves From the World’s Beginning To Our Day”

Scream If You Want To Go Faster

If you have to ask how much it costs to look this cheap you probably can’t afford it.

The Mansory Black Edition with a suitably Alpine backdrop. Context innit? All images: Autoguide

Bentayga exists, I realise, to provide a frame upon which the spectacularly insecure can hang the neediest portion of their id – and for those at the extreme end of the spectrum, have it rendered in ‘Collage Edition’ carbon fibre. Behold the Mansory Black Edition – the ultimate expression of Bentayga. Suddenly it all makes sense. Continue reading “Scream If You Want To Go Faster”

Reflections On Chrome IV: Bentley Continental

It’s not often a Bentley parks anywhere near me. Look what I found.

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For a car costing as much as this one, this is not very good. It’s not as if the car is especially visually busy. It is a two-door car so there is not much going on to distract one from this kind of cheap detailing. Now you can accuse me of petty jealousy. However, I don’t aspire to this kind of car. Even if I had millions more pennies in my bank account than I actually did, I still wouldn’t want to drive something this wide and this uninteresting. Continue reading “Reflections On Chrome IV: Bentley Continental”

Bentley Recreate The Magic Of Formica

But it’s actually a veneer of stone made to look like a cafeteria counter-top.

2016 Rolls Royce stone_veneers
Bentley’s nice formica trim: blouinartinfo.com

Fatuously, the sales pitch makes a point of noting the stone is 200 million years old. Most stone is very old. 200 million years is nothing. You would have to be very ignorant of the age of the earth to feel 200 million years is a special number. I think the reasoning for stressing the age of the stone is derived from the world of vintage wines. Older vintages are indeed rarer. A 1970 is probably rarer than a 1980. A 1930 would be priceless and scarce. Continue reading “Bentley Recreate The Magic Of Formica”

Theme: Evolution – The Rolls-Royce/Bentley L410 V8

Slow, incremental change could be said to represent one of the hallmarks of the Rolls Royce marque. Something similar could be said of its engine.

1998 Bentley Turbo RT: www.rrsilverspirit.com
1998 Bentley Turbo RT: http://www.rrsilverspirit.com

The L410 V8 engine was born in the early 50s with the role of powering Bentleys and Rolls-Royce cars. From the 50s to 1998 the engine found homes in cars of both brands. After BMW acquired Rolls-Royce (the name and nothing else), the engine then became the sole preserve of Bentley where it is still in use, very highly modified, in the Mulsanne.

This engine has a rough parallel with the Buick V8 talked about recently, in that it is simply a very long lived V8. The differences are that the L410 is still in production and that nobody seems to have tried to Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – The Rolls-Royce/Bentley L410 V8”

Bentley Has A New Design Chief; Luc Donckerwolke Leaves

VW Media Services reports that Stefan Sielaff is to take over as design chief following the departure of Luc Donckerwolke.

Luc Donckerwolke: autoevolution.com
Luc Donckerwolke: autoevolution.com

Sielaff will be a busy chap as he as also responsible for VW group’s interior design strategy. Of the two jobs, perhaps that is the most challenging as requires finding imaginative ways to justify the price differentials between VW’s many brands. Sielaff starts at Bentley in July. Donckerwolke was only at Bentley for three years meaning that for much of his tenure he was watching the work of his predecessor being released while his own efforts will be launched with Sielaff occupying his former post. Donckerwolke Continue reading “Bentley Has A New Design Chief; Luc Donckerwolke Leaves”

Continental Drift

As Lincoln’s Simon Woodhouse gets a quilted leather handbag in the chops courtesy of his Bentley opposite number, are the designer gloves off for good?

2015 Lincoln Continental concept - image via netcarshow
2015 Lincoln Continental concept – image: netcarshow

This week’s pique-fest courtesy of Bentley’s Luc Donckerwolke is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it breaks a tacit understanding that rival stylists do not publicly criticise one another’s work. Secondly, it prompts the question, is it possible to Continue reading “Continental Drift”

Bentley Bentayga: 4000 Customers Already

After revealing a rather challenging design for their new SUV, Bentley have found a name as unappealing: Bentayga.

2016 Bentley Bentaygo
2016 Bentley Bentayga

There must be no poets among the senior staff at Bentley. The proposed name lacks any charm or musicality. How did they choose this name? Automotive News and others reported that the new SUV is to be named after a mountain on the Canary Islands. Continue reading “Bentley Bentayga: 4000 Customers Already”

1965 Bentley T-Type Review

Sporting to a “T”. Archie Vicar drives to Sicily in the new motor carriage from Crewe.

1965 Bentley T front view

From Motorist’s Illustrated Digest, Dec 1965. Photos by Douglas Land-Windermere. Owing to the very poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

The Bentley marque conjours images of the driver Richard “Dick” Seaman charging along the Mulsanne Straight at a 100 mph. That he achieved this very respectable pace minus a tyre is a tribute to his Bentley and to his boundless idiocy. Great chap. He is very much missed in motoring circles. For a while Bentley’s sporting character has been as absent and as lamented as Mr Seaman. The last batches of Bentleys have, frankly, been a little hard to distinguish from their Rolls-Royce stablemates. Continue reading “1965 Bentley T-Type Review”

1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental Review

“Bentley makes its mark”. By Archie Vicar.

1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur
1959 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur

From the Motorist’s Compendium and Driver’s Almanack, Dec 1959. Photographs by Marmaduke Orpington. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photography has been used.

Bentley seem to be finding their feet again after a spell in the shadows of their owner, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. This month it is our privilege to be invited to test drive the evidence of this resurgence, the S1 Continental Flying Spur.

First might I present a little history for younger readers. Bentley started offering steel bodywork in 1946 and many coachbuilders have been continuing to offer their own versions of these car, as if a ‘standard’ Bentley wasn’t sufficiently prestigious. But these later cars have apparently lacked a certain something. For this author, if were one to Continue reading “1959 Bentley S1 Flying Spur Continental Review”