Bentley Continental GT and new GTC convertible. Click on the small images to see a larger photo:
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I've had the Continental GT for a couple of years, and it's a terrific car. Apart from a couple of small initial problems with the trunk lock (er, boot lock), it has run perfectly and given no problems at all. I am still finding cool stuff with it - for example it tells you your precise longitude and latitude, and the name of the city and street you are on, even with the satnav off!
Bentley have had a great success with the Continental GT, and VW have invested hundreds of millions of pounds in revamping the Crewe factory - employment has gone from 1,500 to 4,000. Only three people moved to Rolls Royce when Rolls and Bentley split! The recent four door addition, the Flying Spur, is now being built both at Crewe, and at VW's Dresden factory in Germany, for the European market. The W12 engines are all hand-built at Crewe.
The new Continental GTC convertible looks like a classic in the making. After a long wait, I was recently able to trade my Continental GT for a GTC.
We visited the Crewe factory in May 2006, and were given a three hour tour by Michael Garnett, former manager of the leather department. An amazing place! The main assembly hall is a quarter of a mile long and you could eat off the floor. Everything is high-tech and bright.
Only one robot in the whole place, to seal the front window. Everything else is assembled by hand. They do have a production line, but you can hardly see it moving - it takes 17 minutes to go one car length, then they load a new car body onto the end. So they make one car every 17 minutes, night and day. There are no inspectors or cleaners - everyone is their own inspector and cleaner. They take two cars each day and audit them in minute detail - we saw them doing that.
In the leather shop we saw how they mark even tiny imperfections on the 11 hides needed for each GT, and the computerized laser cutter works around those areas to maximize the leather usage. They hand stitch each steering wheel, taking many hours. Michael said, "We use this metal fork to mark the holes." I thought he was joking, so picked up the old dinner fork from the table. Yes, it perfectly aligns with the thread holes in every Continental GT, Flying Spur and GTC ever made!
I asked about the 'Engine start' button, and they said that you can just press the button to start the engine, with the key in your pocket. They didn't believe me when I said I had no such button. Well, I checked when I got back, and the button on my GT said 'Global Close'. It didn't start the engine. My new GTC does start without using the key, but I rarely do so because of a) habit, and b) not wanting to valet park and walk away with the key!
We visited the wood shop where they veneer the dashboards etc. In here and in the leather shop they gave me small samples of wood and leather colors that I used to order the GTC. We visited the Mulliner workshop, and saw the Queen's car. Actually a clay model, but it looked identical to the real one. Or two. The Queen was given one by Bentley, and she liked it so much ("with cloth seats as she is a simple woman") that she purchased a second one. Fortunately they had already made two, as one was used for development.
On the right is 'Bentley number 2', the second Bentley ever made. (The first was broken up and used for parts). It is insured for half a million pounds, which doesn't seem enough. They still drive it often.
An early Bentley bonnet mascot - pretty fancy. A Bentley tourer (seats in the back face sideways), and a 1952 Bentley Continental R, the model that James Bond drove in the Ian Fleming books.
We had a terrific visit to the Bentley factory, and saw a real quality car being made by hand.
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This site was last updated 01/26/07