Expect Bezos-esque flex wear, free-flowing Champagne, confetti canons, and exquisite $2 million Bentleys.
Car makers spend a lot of time fixating on stance—the sense of attitude an inanimate object can be made to project by manipulating its proportions and geometry. According to Bentley Motors head of design, Andreas Mindt, the stance of the company’s brand new Batur coupe is neither overly aggressive nor in any way laid back. Instead, it lands on a sweet spot that he and his colleagues call, “resting beast.”
The Batur, which was unveiled on Saturday at Monterey Car Week, serves both as a last hurrah and a kick-off for the 103-year-old company as it switches from making vehicles with internal-combustion engines to ones with electric motors. It has a specially tuned 12-cylinder, 740 horsepower gasoline engine—the most powerful Bentley has ever made. It also has a futuristic exterior and interior design that Mindt says lays the foundation for the look of the brand’s forthcoming electric models. During a sneak preview of the Batur earlier in the week, he pointed to its “endless bonnet,” a line on the side of the vehicle that begins at the front and swoops all the way to the rear, which gives the car a muscular space-age appearance. Inside, there’s another important line, this one squiggly and etched across the dashboard, which depicts the exact sound wave the exhaust makes when the car starts. Elsewhere, an 18K gold driving-mode dial appears to float above the center console like a miniature geometric sculpture.
The Batur, which was made in partnership with the company’s in-house coachbuilding unit, Mulliner, represents the future for Bentley in other ways. Only 18 of them will be manufactured and each will cost approximately $2 million. Long before the first one was unveiled last week, all of the rest had already been reserved. Debuting something that is already sold out is something watchmakers and handbag designers do all the time, but it’s only recently become a thing in the auto world. Last May
Rolls-Royce rolled out three coach built cars, each already purchased. In the spring, Mercedes debuted its Haute Voiture, which will have also have a limited run. These special releases bring attention to manufacturer’s bespoke services, which at many companies can also be hired to customize regular assembly models.
Even at $2 million, the Batur may turn out to be a wise long-term investment. Unlike other collectibles that have seen a decline in value in recent months, rare cars have been getting steadily more valuable. Auctions during the week brought in $469 million—a new record at Monterey. The most expensive purchase was a red 1955 Ferrari 410 Sport Spider, which RM Sotheby’s sold for $22 million (slightly below its $25 to $30 million estimate).
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance started in 1950 as a local fundraiser, and it has grown into the premiere auto event in the United States. Thousands of spectators crowd the 18th fairway of the links golf course on which it’s held to look some of the rarest cars in the world. The completion is fierce, and serious collectors begin planning which multi-million purchases they will make for the following year’s entry even before the confetti canons go off announcing best of the show. The Concours is preceded by other events earlier in the week, including vintage car races at nearby Laguna Seca racetrack, numerous auctions, and the Quail, a Motorsports Gathering, a smaller, more exclusive show, which manufacturers have increasingly begun using to unveil new models and prototypes.
Car enthusiasts come from all over to attend the event and many drive vintage Porsches, brand new McLarens, Bugattis—you name it— and all of Monterey inevitably turns into one loud and very expensive traffic jam. Sartorial choices at the parties and car shows range from full-on British royal wedding regalia, including fascinator hats, to Jeff Bezos-esque (post divorce) flex wear. “It’s car prom,” explained several regulars.
Some attendees plan their own itineraries but others choose to go as guests of manufacturers, which host parties and events throughout the week. Bentley started early and invited some of its most loyal customers to join a small armada of new Bentleys sailing north from Los Angeles. After an overnight in San Luis Obispo, they drove straight to Laguna Seca to zip around the track for an exclusive “100 Years of Le Mans” parade lap. Later that evening they were dropped off at the “Bentley House,” an estate rented for the week where a few hundred people gathered for cocktails and dinner.
“There is no event on earth which has this concentration of our target group in one place for one weekend, full stop,” said Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark. It was Saturday at the Quail and he had already met with three owners to hash out the specifications of their new Baturs. Other Bentley fans had approached him to put their names on a list for future limited-release cars. “You get insight into the way people think and why they do what they do.” Plus, he said, pointing to the other car company’s nearby displays, “You can also have a sniff around the competition without having to put on a fake mustache.”
There are parties throughout Monterey on the Saturday night before Concours and Bentley held a big blowout at the Beach & Tennis Club at Pebble Beach. It started with the unveiling of the Batur and then 500 or so guests filed into the club where enormous buffets were loaded with prime rib, lobster and scallops. A nine-person band played cover songs and pretty soon the dance floor was full.
Norman Vanamee is the articles director of Town & Country.
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