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How Bentleys Work

Bentley Customization
A Bentley Azure customized by Mulliner
A Bentley Azure customized by Mulliner
Photo courtesy of Bentley Motors

One of the most appealing attributes of the Bentley line, apart from the reputation for excellent performance, is the extent to which the customer can customize his car. Bentley Mulliner, a division of the company with the sole purpose of customization with unparalleled craftsmanship, is in charge of making sure the customer gets what he wants.

The Mulliner division has a history even longer than that of Bentley itself. As far back as the 1500s, it was a company that produced saddles. In 1760, the company began to design coaches (of the horse-drawn persuasion). The company gained a reputation for meticulous work and attention to customer requests. When the automobile debuted, Mulliner adapted its methods to building coaches for cars. In fact, Mulliner designed and built the interior for W.O. Bentley's EXP1.

Mulliner craftsmanship is legendary, and they employ only master artisans. You might be surprised at the titles of some Mulliner employees -- on their payroll they have coachbuilders, coppersmiths, cabinetmakers and experts in leading-edge technologies. Almost everything in the interior of an Arnage or Azure is handcrafted. Creating the steering wheel alone could take as long as 50 hours.

Mulliner allows a customer to be as involved in the design process of the interior as he wants, even to the point of giving input on initial sketches or computer-aided design (CAD) drawings. Practically every element within the car can be customized or personalized if the customer wishes. Extensive customization tends to result in long waits for vehicles, but most customers seem content to wait, knowing their Bentley will be a truly unique machine.

Before Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley, the line of cars was known mostly for its speed and performance. Some fans of the car felt that the influence of Rolls-Royce diluted Bentley's lineage. Today, Bentley is winning fans back with models like the Continental GT, which once again brings speed and performance in focus. Now, Bentley has a reputation for producing some of the most luxurious cars you can find, as well as vehicles that are as elegant as they are fast.

In the next section, we'll look at some famous Bentley owners and enthusiasts.