FIVE CENTURIES IN THE MAKING
The story of Mulliner is woven into the very fabric of Bentley. It is a rich history of human endeavour, belief and bespoke craftsmanship that has been passed down from one generation to the next for over 500 years. Today, Bentley Mulliner represents the pinnacle of bespoke craftsmanship – just as it always has.
FROM SADDLEMAKING TO COACHBUILDING
The roots of Mulliner can be traced back to a family of carriers and saddlers in 1559, just one year after Elizabeth I came to the throne. The Mulliner name did not come to prominence until 1760, however, when F. Mulliner was commissioned to build and maintain carriages for the Royal Mail. In 1870, Robert Bouverie Mulliner started his own coachbuilding company called Mulliner London Limited, following in his forbears’ continuous pursuit of perfection.
At the turn of the 19th century, H.J. Mulliner moved the family business to London’s fashionable Mayfair, under the name H.J. Mulliner & Co. From there, the company was perfectly placed to serve society’s elite. From this foundation, H.J. Mulliner & Co would exquisitely handcraft each coach around their client’s exacting requirements.
THE ARRIVAL OF THE CAR
At the turn of the century, the company made a momentous decision to step away from horse-drawn vehicles. The reason was the arrival of a new, mechanical mode of transport: the motor car. But buying a car in the early 20th Century was very different from the way it is now. Back then, motor cars arrived from the factory simply as an engine mounted on a chassis, with a steering wheel and a transmission system. You could drive it, but not for long – not comfortably, at any rate. For that, you needed someone to build a body and a cabin for your car – one with seats and other niceties that would make it useful as a recreational vehicle. That someone was a coachbuilder. Coachbuilding, as we know it today, had arrived.
A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP
For the 1923 Olympia Show in London, Mulliner crafted a bespoke 3-litre, two-seater coachbuilt Bentley. It was the start of a partnership that would continue for decades. In the 1920s alone, Mulliner made bodies for more than 240 Bentley cars, each one as original as the last.
By this point, Mulliner was not alone in the coachbuilding business – yet the firm quickly established itself as a leader in its field. In the years that followed, the bond between Bentley and Mulliner grew stronger and, in 1952, Mulliner’s most famous coachbuilt Bentley – the revolutionary R-Type Continental – was revealed to the world. Then in 1957, Mulliner created a four-seat example of coachwork on a Continental chassis. The result was the iconic Flying Spur.
THE STORY CONTINUES
In 1959, Mulliner cemented its partnership with Bentley by becoming a part of the business. The firm subsequently moved into the old experimental engineering department at the Bentley factory in Crewe – and there it has remained ever since.
Today, Mulliner operates as Bentley’s personal commissioning division. It offers a range of products and services from premium options that can be fitted to Bentley production cars as they are built, to truly unique bespoke luxury cars such as the Bentley Mulliner Bacalar and the new Bentley Mulliner Batur.
Over 250 years since F. Mulliner gained his commission to build and maintain coaches for the Royal Mail, Mulliner remains dedicated to its craft – in an unbroken tradition of craftsmanship passed down through the generations. Today, these rare skills come together with the very latest in production technologies, blazing a trail that runs from before the birth of the motor car to the present day. It is a journey that is set to continue long into the future.