Why you should care
Among the infinite permutations of car options, building your own custom-made Bentley — even if you can’t afford it — has the most panache.
Ever felt like you knew exactly the kind of Bentley you’d order, only to be shown you are completely out of touch with your automotive aura? Hashtag that question under #FirstWorldProblems, but I promise these next few moments are not a tutorial on the right or wrong way to blow a couple hundred large. They’re about knowing yourself; or more specifically, seeing if an android-like amalgamation of man and machine knows you better than you know yourself.
At least, that’s the rapture-like experience that Bentley is putting on right now, called The Visionary Experience: an experimental, limited engagement in car commissioning going down in New York City. Carved out of a modest studio space in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the “innovative blend of art and technology” is the latest attempt by a luxury automaker to massage the type of client who’s never content in buying from dealer inventory.
Huh, so this is what it’s like to live as the other half.
In the case of Bentley, bespoke permutations for any given car in their fleet are in the billions.
I was elated over an invite to the studio to give the event a dry run (in other words, actual Bentley ownership is not in my imminent future).
The first step was to pick a “key card” design that appealed to me most. Given the options of rich wood grain, a brushed-metal fish-scale pattern and carbon fiber, I chose the third. Why? Well, it best matched the Arctic white Continental GT coupe — with red leather and piano black/carbon interior accents — that’s been in my daydreams for quite some time. Was I trying to fix the results, or was this inception? Hmm.
Here’s where the folks at Bentley really attempt to get into your head.
Bentley’s Visionary Experience runs from now until May 24 at The Bentley Studio, 427 West 14th Street, New York, NY — by appointment only. Left-coasters, seek zen: You’ll get a chance to find yourself at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, beginning August 17, 2014.
Scattered around a breathtaking Mulsanne sedan, minimalistic kiosks rotate an array of randomly paired images. It was now my job, through taps of the key card, to pick the single element of each duo that spoke to me more. Make no mistake, this was tough work! The winding road easily hooked me over the polo match, while a wall of graffiti was a clear winner over a sweaty concert crowd. But did I prefer the shapely brunette walking up the beach, or a heavy pour of scotch? Yes. To all.
After 20 or so of these high-pressure, nerve-racking decisions, Bentley’s software generated a lifestyle matrix that painted me as quite the well-rounded gentleman. But my subsequently generated color trends of Silly Putty, orange, mocha and seafoam green? Help!
The final component of the Visionary Experience brings back the human element, right at the point in the process where you could be feeling a little lost. Lucky for me, design experts Nigel Ratcliffe and Corinn Cunningham dismissed the green from my color trend results, but showed me methods of harmonizing the remaining palette in ways I would have never imagined.
My final product? A deep-bronze GT with burnt oak hide, stained walnut accents, and fire-orange stitching — a far cry from the rolling slab of red velvet cake I’d salivated over so many times in the past (yet if I could gobble one up, I would in a heartbeat).
Congratulations Bentley, you know me — you really know me!
Photographs by Margarita Corporan