Our readers have asked for more information about the creation of motorcars and there is no better place to start than taking a deep dive into a real English luxury motor company such as Bentley in Crewe, England. We visited the Bentley factory and documented our experience below.
Bentley Factory Museum
Our host, Lee Grogan, greeted us upon arrival and guided us straight into Bentley’s historic museum. A striking image of the man himself, automotive pioneer, W. O. Bentley, caught our eyes immediately. Surrounding W.O. are significant pictures marking milestones in the company’s history. And what a journey it has been. From creating one of the first ever successful performance cars to building aeroplane engines. And then coming right to the modern day, creating some of the best cars available on the planet. What a career!
We had the pleasure of seeing the oldest surviving Bentley, the EXP2. This car made history in its time by being faster than everything else around it. And as you can see here, it is a prided possession, in ultimate showroom condition for its age. Surprisingly, the car actually still does go out on the road and track from time to time. This is something as a car enthusiast you truly have to appreciate.
Furthermore, the rest of the museum displayed iconic cars from the early timeline of the Bentley marque. It was incredible to see cars built to such a high standard in the early twentieth century. Each car has its own story in its own era, but all are linked to great successes of Bentley Motors. Learning about these cars gives you a great insight to why the company is where it is today. The first 20 minutes on the factory tour were probably the most key to understanding the business of Bentley Motors.
Bentley designs are showcased all round the room. Several concepts and design drawings are on display with a large scale tape drawing hanging in the background. These allow designers to actively manoeuvre the cars’ lines in a realistic scale. It is quite rare to be able to look at these things first person.
Notably, a demonstration opened our eyes to what we often overlook. We were fortunate enough to see the panel beaters’ handiwork. Generally taken for granted is the craftsmanship of the woodwork underneath. It was great to see this demonstration below giving a glimpse to what is underneath these classic cars.
Bentayga Production Line
Video produced by: Daniel Barnett
Next, we stepped out of the museum and straight into the Bentayga production line. We see here a freshly painted car at its bare minimum spec, waiting for assembly. The car currently on the production line was painted with doors fitted to the car. However, they will soon be removed again to be equipped away from the car. The doors have been accurately weighted when fitted to ensure the perfect fit once the door is installed with glass and premium materials, etc.
In further watching the Bentayga on the production line, we noticed this is a superb modern set-up. Accuracy and accountability are the key features for this build. You can see the technician below who is carefully setting bolts onto the car. The machine seen below monitors and programmes each unique torque setting accurately. If there was an issue with a car in the future, it is possible to pinpoint which engineer tightened which bolt at which time and with which torque setting. This is perfect for development of the car and tracking and correcting issues on an ongoing basis.
Now, we see an engine fitted with the transmission and front running gear. All of this is built in advance outside of the car and can simply be slotted into the Bentayga using a selection of highly precise bolts. The engine was carefully built and tested long before it ever gets to the bodywork of the car.
Great Working Environment – Bentley Factory
The working environment within the Bentley production line was far larger than I had expected for such a luxury and niche vehicle. Tooled to the max, the workshop gives a great working environment to the employees. Whilst also offering a very premium and capable build for what could be the best 4×4 you can buy.
Later, I could not help but marvel at the engineering capabilities of the modern day. Bentley go to every effort to create the smoothest panels with the least amount of visible joints possible, creating what looks to be seamless bodywork all around the car. I think this is one thing that we often overlook. But when you stop to think about it, it is a huge engineering process to achieve this.
Finally, towards the final production stages of the car, we can see things like customer chosen alloy wheels and tyres fitted, fluids added and checks performed.
Also, within the factory, ergonomics are key when working to create the ultimate car. We can see here where the headlining is being wrapped. Workers fit the headlining to their own customisable table. They can then comfortably and efficiently create the best possible job before fitting it to the car. This illustrates Bentley striving to please the worker as well as the customer.
And, here we can see the car’s doors being brought back to the car after they have been fitted out with the exact specification that the customer has requested. This is the same door that the car was originally painted with and is now being married back to complete the vehicle.
