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Bentley Mulliner reborn to create rare cars for the filthy rich

By Glenn Butler, 31 Mar 2020 Geneva Motor Show

Bentley Bacalar 2020

Bentley Bacalar roadster previews lucrative new collectable cars strategy for Bentley’s Mulliner customisation operation

  • It's the most exclusive - and expensive - Bentley ever

  • Just 13 will be made and 12 sold

  • Bentley keen to build coachbuilt one-off specials

Bentley is returning to its coachbuilding roots, relaunching the ancient Mulliner bespoke tailoring brand to build extremely expensive limited-edition vehicles for clients with the deepest of pockets.

The first car to emerge from the reborn Mulliner Studio – a brand with almost 500 years of saddle-making and coachbuilding heritage that was acquired by Bentley in 1959 – is the Bacalar, a heavily customised two-seat roadster with no roof priced from $2.9 million.

Bentley Bacalar 2020

Bentley says all 12 examples of the Bacalar have already been spoken for, and the new owners will have the opportunity to co-create their ‘one-of-a-kind’ car in collaboration with Bentley Mulliner’s designers.

The $2.9 million price tag is just the starting point for the ‘base’ car. Bentley expects the actual price of each completed Bacalar will be closer to $4 million once each owner’s customisation requests are taken into account.

Bentley confirmed that the Bacalar will be built in left- and right-hand drive, with deliveries expected to begin late this year, but declined to confirm whether any wealthy Australians are among the 12 future owners.

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The Bentley Bacalar was to be revealed at the Geneva Auto Salon, but the show’s cancellation due to Coronavirus fears forced Bentley to instead reveal it to WhichCar and a handful of other journalists in Bentley’s CW1 showroom at the company’s Crewe headquarters in England.

The Bentley Bacalar is based on the Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet, and features all-new panelwork – ‘coachwork’, in Bentley-speak. Every panel is unique to the Bacalar, and some of the embellishments, such as the distinctive headlights and taillights, have been drawn from the stunning EXP100GT concept car revealed by Bentley last year.

Bentley EXP1000

The Bacalar is 100kg lighter than the Continental GTC because it uses carbon fibre more extensively, and it has no roof at all.

The customisation tour de force continues inside the two-seat cabin with a wraparound cockpit crafted from sustainable wood from naturally fallen trees - known as riverwood - that has been preserved for 5000 years in peat bogs in England.

The Bacalar’s cabin also has a unique sloping centre console, bronze highlights throughout and embroidered seats with more than 148,000 quilt-style stitches in each seat.

Bentley Bacalar 2020

The exterior paint colour of the example vehicle – which is not one of the 12 destined for extremely rich car collectors, but is a runner – is called Yellow Flame, and is made from the ash of rice husks which is said to give the paint its deep metallic lustre.

The Bacalar is powered by Bentley’s 12-cylinder petrol engine, tweaked to produce 484kW and 900Nm, which sends that power to all four wheels. The car’s rear track has been widened by 20mm to give a more muscular sporting stance.

Bentley says the Bacalar is “the ultimate open-air, two-seat luxury Grand Tourer available in the world today.”

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The Bacalar is the first limited-edition vehicle to emerge from the reborn Mulliner operation, and it won’t be the last. Bentley has confirmed that other limited-run vehicles will follow – “after a suitable time” - but won’t say when, or what they will be.

WhichCar understands that Bentley will produce a Mulliner limited edition each year, based on a different donor vehicle from the Bentley range each time. Each new release will be limited to 12 vehicles.

“Mulliner is the oldest coachbuilding company in the world, and we want to use it again,” Bentley’s board member for sales and marketing, Chris Craft, told WhichCar at the Bacalar’s reveal.

Last year Bentley restarted production of one of its most iconic cars, the 1929 Bentley Blower (below), building 12 brand new examples based on the original.

“That was the start and we thought ‘great to do a classic’, but now we need to do real coachbuilding for the next century as well," said Craft.

Bentley Blower 1929 Mulliner

“[The Bacalar] is our first approach with a new modern vehicle, and yeah we see a greater capacity for this for the future, and potentially individual one-offs for customers as well.”

But don’t expect Mulliner to be a vanguard of future technology for Bentley, says Craft.

“When I think about [future] technologies, then I think we can do things with Mulliner at this level that we can learn from and trickle-down [to other models]," he said.

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"Of course, what we should never ever do is mimic something that we’ve done as a special series into the mainstream. That wouldn’t be right for the customers of Mulliner.”

Craft says it’s about protecting the exclusivity. “That is what our customers are buying into with something like this,” he confirmed. “That’s what we promise and that’s what we have to uphold.”

Part of the new Mulliner operation will include a new customer-facing facility at Bentley’s Crewe HQ where future owners can liaise with the Mulliner design team to customise, and eventually, collect, their new one-of-a-kind Bentley.