Walter Owen Bentleywould be impressedwith his four-door ContinentalFlying Spur'sdynamic W-12 engine. WO, as he likedto be called, can be credited in 1914with creating aluminum alloy pistonsthat produced substantially higher output.Bentley's designs were advancedeven by today's standards. WO was abrilliant engine designer, and the hallmarkof his design was early enlistmentof overhead camshafts and four valvesper cylinder. He was a hands-on automakerwho had a strong background insteam locomotives and automotive fleetmechanics. His vehicles were outstanding,and his demand for reliability of theproduct was exceptional.
Bentley pursued racing and in hisautobiography recalled, "We are racingnot for the glory and heroics, but strictlyfor business." That decade Bentleysbecame all the rage. Their 6.5-literSpeed Six model won first, second, third,and fourth place at Le Mans, France, in1929. The cars were hand-built, frontengine, rear-wheel drives with a powerfuliron frame. Located at all fourwheels were big cloth-wrapped leafsprings and drum brakes. By 1929,superchargers were added.
Ultra Luxury Sedan
The 2006 Continental Flying Spur isa tour-de-force of handcraftsmanshipand thoughtful engineering, and one ofthe world's few ultra 4-door luxurysedans. The Continental Flying Spur isalso wonderful as it was developed intandem with the two-door ContinentalGT. The soft curves of the Flying Spurare distinctive, yet holds to the Bentleyimage. Even better, the Flying Spur isactually more slippery to the wind thanthe two-door GT.
The Flying Spur has a different drivingcharacter and different rear suspensionthan the two-door. The wheelbaseis a smooth, comfortable 120 inches,with an overall length of almost 209inches. The steel monocoque structurefloats on the independent suspension offour progressive air springs mated withprogressive rate shock absorbers at eachwheel. While much of the power trainand some structure are from Bentley'sparent company Volkswagen, the completecar's character is distinctly British.The 12-cylinder engine is thrilling todrive and a brilliant design along withthe 6-speed automatic transmission thatputs power to four wheels. The FlyingSpur is fitted with two matching turbochargers.Its design returns a quick,smooth, powerful response.
You will want to plan ahead to makea Bentley purchase the easiest way. It isbest to commission your car exactly asyou like. Please understand that no twoBentleys are built alike. You may wanta two-tone wood and leather heatedsteering wheel, or you may enjoy thehigh-tech look of hand-laid carbon fiberinstead. The interior is soft and supportive,even reassuring, like comfy overstuffedfurniture in a fine English home.The woods, hides, wools, and other natural materials indulge the occupants inways no German car has done. Thegauges are traditional analog elegantand clear, the navigation system is accurateand fairly easy to use.
While Rolls Royce maintainedownership of Bentley from 1931through the late 1990s, the BentleyMotor Car Company of Crew,England, is on a modern renaissanceof fresh European engineering. TheBentleys of today are more affordablethan ever, competing above the top ofthe line Mercedes Benz only withmore personal craftsmanship. TheFlying Spur, at around $170,000well-equipped, is in a new price rangefor ultra luxury.
Because Bentleys are rare, it's thetype of car you must journey to theshow room to see, touch, feel, anddrive. Call ahead and make anappointment to test drive. It's a combinedthrill for the senses, a car thatcan whisk you away from everydaypressures. Its one of the few carsyou'll know is collectible as soon asyou possess it, a valuable investmentin your portfolio.
Jean Swensonand Ashly Knappare independent research
reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.