A right-hand-drive Bentley Continental GT V8, in Orange Flame, became the 80,000th made-to-order example of the luxury grand tourer to produced at the “home of Bentley” in Crewe, UK – the world’s first carbon-neutral factory for luxury car production.
In 2003, the Continental GT became the first model to be launched after the VW Group acquired Bentley. It established an entirely new market segment, that of the modern luxury Grand Tourer. Ever since, it has been the unchallenged benchmark for the sector that it founded, with an average of nearly 5,000 examples a year being delivered to customers around the world.
The Bentley Continental has its origins in 1952, when the R-Type Continental made its debut. The Mulliner-bodied coupe is regarded as one of the best looking grand tourers of all time. What’s more, it had a top speed of around 190 kmph, making it the fastest four-seater car at the time. With such distinguishing qualities, the R-Type Continental quickly earned a reputation as the ultimate high-speed luxury car, and is highly sought after by collectors today.
Eighteen years after the first successor to the R-Type made its debut, the 80,000th example was assembled at Crewe by Bentley’s skilled craftspeople. Incredibly, many of them have worked on the very first Continental as well. The 80,000th example of the Continental is an eye-catching V8 powered tourer in Orange Flame, finished with the optional Blackline and Styling specification, hinting at the GT’s performance credentials.
Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Adrian Hallmark, comments: “At its launch in 2003, Bentley redefined the modern grand tourer with the revolutionary Continental GT. Now in 2021, the GT continues to be the ultimate luxury grand tourer, encompassing the latest technology, performance and style. This success is a testament to the skills of our designers, engineers and craftspeople here in Crewe.
“I had the pleasure of launching the original GT in 2003 in my first stint at Bentley, and being here for the launch of the latest generation – and the iterations that have followed – has been a source of great pride for me personally. It will continue to be the iconic backbone of the Bentley business for years to come, even as we transition to the world’s leading provider of sustainable luxury mobility.”
To mark the production milestone, Bentley drew on its heritage fleet to show the evolution and the achievements of the Continental GT since 2003. Three cars represented the three generations so far: A Continental Supersports coupe, considered by many to be the pinnacle of the first generation GT family. A second-generation Continental GT V8 S coupe, finished in Jetstream. And from the current press fleet, a Dragon Red Continental GT Convertible. They were joined by the very first production Continental GT, VIN 0001, still a taxed-and-tested car on Bentley’s fleet.
Since the Continental GT has contributed significantly to Bentley’s long tradition of racing and record-breaking – which started in the 1920s when the Bentley Boys set the pace at European circuits – five champion Continentals also joined the 80,000th GT’s roll-out celebrations.
Leading the line was the first Ice Speed Record GT, driven by four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen, which smashed the world ice speed record in 2007. Alongside it was the first-generation Continental GT3 racecar, which returned Bentley to winning ways on the racetrack in 2014.
The 2019 Pikes Peak GT, which still holds the Production Class record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, was also there, along with the 2020 Ice Race GT, which took part in the GP Ice Race at Zell Am See in February last year. That same weekend, the final member of the line-up – the latest-generation Continental GT3 – won the Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia.
Over the 18-year period, the style, technology and engineering beneath the Continental GT have evolved significantly. According to the luxury carmaker, it has seen an increase of up to 27 per cent in peak power, whilst models within the range have also achieved a reduction of 48 per cent in CO2 emissions over the original Continental GT.
The 80,000th GT is of the third generation. It has an upgraded platform beneath it, allowing a new stance, proportions and levels of dynamic ability. Outside it is wrapped in a new bodywork design, with sharper lines and more flowing surfaces, making it a thoroughly contemporary grand tourer.
With a choice of powertrains, one of the most extensive colour palettes in the world and with almost limitless interior options, Continental GT’s potential configuration options can run literally into the billions. In fact, according to the brand, there are currently a total of 17 billion ways in which a customer can specify a Continental GT. Through these customisation options, a Continental GT can offer both individuality and exclusivity, despite being part of an 80,000 strong family.