Bentley Continental GT V8 in Verdant green colour side angled view positioned with Bentley Blower with projected image of Bentley Blower on race track in back drop.
Bentley Continental GT V8 in Verdant green colour side angled view positioned with Bentley Blower with projected image of Bentley Blower on race track in back drop.

The story of Mulliner

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.

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Close up view of chrome matrix grille featured in Mulliner coach built.
Painting of horse driven carriages with 4 carriages in view.

From saddle making 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.

Engine Turned Aluminium - Dark Tint finished veneer.
Side view of 20th century Bentley

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.

Close up view of vertical fluted vanes
 Side view of sleek aerodynamic 1952 R-Type Bentley Continental with alumunium wings and chrome radiator grill

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.

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A rebuild of the 1939 Bentley Corniche

The original Bentley Corniche
Rebuilding a car lost to history
A pivotal moment for Bentley
The road to the rebuild
The historical record restored

The original Bentley Corniche was just a prototype – a true one-off. In 1939, it was undergoing road testing in France, when it was badly damaged in an accident. Sent home for repairs, the chassis made it back to the Bentley factory, but the bodywork remained in the port of Dieppe, where it was destroyed in a bombing raid when war broke out. As a result, the car was never seen again – until a stunning rescue mission was undertaken.

Despite the best efforts of Bentley and the enthusiast community, there remain some models from the company’s past that have been lost to history. Occasionally, however, the opportunity arises to fill one of these gaps in the record – as was the case with the project to rebuild the long-lost coachbuilt Bentley Corniche.

The Bentley Corniche was no ordinary car. It was one of a kind – a prototype built for testing in 1939, prior to a production run that never took place. Yet it matters because its design represented a pivotal point for Bentley. As the first car from the company to implement ‘streamlining’ in the pursuit of higher performance, it was a radical step forward in appearance from the Bentleys of the Twenties and Thirties, its design going on to influence post-war models from the iconic R Type Continental, right up to today’s Continental GT. The car itself was conceived as a high performance version of the then-new Bentley Mark V saloon, which was scheduled for launch in October 1939. 

The plan to rebuild the car was hatched several years before Mulliner’s involvement, by volunteers from the W.O. Bentley Memorial Foundation and the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation. But lacking in resources, progress on this mammoth project was slow. In 2018, however, Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Adrian Hallmark asked for it to be brought in house, in order that it could be completed by 2019, when Bentley was due to celebrate its centenary. Using only the technical drawings made in the production of the original prototype, the Mulliner Classic team set about recreating the car. They used original mechanical components from both the Corniche and the Bentley Mark V, while completely remaking its sleek, streamlined body.

As Mulliner’s first historic car project, the Corniche rebuild demonstrated the full breadth of the division’s coachbuilding and restoration capabilities. Every aspect of the project received Mulliner’s attention. From the special paint mixes for the exterior – named Imperial Maroon and Heather Grey – to the unique interior trim, it had to be identical in every detail to the car lost in 1939. Even the tool tray and the Mulliner treadplates on the door shuts were created from scratch. Once complete, this incredible restoration filled in one of the most glaring blanks in Bentley’s illustrious history. Now permanently resident in Bentley’s Heritage Collection, it is the only car of its type in existence, thanks to the skills of Mulliner Classic.

Close up of Bentley Batur's front grille in gloss black colour and orange accents.
Front side quater view of Bentley Batur featuring 22 inch black polished directional alloy wheels and Bentley branded red brake callipers.

The story continues

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 Bacalar and the new Bentley 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.

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The State Limousine

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A royal commission

Her Majesty
Protected from all eventualities

Built to honour Her Majesty the Queen’s first fifty years on the throne, this one-off Bentley luxury car was created with input from Her Majesty, the Duke of Edinburgh, Her Majesty's Head Chauffeur and was used for official engagements for more than two decades.

As a head of state, Her Majesty had to be protected at all times from the threat of attack, however unlikely it may have seemed. To that end, all of the car’s bodywork and glass has been specially strengthened. The cabin is blast-resistant and it can be sealed air-tight in the case of a gas attack. Even the tyres are reinforced with Kevlar, to ensure it can still be driven at speed in an emergency situation. Mulliner has created cars with armour to protect their occupants on numerous occasions. To enquire about a coachbuilt car with protective features like this, please contact us directly on +44 (0) 1270 653 653.

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The pinnacle of craftmanship

Monocoque construction
Tailored design

It was critical that Her Majesty be comfortable in the car for long periods of time. A monocoque construction was therefore chosen, allowing the transmission tunnel to run underneath the cabin, for a flatter floor.

The rear seat position was determined using a model of the exactly the same height as the Queen, while handbag stowage was designed around the dimensions of the Queen’s favourite bags.

British textile manufacturer Hield Brothers produced the lambswool cloth used for the upholstery of the rear seats, with all remaining upholstery rendered in Bentley’s light grey Connolly hide. The carpets, meanwhile, are pale blue in the rear and dark blue in the front.