Woodshop Centre of Excellence – Bentley Factory
Bentley Motors have carved out a name for themselves for manufacturing upscale, quality automobiles. One of their long-standing trademarks has been beautiful interiors. A key part of that has been the wood veneer available inside the car. The choices are really endless when it comes down to having a veneer. There are materials available from all over the world that are all environmentally friendly in the sourcing, but also highly attractive to the consumer. The room below shows examples of how all the materials could look in your car, not to mention examples of how various levels of craftsmanship create the ultimate interior.
For example, we took a look in the store room that holds all of the veneer packs. Each of these packs are enough to cover one car. There were roughly around seven extra sheets to compensate for any flaws in the material or damage during the handmade creations. Rumours state that Bentley store the additional pieces for the lifetime of the car. However, this is incorrect. As when a car is out in the real world, environmental conditions will alter appearances over time. So allocating spares to be stored longterm would have no additional benefit.
Below we can see how Bentley use the latest robotic laser technology to accurately and efficiently cut out the veneers within microns of accuracy ensuring the best possible build process for your new Bentley.
So, clearly, the technical craftsmanship with inside the Bentley woodshop is second to none. Examples below show apprentice-created bespoke designs using woodwork done by hand. The complexity of this process is unfathomable. But I can truly appreciate the work going to creating this and how beautiful the outcome is. It would be a great privilege to have this craftsmanship inside any vehicle.
Veneer Finishing – Bentley Factory
Once these layers have been designed, created and crafted, they go through a very extreme finishing process that takes years of experience to master. We can see in the pictures below how craftsmen will sand down the woodwork using various handmade tools and their experience to achieve an ultimately fine finish before the final inspection.
Leather Centre of Excellence – Bentley Factory
Then, of course, no Bentley would be complete without ultra-premium leather seats. We walked around Bentley’s hugely advanced leather workshop. It blew my mind with what was possible. Depending on the model you are specifying, there are around between eight and twelve hides required to create your car interior. However, Bentley are very smart in how they do this. They use computers as well as human eyes to scan the hide imperfections. But they also use computers to optimally configure the best way of cutting all the components out of the hide. Minimising the loss, this is the responsible and efficient way to make the car interior.
First Class Embroidery – Bentley Factory
Even more, embroidery in the car is a big must. The customisation options are endless with the Bentley brand. For example, in the chairs you can get your car make or model, your name or even your business name. The options are infinite. Below is an example of a embroidery machine which is putting a Bentley logo into the leather work for a headrest. The machine is fast, with blistering accuracy and an impressive finish. It was impressive to watch in action.
A Pit Stop For Ideas – Bentley Factory
Also, during the tour we entered a room where they bring customers to demonstrate different ideas for customising their car. As you see, the room contains materials, textures, colours and things you simply want to touch. This is great for inspiration and shows just how customisable and flexible Bentley are as a business. I really enjoyed my time in this room and felt instantly inspired simply walking into it.
Engine Build Centre of Excellence – Bentley Factory
So, too, let’s not forget about the engine process of a Bentley. Bentley’s earned a reputation for deploying their beautiful W12 engine that has gone on for many, many years. It is really the signature of the British motoring company.
As you can imagine, hours and hours go into building these hugely powerful engines. But just as importantly is the testing process of these engines. You can see below a new engine in a test bed. Both humans and computers analyse an engine to ensure that it is running optimally before it even sees the lights of the car. Each of the engines face testing on simulated test drives, ensuring optimum performance. Bentley also take this process one step further. Once a month, they test a single engine for eight hours at full RPM, stress-testing the build quality to ensure their engines are built to last.
Being able to walk round the engines in a partly built environment was a real treat to the eye. Seeing all the different mechanisms and components that build these hugely powerful engines, things you literally cannot see when they are in the car was awe-inspiring. This was certainly a great treat for a car enthusiast.
Also, one lucky member of staff tests the engine, and when satisfied, puts their name on top of the engine, stating that the engine is certified to be of standard. I can imagine this is a huge privilege at the Bentley factory and I’m slightly jealous that other people get to do this.
Off the Production Line – The Bentley Boutique
Finally, finishing the tour there was no better way of doing it than taking a look at the Bentley Boutique. Many people who visit the factory travel from all around the world and a lot of them want to take a souvenir home with them. The products vary from aftershave, to speaker systems, to watches, to bottle toppers or even luggage. Whether you already own a Bentley or desire to in the future, there are lots of goodies to please you.