For decades now, the “Mulliner” badge has stood for the crème de la crème of the Bentley range. The company’s master craftsmen produce custom-built chassis and interiors that are truly unique. A perfect combination of state-of-the-art technology and hallowed tradition made in Crewe, in central England.
Alligator leather, he just had to have alligator leather. For the driver’s seat, the front passenger seat, and the back seats as well. Kevin Challenger can still clearly remember how the customer – an alligator farmer from Georgia in the United States – mentally upholstered his new automobile with the leather from his animals.
Kevin Challenger is the Commercial Manager at Mulliner, the Bentley brand’s custom coachbuilders in Crewe. Challenger sits in Mulliner’s showroom, with a bordeaux-colored Bentley in the background. It is a one-to-one model of a custom-built car, only two of which were ever built: the vehicles in which Queen Elizabeth II travels around England. Dozens of swatches are strewn about, allowing Challenger to let customers choose the color they want to paint their Bentley and select from the numerous different options available for seat belts, foot mats, wooden and metal interior fittings, seat covers, and gear levers. Alligator leather is not among the samples, though. “Of course we did our best to find a way of implementing what our customer wanted”, says Challenger, “but heat and cold tests revealed that the leather simply isn’t suitable”.
WORLD CLASS: Each “Naim for Bentley” system has a 1,100 watt amplifier — the world’s most powerful amplifier output stage for cars.
MAKING WISHES COME TRUE
The process can be seen in action just a few paces behind Kevin Challenger’s display table, where an inconspicuous door leads to the Mulliner workshop. It smells of leather and wood, and you can hear a faint hammering and the craftsmen’s low voices. Each automobile is in its place, protected by mats, plastic sheeting and adhesive tape, surrounded by specialists whose movements reflect how much they are concentrating on the work in hand.
At one car, Senior Designer Brett Boydell watches craftsmen installing a folding table in the back of a Bentley Arnage RL. Boydell designed the bespoke piece. “We started with nothing more than a sketch by our customer”, says Boydell. “He’s a businessman who spends a lot of his time on the road busy with his computer and didn’t wanted to have to pack away his laptop and the table every time he got out.” So Boydell designed a table that can simply be pushed to one side together with the open laptop. For a designer like him, says Boydell, it’s fantastic to see how his initial design is translated into a product in a matter of weeks. “What’s more, throughout the project I don’t need to go more than a couple of paces to find the right colleague to discuss the next stage of the development process.”