They must be the most expensive three letters on the block. POA. And that’s about all you’ll get out of the marketing team at Bentley Motors on William Nicoll Drive.
Pushing my investigative skills to the limit, I ask meekly…”Anything under three million?”. A dismissive shrug indicates a negative.
So I’m understandably nervous piloting a Continental GT out of the showroom after signing about 10 pages of fine print.
Now in my book, Rollers (yes, they hate that name) and Bentleys are from the same bloodline and about the most exciting thing about them was the ticking clock.
And sure…this Bentley is super smooth and quiet. That’s why you have to keep your eyes glued to the speedo. This is not just a classy expression of having moolas to spare. The six litre W12 powerhouse turns the GT into a two ton tornado with supercar performance and handling that belies the forces of gravity.
Barney’s boy knew all about that kick-ass delivery back in the 1920s. Young Woolf Barnato inherited a multi-million pound fortune from Dad’s diggings at the age of two. And although it was a few years before he was behind the wheel, Woolf became one of the legendary “Bentley Boys” and notched up three Le Mans 24 hour wins in a row.
This was just a shade before the Wall Street crash that left W.O. Bentley in the red and forced the sale of the company to Rolls Royce. And, without delving too much into the history books, the most recent transaction was the Volkswagen takeover in 1998.
And the association between Bentley and Beetle didn’t do the marque too much harm. A renewed demand sent the Crewe factory into overtime and in 2007 they burst through the 10 000 barrier for the first time.
But mass production isn’t the name of the Bentley game. These cars are “bespoke” which is a pin stripe way of saying they are made to order for each customer.
And those in the money will often push the engineers to the limit. Like the fellow who demanded ice-cold water on tap from the dashboard. And got it.
Why not go for the Mulliner pack which gives you double stitching, Breitling finishes on the gearshift, soft close doors and 20 inch wheels? All for the price of a new Yaris. I’m guessing of course!
But then we are not talking ordinary leather here. The cows are specially bred for the honour. They are kept in barbwire free paddocks and fed organic alfalfa. Ok. I’m exaggerating about the alfalfa.
All I know is that it works. The interior of this sports coupe is incredibly comfortable – if a little cramped. Don’t try to get two Blue Bull front row forwards in the back seats. Especially if they lost the game.
But it’s the expressions you see through the tinted windows that make you realise that this muscular design is making waves as you drive.
And it’s not just on Sandton Drive. I stopped for some 95 at a filling station in Carolina and a youngster in hip hop garb had tears welling up behind his red Oakleys as he peered inside the Continental. “This is the happiest day of my life,” he sniffed taking a barrage of pics on his cellphone. I had to confess that it wasn’t my GT.
But what if you want to have the happiest day of your life and you are finding it difficult to string together a couple of million? Don’t despair. A pre-owned Bentley, in mint condition, is waiting for you.
Along with the spirit of Woolf Barnato, you can be one of the Bentley Boys.
This article originally appeared in Sandton Magazine