Fastest Ever Production Bentley

The remarkable growth of the Philippines economy is evident by the large number of luxury cars one sees on the roads here. And that’s not just in Manila.

And when I say luxury, I mean real luxury. Thanks to the foresight of a number of astute businessmen, who could see the good times ahead, the luxury car market is booming.

One such successful businessmen is Robert Coyiuto Jr, chairman of  Bentley Manila and PGA cars. He’s built his luxury car business into the biggest of its kind in the country.

A visit to the posh PGA showrooms in Mandaluyong is like stepping into an Aladdin’s cave of the world’s finest automobiles – Bentley, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini.

Among the many outstanding cars on offer at PGA is the racy and outlandish Bentley Continental GT Speed. Already one of these beauties has been snapped up.

W O Bentley - the man who started it all in 1919

W O Bentley – the man who started it all in 1919

Alas, I’ll never be wealthy enough to own a Bentley Continental, but I’ve always admired the designs Bentley and independent coach builders have come up with over the years for this particular model.

As a child in the 1950s I was really taken with the Bentley Continental fastback coupé body by H J Mulliner. To me, one of the truly classic car designs of all time.

1954 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback

1954 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback

In 1968 I worked as executive assistant to impresario Robert Stigwood, manager of Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. His pride and joy was a white 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Drophead Coupe, once owned by the fabulously wealthy Aga Khan. It was a beautiful car and he would sometimes let me drive it.

So I’ve always had a soft spot for the Continental and was therefore intrigued to hear that this week at the Geneva Motor Show (March 6-16), Bentley will unveil it’s latest Continental GT Speed. The company has added a bit more muscle to the car which it describes as the ‘fastest ever production Bentley’.

The Bentley Continental GT Speed - an electrifying combination of luxury, power and performance.

The Bentley Continental GT Speed – an electrifying combination of luxury, power and performance.

Bentley has increased the two-door’s 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine just a bit. It now packs ten extra horses, up to 626 bhp, along with 605 lb-ft (820 Nm) of torque.

That upgrade gives the car’ a top speed of 331 kph. Zero to 60 mph takes just 4 seconds.

Bentley has also made some minor styling revisions. The front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser are painted to match the body color for the first time. Red brake calipers peek through the 21-in Speed wheels, which get a dark tint finish, as do the head lamps and tail lamps.

Chrome “Speed” badges on the front fenders and a new Candy Red color option round out the short list of exterior revisions.

Inside, the hand-finished cabin includes diamond-stitched leather upholstery, drilled pedals and a unique shift knob. Owners can also have the ‘engine spin’ metal dashboard trim in a dark grey tint to match the grille insert.

Bentley has used the moniker ‘Speed’ since the 1920s. The high-performance Bentley Speed Six were sports and luxury cars in production from 1926 to 1930. The Speed Six, introduced in 1928, would become the most successful racing Bentley.

Many of these beautiful cars are in private collections around the world. Hong Kong billionaire, Sir Michael Kadoorie, has an exquisite 1930 Bentley Speed Six Mulliner Drop Head Coupe in his extensive car collection.

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Php 1.2 billion for a car?

The 37 million pesos that Willie Revillame is said to have spent on a spanking new Rolls Royce would make that about the most expensive car ever sold in the Philippines, though there are some local taipans with large auto collections so I might be wrong.

But, even that fat-cat price for a ‘Roller’ pales into insignificance when compared to the equivalent of 1.2 billion – yes billion – pesos paid in England recently for a 70 year-old Mercedes Benz.

But this is no ordinary Mercedes. This is a rare racing car driven by Argentine Formula 1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio back in the 1950s.

Fangio in his W196 at the 1954 German Grand Prix

Fangio in his W196 at the 1954 German Grand Prix

The Mercedes-Benz W196, in which the five-time world champion clinched his second title, was sold at auction for the highest price ever paid for a Mercedes.

The W196 took the legendary Fangio to his second of five world championships, winning the ’54 German and Swiss Grand Prix in the process.

The W196 aroused a lot of interest at the auction house []   1954 Mercedes W196 sold for Php1.2 billion

The W196 aroused a lot of interest at the auction house
1954 Mercedes W196 sold for Php1.2 billion

This beautiful machine sports a 2.5-liter straight eight motor, and brought technologies such as fully-independent suspension and fuel-injected engines to Formula One.

The car had previously been part of the Daimler-Benz Museum in Germany and had been in the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in England where I worked as a student in the 1960s.

The car then went into private ownership and languished in a warehouse for more than 30 years.

Robert Brooks, chairman of Bonhams auctioneers, which handled the deal, called the car the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale.

The auction house said the steel-colored car is in a “remarkably unspoiled” condition and that its parts are believed to be complete and workable after proper preparation.

It was sold to a private buyer over the telephone.

Fangio, who died in 1995 aged 84, won the world championship five times and is regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of motorsport.

Nicknamed El Maestro, Fangio once said: ‘When I was in a racing car, I always liked to see exactly where the wheels were pointing.

‘I asked for a version with no bodywork covering the wheels for the Nurburgring race, and in no time Mercedes had built one – and I drove it to win the German Grand Prix.’

