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Car of the Month

More on Bentley in these books:

The Complete Bentley

Taylor: Original Rolls-Royce & Bentley



Car of the Month - November 2011
Bentley Continental GT, 2003,#4CO20076

Bentley Continental GT

The initial phase of the Bentley Continental GT model-range started in 2003. In action the car made its public appearance with two laps on the Sarthe-circuit in France, the location of the "Le Mans 24 Hours". Though it was not entered in the competition there was five-times Le Mans winner Derek Bell behind the steering wheel and Bentley’s CEO Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen in the passenger seat. With the "New Bentley Continental GT" in 2011 the successor was launched; although the design's lines did merely show subtle alterations and thus the forerunner didn’t instantly appear out-dated.

After Volkswagen had acquired Bentley they pledged an 18-month program with an investment of some 500 million Pound Sterling in modernizing production at Crewe. Committed to supplier tooling was the lion's share of ca. 154m from the amount of 220m invested in manufacturing the Bentley Continental GT. To up-date the buildings and the site at Crewe cost some 13m all in all. A further 18m were spent in the new assembly line and the leather shop plus 6m to expand the wood-shop and enhance the lacquer spraying facilities (although the latter had been considered "State-of–the-Art"). Obviously a major target had been to guarantee a top-level as regards interior trim and paintwork. 

Bentley Continental GT

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Less obvious but of significant importance was a parallel process to achieve 'lean' manufacturing. The number of suppliers of materials and components for the 'big' 4-door Bentley Arnage R, T, and RL was in excess of 500 whereas that number for the Continental GT was reduced to 250. Another tremendous effort in economy is reflected by comparison of the figures of 450 man-hours of production at Crewe required to make an Arnage to 150 man-hours – about one third only - listed for a Continental GT.

Bentley Continental GT

From all the figures could be filtered that the investment in the engine assembly area cost 10m Pound. The explanation for what seemed to be only a moderate amount was rather simple. The compact W12-cylinder-engine, fairly complicated (72deg angle between two main banks, 15deg between staggered cylinders) and enormously powerful (552bhp/411KW at 6,100rpm, torque 479lb ft) was a product from Volkswagen. There had been no need for complete production of the engine at the Bentley factory at Crewe.

Bentley Continental GT

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