The new Bentley EXP12 Speed 6e reminds us that when it comes to building mid-sized convertible concepts, Bentley has form.
The firm wowed Geneva in 1994 with a great-looking design proposal called Java, created by a co-operation between former Bentley-Rolls-Royce designer Graham Hull and the former Rover design boss, Royden Axe, at a Warwick-based company Axe formed called Design Research Associates.
The car was based on BMW 5 Series underpinnings and received wide acclaim for the way it carried Bentley’s prestigious design values on what was then an unprecedentedly small car. But Bentley, which was combined with Rolls-Royce at the time, was a subsidiary of the Vickers aircraft conglomerate in 1994 and didn’t have the finance or the appetite for taking a risk. So the car never made production, even though calls for its emergence continued long after Geneva 1994 and brought Axe back to notice in what was the twilight of his career.
Although it never became a production model, the car found favour with the Sultan of Brunei, then a serial buyer of bespoke and low-volume British cars. He commissioned and took delivery of at least three Java convertibles, and commissioned the building of at least three estate versions as well, although some insiders say he owned more than a dozen Javas of different kinds.