I don't like surprises. I want to know what I'm getting for Christmas, my birthday and what we are having for Easter Dinner. I already know what I want; therefore, a surprise is usually a disappointment. Usually.
The Bentley Continental GT on these pages shocked the hell out of me, an unexpected but wholly satisfying surprise. Wrapped in yards of gorgeous sheet metal, leather and gleaming chrome, the GT appeared as elegant as a British Lord at teatime, both mannerly and refined, the type of vehicle you take to a polo match or golf outing. The next moment, it exploded with the fury of a soccer hooligan about to take the World Cup. Its acceleration was so intense, the entire contents of my pack ended up wedged in the rear window.
Yes, the Bentley GT surprised me, primarily because I never viewed Bentleys as particularly fast cars. I knew they were powerful, but in more of a Mac Truck sort of context. I was wrong.
By now, everyone and their mother have waxed poetically about the Bentley GT. In short, every reviewer said the same basic things: it's fast and luxurious. I don't think they emphasized the "fast" part enough. Or maybe it was this particular car and its unique treatment. Although I spent all of two hours behind the wheel of this Axis-owned Bentley, it was enough to leave a lasting impression. This car performs with all the grace of an M5, has the acceleration of a Porsche Turbo and the high-speed stability of a Mercedes. In short, it's a stud in a three-piece suit.
Owner James Chen of Axis Wheels is no stranger to automotive exotic. Several years back, we featured his modified Ferrari 360 Modena, a car that no doubt had Enzo spinning in his grave at 8000 rpm. Though most people consider modifying high-end cars a sacrilege, there is a select group that wants more performance and singularity.
This Bentley was treated with 10x22-inch Axis Crewe wheels covered in a rich "Diamond Black" paint. The Pirelli rubber measures 295/25-22, and though they lack much sidewall, the car remains surprisingly comfortable. The crew GMG installed a lowering module that essentially makes the car think it's going 100 mph. At that speed the vehicle drops 1.5 inches closer to earth for that well-tucked autobahn stance.
GIAC boldly explored the Bentley's brain (actually dual brains, as the W12 engine is essentially a pair of narrow-angle six-cylinder motors). GIAC techs found substantially greater power under the hood: 80 more bhp and nearly 100 lb-ft of twist. GMG ensured this newfound power was completely realized and fabricated a sport exhaust (dual down pipes), upgraded diverter valves and performance air filters. If you were to saddle-up next to this car in a stock Continental GT, you'd be seeing its taillights after the first 50 feet, if you're into that sort of thing.
Certainly this treatment will appeal to a small minority of GT owners and that's just fine. Most Bentlians couldn't handle the surprise.
AXIS Wheels 2005 Bentley Continental GT
DrivetrainFront engine, all-wheel drive
Engine6.0-liter W12 (72, angle between two main banks, 15, between staggered cylinders) quad overhead cams, four valves per cylinderGMG diverter valves, GMG sport intake/exhaust, GIAC software
SuspensionGMG lowering module
Brakes15.9-inch ventilated front discs w/ TEVES 8-piston calipers,13.2-inch rear discs w/ 4-piston calipers
Wheels and TiresAxis Crewe, 10x22Pirelli P-Zero Rosso, 295/25-22
PerformancePeak Power: 664 bhp @ 5500 rpmPeak Torque: 594 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm0-60 mph: 4.3 sec.Top Speed: 204
Joel Laub'S 1929 Bentley Le Mans
DrivetrainFront engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine4.5-liter inline four, ohc, dual SU carburetors
SuspensionSemi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear
BrakesDrums front and rear
Wheels and Tires5.5x19 70-spoke wire rimsEnglebert Comp P 6.5/19 tires
PerformancePeak Power: 100 bhp @ 3500 rpmTop Speed: 92 mph
1929 Bentley LeMansWe gotta give a shoutout to our man Joel Laub, owner of the gorgeous 1929 Bentley featured with its younger sibling. Joel flew his private jet down to join us at the soon-to-be-gone El Toro Marine base and put the old girl through her paces. Afterwards, he split with the car for a late dinner date in L.A. Bet the valet never parked anything like this before.
In Joel's words:"The car is a 1929 Bentley 4.5-liter Le Mans. I bought it while in England about five years ago from Stanley Mann north of London. The car was built by Ulf Smith in the Azore Islands. Ulf is the honorary consulate from Sweden to the Azores and a well-known restorer of vintage Bentleys. I was looking for a car to go touring with and one that would be accepted in most events. After looking at Bugattis and Alfas I decided on a Bentley because they were big, heavy and comfortable (not to mention fast). This was my first Bentley. I have since acquired a 1930 Speed Six, 1929 Blower 8-liter Bentley, a 1953 Bentley R Type Continental Fastback and a 1956 Bentley S1 Continental. I also own a D Type Jaguar (XKD520) which I am driving in the upcoming Colorado Grand. I have driven both the Speed Six and the Blower in this event in the past. I also own a 1953 XK120 rally car and a 1949 alloy XK120 #42 which is in restoration. This year I drove the Speed Six 2,500-plus miles on the Bentley Drivers Club Western United States Tour (didn't burn one quart of oil) and in the Blower spent three weeks in the Azore Islands on another BDC Tour put on by Ulf Smith. There is something about strapping on the goggles and firing up a vintage Bentley. Knock on wood, I have not had one mechanical problem in many thousands of miles of driving in all kinds of conditions."