Bentley has revived the specialist coachbuilding arm of its Mulliner bespoke division in spectacular style with the launch of a limited-edition, £1.5m, open-top two-seater called the Bacalar.
Designed for warmer climes, the 200mph car is a true “barchetta”, meaning it has no roof or weather gear of any description. Instead, the occupants are cocooned in a luxuriously appointed wraparound cockpit with a pair of pods containing weekend bags custom-made by Italian luxury automotive luggage specialist Schedoni.
Despite having a six-litre, twin-turbo, 12-cylinder engine producing 650 horsepower (up from 626 in standard form), the car is said to have been designed with at least one eye on the environment – the paint of the first version gets its metallic shimmer from rice husk ash, a 5,000-year-old lump of wood pulled from the fens of East Anglia was used for the dashboard and the seat backs and inserts are made from “natural British wool”.
Although the Bacalar’s mechanics are derived from the regular Continental GTC convertible, Bentley says the only identical parts are the door handles and windscreen. The rest of the components are said to be unique – and Mulliner’s “sky’s the limit” personalisation service should ensure that no two Bacalars are the same, since individual buyers will be able to specify all aspects of the interior and exterior finishes.
Bentley chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark describes the car as being “fully bespoke” and “carrying a number of forward-thinking elements of future luxury”, some of which were inspired by the all-electric EXP100GT concept car unveiled last year to commemorate the marque’s centenary.
Reinstating the availability of individual body styles takes Bentley full circle – in the firm’s early days, its cars would leave the factory as “rolling chassis” that would be sent to specialist coachbuilders who would create designs specific to each customer’s requirements.
The Mulliner name can be traced to its founding as a saddler during the 16th century. It subsequently moved to carriage making during the 1760s, with Henry Jervis Mulliner founding the automobile body business in the early 1900s.
HJ Mulliner was bought by Bentley in 1959, having established a reputation for producing numerous exceptional designs for the marque, but in recent decades it has existed largely to make bespoke elements of the cars rather than to create bespoke bodies – although it did build the two Bentley State limousines made for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.