Currently reading: Bentley could revisit coachbuilding heritage with bespoke car division
British manufacturer interested in building one-off vehicles to customers' individual designs, echoing the company's early days

Bentley’s sales and marketing chief Kevin Rose says he “loves the idea” of the British manufacturer going back to its roots by offering a bespoke coach-building service for customers who want a car built to their own design.

Such a move would echo the company’s formative days in the 1920s, when founder WO Bentley created his three-litre rolling chassis which was then given to customers’ coachbuilders to have their own bodywork fitted.

Rose believes there is potential for Bentley to create a modern-day parallel using the technical underpinnings of existing cars in the model range and adding customers’ specific bodywork designs on top. 

“History repeats itself,” he said. “If you go back to Bentley’s early days, we built chassis which customers then took and said “I want this bodywork on top”. It was haute couture for cars and I love that idea.”

He added that this strategy could build on the concept of personalisation, which is becoming increasingly popular within car firms: “Lots of companies do ultra-limited editions, but this could take it further.”

The idea could build on the work of Bentley’s Mulliner personal commissioning department, itself inspired by the Mulliner Park Ward coach-building division which worked closely with the Crewe-based manufacturer in the 1920s.

Earlier this year, the Mulliner division was responsible for hand-crafting the Mulsanne 95, a special edition of Bentley’s flagship model created to celebrate the marque’s 95th anniversary.

Rose didn’t believe the bespoke vehicle idea would pose insurmountable technical challenges, pointing out that there are already independent companies that create exclusive variants of manufacturers’ models.

The type of affluent customer who might be interested in such a concept also means that “cost wouldn’t be an issue”.

Rose stressed that a bespoke division wasn’t more than an idea at present, but added: “We’re interested in the concept and what it might mean.”

Several luxury car manufacturers have created operations that offer bespoke vehicle creation, including Ferrari’s Style Centre, Q by Aston Martin and McLaren’s MSO division.

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Bullfinch 11 July 2014

Custom cars

Does anyone any longer know or care what bespoke means? Apparently not. There's a certain amount of personalisation goes on these days, much of it pretty nasty by most lights, but let's not pretend Style Centre, Q or MSO offer any more than the odd stylistic tweak. Will there be a modern equivalent of Barnato's Gurney-Nutting three-seater? No. Anything similar? No. Anything bespoke? Not really. The engineering is too complex, the legislation too restrictive, and the costs involved in producing a genuine one-off and not something that just looks a bit weird rather more than even the Sultan of Brunei would contemplate spending on a mere car.
Moparman 10 July 2014

It is about time

With manufacturers understanding what government tests require it is about time that manufacturers like Aston Martin and Bentley get in on this money maker. Obviously, because of the government mandates and the monocoque constructions, the bodies cannot be infinitely personalized but there is a fair amount that one could do with the right imagination and money and have the cache of it being built by the actual manufacturer. Who knows? Somebody out there could actually build a Bentley SUV that is good looking!