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From the moment the first Bentley was created in 1919, the human touch has been vital to the company’s philosophy of unrivalled craftsmanship and performance. Which is why, at the Bentley factory in Crewe, North-West England, thousands of highly skilled craftspeople are involved in crafting our cars by hand – and in the Mulliner workshop, unique bespoke cars are created. From the veneers, embroidery and leather inside to the paintwork that adorns the exteriors, Bentley’s craftspeople take enormous pride in the cars they make. It’s why they deliver such stunning attention to detail – for an in-car experience that delights the senses.

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A world of veneers

One of the most striking features of a Bentley interior is the ring of veneer that encircles the cabin. To create a sense of symmetry, Bentley’s craftspeople use a process called mirror-matching, which involves joining sheets of veneer that came from the same section of a single tree. The result is a continuous grain pattern that surrounds the driver and passengers.

Today, Bentley offers veneers from trees that grow all over the world. From the rich, smoky grain of Dark Stained Burr Walnut to bespoke choices including paler, straight grain species, every panel is cured for 72 hours, then sanded and lacquered five times to bring its natural beauty to life.

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A commitment to sustainable sourcing

Whatever wood the customer chooses, every sheet of veneer used by Bentley is ethically sourced – and Bentley’s wood experts go to great lengths to find the finest veneers in the world. On average, one of the company’s wood specialists views around 25,000 square metres of veneer during selection.
Only after stringent tests to ensure the wood meets Bentley’s quality and sustainability standards, will the rich red-brown wood make it into a car. For example, to find the wood for the Liquid Amber veneer, an exhaustive two-year search led the team to the Mississippi wetlands, where the American red gum tree grows. A tree is only used by Bentley if it falls naturally.

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Craft that moves with the times

Finding wood of the quality required is an ongoing quest for Bentley’s experts, especially as tastes and fashions change. In response to a desire from some customers for paler, more minimalist wood finishes, Bentley recently began offering Koa wood as an option. A straight-grained wood from trees that grow on Hawaii, it has traditionally been used to make guitars, canoes and surfboards, but rarely car interiors – until now.

Customers choosing the new Continental GT can even opt for Dual Veneers – a uniquely Bentley feature comprising two contrasting veneers, one placed above the other, with a chrome strip between them. It emphasises the width and space of the cabin, to stunning effect.

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Despite Bentley’s age-old commitment to fine woodcraft, the team responsible for veneers also work with a range of more varied materials.The team is constantly experimenting with new materials and techniques, such as the Côte de Genève console veneer in the new Continental GT – a breathtaking finish inspired by Swiss watchmaking.

For a contemporary, motorsport-inspired feel, Carbon Fibre can be commissioned, while turned aluminium, also known as ‘Engine Spin’ can be used to achieve a racing-themed interior more evocative of cars and planes from years gone by. At the other end of the spectrum, stone veneers represent a 21st Century fusion of age-old craft and cutting-edge technologies. Sustainably sourced – and only available in the natural colours of the stone – these laser-cut stone slices are incredibly thin, creating a stunning interior finish without adding significant weight to the car.

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Chosen carefully and crafted with precision and pride, leather hides contribute enormously to the sense of comfort and refinement in every Bentley. Nowhere in any car does Bentley use plastic leather substitutes.

Around 15 hides go into every Mulsanne, around 14 into Bentayga, 13 into the Flying Spur and 10 or 11 (depending on the body style) go into the Continental GT. Depending on the model, they are available in a wealth of colours, many of which can be applied to softer, semi-aniline leathers.

In the Flying Spur alone it takes 26 hours to cut, stitch and trim the seats – and every leather panel is initialled on the reverse by the upholsterer – a personal hallmark of quality in every car. It’s the culmination of a process that begins with Bentley’s leather inspectors checking raw hide for natural flaws, and ends with some of the most exquisitely crafted car interiors in the world.

