December 20, 2004 Bentley Motors is to produce a limited production run of the Arnage Limousine concept created by its Bentley Mulliner coachbuilding division for the 2004 Geneva International. The resultant car will be truly one of the most exclusive in the world - only 20 individually designed, handbuilt and numbered, bespoke Arnage Limousines will be commissioned, with each customer having access to a personal Bentley Mulliner designer and account manager. Pricing will begin at £270,000 (US$535,000).
In the same spirit as the coachbuilt Bentleys of the 1920s and '30s, customers will be able to commission a car to their own specification. Like the spectacular Speed Six and 8-litre Bentleys that wowed the motoring world in their Roaring Twenties heyday, the Arnage Limousine aims to represent the pinnacle of handbuilt, individually-crafted luxury cars.
Customers will be able to commission a car totally to their requirements. Starting with a 'blank canvas', entire bespoke interiors can be specified, meaning every Arnage Limousine will be unique. Depending on the level of specification, an Arnage Limousine can take up to 6000 man hours to build.
Armour protection can be specified as an integral part of the build process (with uprated suspension and reinforced subframes), ensuring engineering integrity and no restrictions on the car's other options.
The Arnage Limousine chassis is based upon the Arnage R model, with a wheelbase of 3566mm (140.4 inches) providing vast interior space as well as additional rear-seat privacy thanks to deeper 'D'-pillar.
Echoing Bentley's acclaimed past - when customers would personally commission a coachbuilder such as HJ Mulliner to design and fit a body to a Bentley chassis - the process of ordering and owning an Arnage Limousine will entail the same degree of creativity and attention to detail.
When a customer decides to order an Arnage Limousine they will receive a level of service commensurate with their status as a buyer of the world's most exclusive limousine and have access to a personal team of account managers and designers.
At the start of the process, customers will be offered a 'blank canvas' by Bentley Mulliner on which to express a vision of their ideal, bespoke car. Each customer will be able to communicate directly with the factory through their personal account manager, while a Bentley Mulliner designer will visit their home or office during the pre-production phase to assess the prospective design criteria and assist in interpreting their requirements for such a highly specified car.
By starting with this 'blank canvas', Arnage Limousine customers will be able to choose between palatial interiors or fully-integrated mobile offices. The scope for personalisation is as wide as the customer's imagination and whilst the concept is still in the virtual world of computer-aided design, styling sketches and renderings, Bentley Mulliner can be as flexible and creative as that vision demands.
Following delivery, customers will be visited on an annual basis by a factory representative, who will undertake a full inspection of their car. This service is offered for the duration of the Arnage Limousine's warranty.
The Arnage Limousine is designed for those who value their privacy and are not prepared to compromise when on the road. By widening the 'D'-pillar behind the rear doors, the Arnage Limousine's designers have fashioned a deeply recessed seat area that provides a safe and shielding cabin for passengers, as well as significantly enhanced rear legroom. In addition, a smaller rear 'privacy' window adds to the feeling of seclusion and ensures back-seat passengers are kept well away from prying eyes.
To create that broad 'D'-pillar and enlarged interior, the Arnage Limousine has been designed with a generous wheelbase measuring a total of 3566mm (140.4 inches). This ensures that passengers will enjoy all the benefits of a longer cabin. To retain the car's aesthetic visual balance, an extra 200mm (8 inches) is located in the 'D'-pillar alone, a further 200mm is added to the rear doors and a final 50mm (2 inches) in the front doors. This process was carried out entirely by hand, a challenge that could only be attempted by Mulliner's brilliant craftsmen and women, according to Ashley Wickham, head of projects, Bentley Mulliner:
"The Arnage Limousine is the epitome of Mulliner craftsmanship," he says. "Everything you can see - from the beautiful line of the new D-pillar to the stainless steel sills - was shaped by hand. That's why a Mulliner-built Bentley can take up to 6000 man hours to complete. It is a labour of love."
A perfect appearance is not just important for our passengers, it is imperative for our cars as well. Aesthetic purity in design and shape has always been the hallmark of Bentley cars and, as has been recently observed by many influential commentators, the bigger the car, the harder it is to retain a degree of subtlety and understatement. The Arnage Limousine, however, achieves that visual perfection, succeeding in being stately and imposing without appearing vulgar or ostentatious.
By evenly distributing the extended areas within the car's wheelbase, the graceful balance of the classic Arnage silhouette is retained. To round off its aesthetic impact, the original Geneva International Salon Arnage Limousine is finished in dual tone paintwork, with a Royal Burgundy cabin, bonnet and boot sections on top of black side-panels and nose. Unique stainless steel sills and bumpers act as a visual counterpoint to the two-tone colour scheme.
To emphasise Bentley Mulliner's desire to start with a blank canvas for its customers, the interior of the Arnage Limousine shown at Geneva has been kept deliberately restrained. A classic combination of linen and burgundy hide is mixed with a dark burr walnut veneer, the effect being to produce a cabin that is light, spacious and open to interpretation as customers see fit.
