It’s not that kind of fun. It’s not like jumping into bed with your favourite Playmate. No.
It’s more like dating the Queen of Sheba. She might or might not have had sexual dalliances with King Solomon, but the attraction was mainly based on his wisdom and wealth. Or so she said.
A matter of style, then; a question of power, culture and refinement. To meet Solomon, the Queen travelled from afar, from a land whose people worshipped not a god, but the sun. As a show of respect, she lugged four-and-a-half tons of gold with her. Solomon reciprocated with gifts of his own and granted her “everything she desired.” The Queen of Sheba chose a Bentley Continental GTC.
Now, it’s well known that modern soccer players – the yobs of Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs – snog in snob’s chariots, often in the shape of a Bentley Continental GT. Add a “C” to the “T” and you get the convertible version, the one in which you can whip a multi-layered canvas roof down, bury it in the boot and worship, well, the sun. That, while you’re thundering along at 300 km/h in your own chariot of the gods. Good thing Erich von Däniken didn’t know about the GTC. The gods of old might have thundered in from outer space, but they never travelled the Bentley way.
For, let’s face it, Bentleys are big. They’re also beautiful and quick. Not for nothing was it, almost a century ago in the days of fiercely contested Le Mans epics, that Ettore Bugatti referred to those wing-logoed English cars as “the world’s fastest lorries.”
Alain Prost tried that trick, once, with Ferrari. At the height of his considerable powers the little Frenchman, a triple F1 world champion at the time, referred to his scarlet racer as a “lorry.” Prost, nicknamed “The Professor” for his precise style and analytical thinking, promptly got fired. His horse pranced no more. The little Frenchman turned into a frog – and you wonder where the saying comes from.
By contrast, WO – or Walter Owen Bentley – loomed larger than life. In 1919 he started Bentley Motors Limited in Cricklewood, near London. His first 3-litre motor burst into life in Baker Street. Jethro Tull sang about Baker Street – or the “Baker Street Muse” – on one of their very best albums, called Minstrel In The Gallery. Check it out; it’s brilliant: “Windy bus-stop, click, shop-window, heel. Shady gentleman, fly-button, feel…” Can you guess what Tull is all about, in this little intro to “Baker Street Muse”? Or how about Ten Years After’s very best album, called Cricklewood Green? Yep, that’s the village green in WO’s start-up spot, not so? Or perhaps the British racing green covering Bentley’s Le Mans metal? Or shall we rather try one of the LP’s best known songs, called “Love Like a Man,” as climax to Tull’s “Shady gentleman, fly-button, feel…” ? Or perhaps we should extend the naughty thought play even further, till we plug into Baker Street’s Blower Bentley – get it? Blower Bentley – of the 1920s? Think about it.
WO didn’t think about it all that much. He thought about cars a lot, he was an engineer and a racing driver himself. But he never thought about it, he just did it. Life, I mean. WO and 16 others – collectively known as The Bentley Boys, with Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin among them, plus Frank Clement, John Duff, Sammy Davis and Woolf Barnato, heir to Kimberley diamond magnate Barney – lived the ultra-high life in London. WO purportedly spent £15,000 a week to entertain and party.
Hey, in today’s money, that’s more than half a million per month on wine, women and song. Bet ’ya it would have topped a million if Dasha Astafieva was around then. Dasha who? Keep your eyes open. PLAYBOY will answer your prayers. [Ed’s note: see here.]
Partying ain’t all they ever did, though, those Bentley Boys. They raced as well. “Women and cars,” a young Nascar driver once said, in answer to questions about life. “What else is there?”
Well, diamonds, not so? The Bentley Boys even had that, probably on the soles of their shoes; Barney and Woolf’s money was everywhere. And the fast lane did them no harm at all. WO was born in 1888 and died in 1971, a month before his 83rd birthday. That’s old. Tired bones are rampant among English nobility, in any case. The Queen will be 86, soon. Her mum reached 101. Charles will be around forever; torture never leaves. Dante and Marat will always return. Today we’ll call it Mugabe, tomorrow Malema. The counterpoint is that Dasha will also live – in the pages of PLAYBOY – till kingdom comes. Hail Hugh!
And hail WO! The latest incarnation embodying his legacy is precisely the Continental GTC, a chariot fit for a queen.
Now, here’s the thing about that kind of fun: Dasha is perfectly shaped for a Lamborghini. She’d take to it like a duck to water. Her style and looks fit. They’re both fast and sexy, the Lambo and Dasha dashing. Take her out of Victoria’s Secret though, and into haute Versace couture, and she’ll, equally, hop out of the Lambo and take to the Bentley like a duck to Walter. Miss Astafieva will be as comfortable in a Continental as the Queen of Sheba.
But what if you reverse the roles and drop the Queen into a Lambo? Nope. Not possible. Dasha can do that, swap around and have fun. But not the Queen. Her place is in a Bentley. It’s regal, it’s royal, you can park it outside Casino Royale and have James Bond as chauffeur. Guess what Ian Fleming’s intrepid hero initially drove, in any case, in those early 007 books? Yep. A Bentley 4.5-litre convertible with an Amherst Villiers supercharger.
The new GTC is fired from a 6.0-litre twin- turbo W12 and sends 423kW and 700Nm to all four wheels. It’s a blast; the car hauls 2.5 tons of exquisite metal, wood and leather around like the Queen commanding servants by the mere wave of a hand, a nod of the head. The GTC is quick, silent and efficient. The mill harbours immense muscle. The look is classic. The edge is modern. The interior is hand-crafted. The cabin reeks of opulence. The Bentley is utterly sumptuous and sophisticated. It glides, rather than rides. It’s a question of style and status, of power, culture and refinement.
So, no, it’s not smoking rubber, it’s not side- ways. It’s not that kind of fun. Yet, it most definitely is regal. The Bentley Continental GTC is, quite simply, a chariot for the gods, built to worship the sun, and the universe beyond, and what’s in it. Like the Queen. Like your queen. Like Dasha. Like Ms Astafieva. Amen.
By Egomont Sippel
Published Playboy SA January 2012