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Were this a Hollywood script, the story would likely begin with a flashback. To a top-secret session in a well-guarded room hidden deep beneath PALExpo center on the outskirts of Geneva. After producing the appropriate credentials and signing an ironclad agreement of confidentiality, a journalist would be allowed to enter. He’d be stripped of camera, notebook, cellphone, pen, virtually everything but his shoes and belt buckle. And then, the room would grow dark.
2005 Bentley Continental GTEnlarge Photo
The story would then shift to the present tense. On a narrow, winding road wending its way across the ancient fields and hillocks of Welsh sheep country. That same journalist would be seated behind the wheel of the new Bentley Continental GT. The same car he’d been given a glimpse of 18 months before.
This is no movie. And there was good reason for all that secrecy. After nearly three-quarters of a century, the marriage of sporty Bentley and stately Rolls-Royce was coming to an abrupt end. Once given up for dead, Bentley had staged a surprising rebirth during the 1990s, unexpectedly eclipsing its long-standing partner. Soon it would be on its own, but rather than simply maintain course, Bentley was planning a dramatic shift in direction, one it was admittedly uncertain about.
That darkened room held the first clay model of the car that would redefine the British brand. But if company officials went in worried, their fears were soon put to rest. The reaction among the select few given the opportunity to see the new car was overwhelming. And so, with the help of its new parent, Volkswagen AG, Bentley raced to put prototype into production. This coming November, the first Continental GT will reach English showrooms, with a U.S. debut scheduled for early next year.