What is it?
The Bentley Continental GT has had to contend with the whiff of nouveau riche hanging around its exhaust pipes since it arrived in 2003. The once cordial and symbiotic Rolls-Royce and Bentley marques were traditionally purveyors of enviable, hand-built chariots for the well-heeled gentleman or lady.
However, in the aftermath of the break-up of Rolls-Royce and Bentley - which was inevitable after Volkswagen had scooped the company from under BMW’s nose in 1998, only to find it didn’t have the licence to use the Rolls-Royce name – there was huge pressure to engineer quickly a new, cheaper car. One that would hopefully sell in numbers hitherto unimagined by anyone at the old Crewe factory, rejuvenate the brand and begin to recoup VW’s investment.
The result was the Continental GT, essentially a mass-produced model built using a VW Phaeton chassis with a new body. It was and still is constructed in Germany rather than at Park Ward, then shipped to Crewe for assembly and sold to a mostly cash-laden, burgeoning group of individuals who fancied something sporting a Bentley badge, with a bit less stuffiness.
And it wasn’t just voyeurs that were sniffy at the Continental’s more mainstream build methods and get-rich-quick patina. I was selling Bentleys at the time, and took a group of expectant customers on a factory tour guided by one of the old-guard workers. He firmly nailed his colours to the mast that afternoon.