Thursday, March 1, 2007

A photo tour of the Bentley Motors Factory

Bentley Motors Factory ENGINE LINE The twin-turbo W-12 engine is fully assembled in Crewe from castings and parts sent in from Germany and elsewhere. The engines move through 21 stations along a U-shaped assembly line, riding on automated robotic carriers.

Bentley Motors Factory ENGINE LINE The first time the engine runs is in this jig, which motors the engine without fuel or spark to test for fluid pressures, excess friction, and proper intake and exhaust pressures. Later the engine will be started and run throughout its operating range.

Bentley Motors Factory WOOD SHOP Bentleys are known for their fabulous hand-finished wood veneers, which can be ordered in a vast array of custom finishes, some of which are on display in the commissioning center.

Bentley Motors Factory WOOD SHOP Wood from the three-foot-diameter root-ball of an 80-some-year-old tree is shaved to about the thickness of good quality art paper (0.6mm). Some manufacturers laminate this to the aluminum substrate directly, but that doesnít give the touch and feel of thick wood apropos of a Bentley, so between the aluminum and the top veneer layer are sandwiched five layers of tulip-poplar wood and glue. A sheet of Mylar is placed atop the veneer to protect it, and then it is compressed at 1160 psi at 239 degrees F to fuse the part together. Next come several sanding and polishing steps, before five coats of polyester lacquer are applied robotically.

Bentley Motors Factory

WOOD SHOP The suppliers bundle sheets of veneer in stacks shaved from the same section of the tree root ball, which allows the Bentley craftsman to book match the grain (this means the grain is perfectly symmetrical about a line in the center of the panel), and mirror matched (meaning the door or dash panel on one side of the car looks almost identical to the one on the opposite side, as shown on these two Continental GT door panels.

Bentley Motors FactoryLEATHER SHOP All leather upholstery is also prepared and sewn on site, by hand using 17 hides for an Arnage sedan, 11 for a Continental GT. In the foreground, associates are taping off areas of sub-par leather on a particular hide (deep grain belly leather, areas with insect bites, etc.). In the background, a Gerber machine scans for these taped areas, and then lays out and cuts the parts needed to make seats, trim panels, etc.

Bentley Motors Factory

LEATHER SHOP Next the parts are sewn together by hand.

Bentley Motors Factory LEATHER SHOP Hand-sewing a steering wheel requires two needles pulling 852 cm of cotton thread through 234 stitches.

Bentley Motors Factory ASSEMBLY LINE Six cars were being run through final quality check during our visit. This one is about to have its rear bumper installed. Under ordinary production conditions, each car will spend 17 minutes stopped in each of 54 assembly stations.

Bentley Motors Factory ASSEMBLY LINE At this station a final electrical check is made of the 32 electronic control units and myriad switches and connections, before any interior trim is fitted.

Bentley Motors Factory ASSEMBLY LINE Here all the fluids except the gasoline are being topped up.

Bentley Motors Factory ASSEMBLY LINE At this station the interior trim will be installed.

Bentley Motors Factory

ASSEMBLY LINE And this corner of the factory is where the new Continentals and Arnages roll off their separate assembly lines.

Crewe, England. The beautiful brickwork of Victorian factories. An intricate network of canals and railway lines suggesting the congested traffic of bygone eras. The industrial revolution. The Second World War. Leafy suburbs give way to open countryside. And suddenly you’re there.Welcome to Pyms Lane, home of Bentley Motors, proud guardians of the Flying “B”.

You’re struck, first of all, by the quiet. Then the scent of freshly cut leather mingling with hardwoods freshly sawn. So imperceptibly slow is its forward momentum you have to be told that this is the assembly line. Shapes emerge like sculptures partly formed. You make out the gracious lines of a new Arnage, the exciting thrust of a Continental body. Here and there in the cathedral-like spaces small clusters of green-clad engineers pore over the gleaming contours of a new Azure or a Continental GTC.

You witness the moment a new Bentley is born as a distinguishing red metal plate bearing the signature of the engine assembly team leader is attached to a hand-built engine. In Bentley Mulliner, next door to the main facility, engineers and craftspeople are fitting with infinite care bespoke interior appointments to the interior of an Arnage RL limousine.

Then the history. The historic 3-litre ‘Exp.No. 2, the second Bentley built; the magnificent 4 - litre ‘Blower’ that raced at Le Mans in 1930; the iconic R Type Continental and S1 Continental Flying Spur, the Le Mans Trophies past and present. - The legend comes alive.
This isn’t a factory visit. It’s the Bentley Experience.

You could be here to choose the colour of the thread that will cross-stitch the voluptuous appointments of your recently-ordered Arnage. Or to take one of our extraordinary new Continental GT’s for a memorable spin around the local countryside.

However it begins, your tour of our Crewe facility, in the company of your Dealer representative and a time served Tour Guide, will inevitably end with a new appreciation of the passion for fine craftsmanship and the pride in engineering perfection that goes into every one of our cars. &

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