Although customers will start with a blank canvas, 'Number One' in the limited run of Arnage Limousines does have certain special features designed to illustrate just what Bentley Mulliner can offer. Split rear seats will come as standard but in the concept car these have been replaced with a broad, rear bench that provides an inviting and sumptuous place to relax, while optional electrically-powered rear foot rests that slide backwards and upwards to support your calves allow passengers to recline in total comfort. Lastly, a rear DVD entertainment system is fitted, with twin 12-inch screens mounted in the rear of the front seats.
Again, the imperative is providing choice. The entertainment and communications technology can take the form of individual LCD televisions or a single wide-screen plasma unit that can be stowed from view when not required. The rear compartment can be provided with options such as an on-board computer with Internet access, a cooled refreshment cabinet or cigar humidor.
The Arnage's interior centre console is also completely revised with new, unique switchgear for the air-conditioning controls and repositioned switches for the electric windows and seat and mirror adjusters. The satellite navigation system is re-engineered to give a more integrated, attractive appearance on top of the dashboard.
Bentley's renowned 6.75-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine provides the Arnage Limousine with the sort of performance you would expect from a Bentley. The Bentley hallmarks of power and colossal low-down torque (616lb ft/835Nm) mean the Arnage Limousine will accelerate to 60mph in just 6.7 seconds. Despite its remarkable power output, the V8 engine also meets stringent Euro IV and US LEV emissions standards.
To allow the car to cope with such impressive performance, the Arnage Limousine's chassis is based upon the Arnage's formidable underpinnings with strengthening where required. Double wishbone independent front and rear suspension with uprated springs and reinforced subframes works in unison with the computer-controlled adaptive electro-hydraulic damping system (ARC) to provide a refined ride at all times and high levels of grip when needed. Uprated 8-cylinder front and 4-cylinder rear brake callipers operating on ventilated alloy brake discs produce awesome stopping power.
To ensure complete security on top of unparalleled privacy, the Arnage Limousine may be specified with armour protection. When armouring is specified, it is the first, and not the last task to be performed upon the bare bodyshell. This brings several advantages. It allows the whole body shell including armour to benefit from comprehensive anti-corrosion protection and paint top-coats. It ensures engineering integrity, allowing armour and energy absorbing materials to be placed precisely where needed for optimum protection. It enables weight to be distributed in a way that makes the least effect upon handling and ride; and above all, it ensures that the protection is discreet and, to the casual observer, all but invisible. As the armour protection is an integral part of the car, the full range of Bentley interior features and options can also be specified without restriction.
Mulliner - a coachbuilding history like no other
"Bentley Mulliner has one purpose - to provide our customers with the Bentley that they want, not the Bentley we want to sell them," says Derek Davies, brand director, Bentley Mulliner. "Many of our customers are used to a certain level of service from other car companies, but without fail they are amazed by what we can do to meet their needs. Other carmakers may claim to offer thousands of choices but Bentley Mulliner's option list is genuinely infinite - we will do whatever it takes to provide the bespoke car. Put simply, no two Bentley Mulliner cars are the same because no two customers are the same."
That extraordinary level of service has been part of the Bentley Mulliner package for decades. The Mulliner name has been synonymous with the finest coachbuilding traditions for nearly 250 years, when it built horse-drawn coaches for the Royal Mail. In the automotive era it turned its attentions to producing some of the finest and most famous bodies for many legendary Bentley cars.
In fact, 2004 marks the 80th anniversary of HJ Mulliner's first work for the company, when the firm produced a Mulliner Bentley for the 1924 London Olympia Show. Its most famous creation, however, was the R-Type Continental of 1952, the fastest four-seat sports car of its era, and the inspiration for today's Continental GT. Indeed, of all the Bentleys in the company's history, it is safe to say that the R-Type Continental stands alongside the original 3-litre and Speed Six as the most important and influential of all cars to wear the winged 'B'. Their blend of power and grace, allied with an unrivalled status as the luxury sporting saloons of choice, made them the iconic Bentleys of the 1920s, '30s and '50s.
Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars bought Mulliner in 1959, merging it with the Park Ward concern to form its own coachbuilding division, called Mulliner Park Ward in 1961, and it is this company from which today's Bentley Mulliner is directly descended. The company remained in London, building the likes of the Phantom V1 and Rolls-Royce Corniche, before moving to Crewe in 1993. In 2002, in recognition of the ever-increasing importance of coachbuilding to Bentley, the rapidly expanding organisation was renamed Bentley Mulliner and charged with answering the ever more varied and challenging demands of the 21st century Bentley customer. It's an approach that seems to be working: last year saw Bentley Mulliner increase its turnover by 105 per cent and 60 percent of all Arnages ordered came with some form of Mulliner personalisation.
Production of the Bentley Arnage Limousine will begin in February 2005.View gallery - 9 images