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Stitching and Embroidery

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The quality of the stitching and embroidery is crucial to the exquisite interior finish of every Bentley – just as it always has been. Much of it is still done by hand, often for the simple reason that it is impossible to meet the Bentley standard using machines alone.

The leather that encases the steering wheels, for example, cannot be adequately stitched into place by machine. Even a job as apparently simple as ensuring the stitches are equidistant is best achieved manually. Bentley’s craftspeople mark the leather with an ordinary kitchen fork before proceeding to stitch, resulting in perfectly placed markers. The entire stitching process takes five hours, during which 10 metres of thread are used in the insertion of 620 separate stitches. And that’s just the steering wheel. It takes a full 136 hours to complete the interior of one Mulsanne.

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Bespoke needlecraft

Bespoke embroidery is also available, with some designs featuring up to 500,000 individual stitches in truly bespoke colours. In the Mulsanne Hallmark Edition, for example, special Gold or Silver threads were used, while in the Breitling Jets Limited Edition Continental GT, the seats featured stitching that was precisely colour-matched to Breitling’s yellow.

While much of this work is now necessarily undertaken by sewing machines, the patterns must still be created under the guidance of the human eye.

Skills passed down through generations
Some members of the 120-strong needlecraft team in Crewe have as many as 40 years’ experience. And in true Bentley tradition, these senior members of the team are charged with passing on their knowledge to the apprentices – the next generation of Bentley experts.

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Colour is intensely personal. That’s why Bentley offers more standard colours than any other car manufacturer – each one carefully selected to complement the unique designs of its cars. A wide range of finishes are available, from Solid and Metallic colours to the striking Pearlescent and Satin finishes offered by Mulliner. Duo-Tone designs can be selected from a choice of 24 combinations, while hand-painted fine lines can also be commissioned – a stunning example of the precision of Bentley’s craftspeople.

While machines are involved in some aspects of the paint process at the factory today, experienced craftspeople are always heavily involved, just as they have been since the earliest days of the company. To sand and polish a single Bentley Mulsanne, for example, it takes a team of highly trained people up to 12 hours.

Mulliner takes Bentley’s colour craftsmanship even further, offering a near-limitless range of colours, thanks to digital colour matching. Customers need only provide a sample of a favourite colour and it can be replicated throughout their car – from the exterior finish to the hides, stitching and details throughout the interior.

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Bespoke Marquetry

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Modern techniques and traditional skills

One of the world’s oldest art forms, marquetry is the process of setting imagery into veneers. Usually seen only in historic buildings and antique furniture, it is a highly skilled craft, examples of which are rare in the automotive world. Together, Bentley and Mulliner have combined modern techniques and materials with traditional skills to create bespoke marquetry for use inside Bentley’s cars – something few other manufacturers can offer. They use a wide range of materials, from the full spectrum of wood species to more exotic materials such as gold and mother of pearl.

Every piece is unique
To commemorate the launch of Bentayga, a stunning fascia panel was created depicting Roque Bentayga in Gran Canaria, the mountain that inspired the name of the car. Comprising wood from six different species of tree, it is a fitting tribute to the world’s first true luxury SUV.

To celebrate the company’s Centenary in 2019, the Mulsanne W.O. Edition by Mulliner saw a marquetry image of W.O. Bentley created using various tones of grey wood, with aluminium pieces adding a contemporary edge.

More contemporary marquetry materials include carbon fibre, as seen in the seven Continental GTs created in honour of the Breitling Jet Team. Each car is twinned with one jet from the team and includes a marquetry image of all seven planes flying in formation.

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Bentley’s tradition of craftsmanship is unlike any other in the automotive industry. It is the result of the devotion of the highly skilled people who work at the Bentley factory in Crewe – not just to the creation of the world’s finest cars but also to passing their skills on to the next generation.

To read more on skills and training at Bentley, please visit our Corporate Website.

To explore your career at Bentley visit our Careers Website.

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