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The Design of a Bentley

One of the first things I learned at design school is everything is designed.  Well duh, no I mean this really registered.  The head of a nail, the button on a coat, a coffee cup, a piece of pipe – every physical element wondered around in someone’s mind before it came to life.  I began to appreciate the process as much as the eventual element.  There is just something about the handmade or bespoke items of times long past which draw us in like a magnet.

One company who still handcrafts each vehicle and to whom design is their life force is Bentley. New Continental GT – V8

What began early in the last century by two brothers in their twenties W.O. and H.M. Bentley with a desire for performance and a dream, Bentley Motors has become one of the most prestigious car makers in existence.  In the beginning it was all about speed as the brothers determined sales were fueled by winning races. Engineering and performance is still being proven first on the track as it was in the early years.  The integrity of an automotive legend is alive.

For the discriminating automotive enthusiast, you ask they build.  Take an apparently mundane item such as a steering wheel.  At Bentley one craftsman will spend at least two days from cutting and stretching the leather to double-stitching the seams to guarantee they are precision straight.

Enjoy this short video “Bentley, An UnBroken Line” as a way to really get behind the wheel of design at Bentley.   It is not about how many cars can fly though the production line in a day, but rather how few roll out the doors at Crewe with what some might call a snails pace.  At Bentley they believe the hand and eye are their two most important production tools.

How many times does a car experience a hand-applied base coat, lacquer, sanding and polishing until before a Bentley will be ready for  public appearance?  As many as it takes.  No bean counters barking ” better, cheaper faster.”   This attention to detail = sales.  Earlier this month Bentley reported a global sales increase of 32% in the first six months of 2012. Why am I waxing on about Bentley?  I can’t get the new Continental GT V-8 out of my mind.  Driving the redesigned V-12 drove felt like it was an extension of my body last year at Pebble Beach, click Twitter to a Test Drive.  I’ve been wowed by the nimbleness of the Flying Spur, compared to the Mercedes S-550 which reminds me of  a wafting (but sporty) aircraft carrier.  I feel like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann character  behind the wheel in a big sedan, I’m just not that old!  Will the two door be just right?  This post serves as mental preparation for this year’s test drive in the new V-8, you ll be the first to know. 

Images 1, 3-5 and 7 via Bentley Motors

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