Friday, 8 January 2016

Bentley goes back to the stone age

NORMALLY it’d take a couple of days for some robots to bolt your next new car together – but they do things differently at Bentley.

Order the latest version of the Continental GT or Mulsanne and it turns out the production process actually started about 200 million years ago, in a part of the world that’s now at the bottom of an Indian quarry. That’s how long it’s taken for a type of stone to become just about good enough for the luxury car boffins to use as it as a new kind of dashboard veneer.

Yes, you read that correctly. As part of a new service being offered by Mulliner – Bentley’s in-house coachbuilding service – your nearest Premiership footballer can have their new car offered up with what’s effectively a stone dashboard. About time!

I genuinely find it hard to believe that in the era of Grand Designs and iPads that the vast majority of cars come with a choice of two interior finishes – grey plastic, or black plastic. Materials matter, which is why I’m surprised it’s taken the car world so long to realise that stone is a wonderful material to work with (and light too, given Bentley’s is just a tenth of a millimetre thick).

I’d love the idea of a car’s dashboard being trimmed with a dark, brooding slab of stone straight out of the Honister Slate Mine. Having been tempted by the gift shop right outside its front door I’ve seen firsthand how it’s possible to make everything from chopping boards to garden tables out of the stuff. Surely a bit on a car’s dashboard to replace the horrid wood-effect plastic on some of today’s hatchbacks can’t be too far a stretch? Marble would look magnificent too, if the front of most high street banks are anything to go by.

Nor should imaginative interiors stop at stone either. You only have to look at the body coloured flourish streaking across a Fiat Coupe’s dashboard to know the effect exposed metal can have in the right colour. It looks wonderful but very few manufacturers (take a bow, Volkswagen) actually do it.

For now I’ll have to stick to wood-trimmed classic cars to get an exciting interior, but if I go get a sudden windfall I know where I’ll be going. Back to the stone age, courtesy of Bentley!