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Bentley 101: An Inside Look at How These British Machines are Made

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Crewe, England - There’s magic surrounding me. And no, I’m not at Disneyland. Although to the car enthusiast -- more specifically, a Bentley enthusiast -- this could just be one of the happiest places on earth.

Bentley Factory
Photo: Alexandra Straub

This is where dreams -- aka cars -- are made.

On an 80-acre property in Crewe, England, roughly 4,000 employees comprise the workforce behind the creation of such nameplates as the Mulsanne and Continental.

The beginning of a tour of the factory commences as David Hilton, the head of exterior design at Bentley, goes over some of the processes of how a vehicle ends up on the road. Whether it’s through computer renderings or clay-model building, it’s a lengthy and laborious process, to say the least. For example, from the initial sketches of the Continental up until its production, it was a period of about four years.

As I walk through the factory, I'm fascinated to see how various parts of these marvellous machines come to fruition. Our group of international media had the opportunity to visit areas that surprised me: There are humans everywhere.

Based on past manufacturer tour experiences, robots usually dominate the landscape. However, at Bentley, bustling workers are either assembling, sanding or sewing parts together. This is because the brand’s philosophy still holds true today: Bentley believes hands and eyes are the best tools.

It’s very apparent as human hands and eyes are marking the imperfections on the different coloured hides, making sure that all parts going into each vehicle are flawless. As for the scraps? They’re recycled as opposed to thrown out.

A particularly aromatic part of the experience at the Bentley factory was when I stepped foot into the Woodshop. The pungent scent of the various veneers offered (like maple, walnut, eucalyptus, and more) fill the rooms -- and the lungs -- to the brim. Furthermore, the sound of sanding and cutting tools let you know what kind of craft is going on.

From what was mentioned, it takes approximately 120 man-hours of work (from start to finish) to complete the tree-derived parts in a Bentley Mulsanne, or approximately four weeks. This brings the term “handcrafted” to a new level in terms of car production.

However, the real magic happens in the “Living Room” where clients can sit back, relax and customize their Bentley from bumper to bumper. From the exterior coat to the interior hides to the perfectly varnished veneers, it can be as unique as the owner.

Fun factoids about the Bentley factory to impress your friends:
  • 25 kilograms of paint is used on a Mulsanne. That’s roughly eight coats that are both machine- and hand-sprayed;
  • Six Mulsannes are built per day at Crewe, whereas 40 Continentals roll off the line;
  • It takes a minimum of 500 man-hours to build a Mulsanne;
  • It takes 4 hours and 40 minutes to hand-wrap and stitch a Bentley steering wheel: 5 hours and 10 minutes if it’s heated!
  • Crewe is the largest producer of twin-turbo, W12 engines in the world.
Bentley Factory
Photo: Alexandra Straub