This is the only Mercedes-Benz W196 in private hands. It is the only surviving Mercedes-Benz W196 to have won not just one Grand Prix, but two.

Unholy row at luxury car factory

The Reverend Francis Cooke

The Reverend Francis Cooke

I can’t imagine this ever happening in the Philippines, but then this is a predominately Christian country. But in England, Bentley Motors, makers of luxury cars so beloved by Arab sheikhs, has sacked its Christian chaplain in case his presence offends non-Christians.

To add insult to injury, the chaplain, the Reverend Francis Cooke, was sacked just before Christmas.

Despite ten years’ service helping Bentley workers, including non-Christians, he was asked to leave immediately.

Bentley, which is now part of the massive German Volkswagen group, said: “We have a wide range of faiths and want to take a multi-faith outlook. It would be very difficult to have somebody from each faith.”

The clergyman was stunned by the decision which he called “ridiculous”. Over the past decade he has visited the company’s factory in the north England once a week in his chaplaincy role to chat to workers.

“I am not angry but more upset because I am very fond of the workers and they trusted me,” he said.
“There have been no complaints against me and my position is to help people and not just those who are Christians.

Bentley cars - so beloved by Arab sheikhs

Bentley cars – so beloved by Arab sheikhs

“It is not just about offering religious services. I provide counselling to workers who have stresses at home such as broken marriages. I would spend a few minutes with each person which would be enough to help them feel better,” he added.

Workers at the giant factory are furious. They’ve launched a campaign to reinstate the highly respected chaplain, who they said was an ‘important figure’ who had even helped one employee who had been on the brink of suicide.

A chaplain with another British company said he was not allowed to mention his faith unless the person he was talking to requests it.

“Almost 100 per cent of  those I visit or talk to are not Christians,” he said, “but I get requests to see a large proportion of them. Only one person has been offended by what I have said, and that was a Christian lady who misunderstood what I said.”

“I deal with those of all religions and those of no religion. I deal with families, the sick, those who are dying and even get asked to do funerals by those who are not Christians. I do not do my job to gain converts, but to simply carry out the highest demand of my faith, which is to help those who need help,” he added

Said one Christian observer: “A little bit at a time Christianity and British traditions are being wiped out of our lives. The stupidity of political correctness is erasing both at an alarming rate.”

This car’s no juke

Hertz certainly has a vast range of vehicles for hire. If you’ve got the readies, the world is your oyster with Hertz offering classics like a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari. But for an ordinary holiday-maker like me here in England with my family, something more modest is the order of the day.

The Nissan Juke - for the young and not-so-young  driver

The Nissan Juke – for the young and not-so-young driver

So, for my UK holiday this year I picked up a Nissan Juke at the Hertz depot at London’s Heathrow Airport.

This model is not available in the Philippines and I’d not seen it before. I found its quirky and somewhat oddball design rather appealing. The Juke has five doors, five seats and a useful cargo area under the rear hatch.

Despite its looks, it has I’m told become a very popular model. It straddles the divide between a tall subcompact hatchback and a very compact crossover.

It’s powered by a 188-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo charged direct-injection four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) power. Gas is expensive in England and I found the Juke economical when driven at around 90 kph.

Despite its tall body and high seating position, the Juke drives just like a regular car. Visibility is excellent and I especially liked the camera in the back so backing into parking spaces becomes much easier. As I have some problems turning my neck, I found this feature a Godsend.

The funky design of the Juke is primarily aimed at young drivers. I’m not a young driver, but the car also appeals to the young-at-heart.

One British car reviewer said the Juke is “an arrogant, independent, smugly stylish little car that draws attention whether its parked or zipping past all the big cars on the road. Its looks are not traditional, which accounts for the alligator label, though a bullfrog in a hurry is probably more apt.”

The interior is very comfortable with the ample use of leather, from the adjustable steering wheel to the thickly padded doors and arm rests to the seats. On the entertainment side, the Juke has a Rockford Fosgate sound system with an eight-inch subwoofer and six speakers – more than enough to deafen anyone in the car.

I have a feeling this unusual-looking car would be very popular with young drivers in the Philippines. What about it Nissan?

A Marcos by any other name

Most Filipinos are surprised when they hear there’s a legendary English sports car marque called Marcos. No, it’s nothing to do with the late Filipino president – the name is a combination of the first three letters of founders Jem Marsh and Frank Costin.

A 1961 Marcos Gullwing

They founded the company in 1959 in Luton, north of London. Their first cars drew on Costin’s aviation experience and were remarkable in their use of wood laminates for the monocoque body/chassis unit. Lightweight and good streamlining gave outstanding performance from the relatively modest 1 liter and 1.5 liter Ford engines they used.

A notable early customer was future F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, who gained his first racing experience in a Marcos.

The company designed and produced elegant, innovative and distinctive sports cars that were ahead of their time. Today they are treasured by their many fans and owners around the world.

The first real Marcos classic was the The Marcos GT 1800 launched with considerable acclaim in 1964 at the London Racing Car show. With its stylish lines and sleek looks, it soon became a much-sought after car. Later models, powered by Ford V6 and Volvo 3 litre straight 6 engines, achieved speeds in excess of 120mph (195kph).

A year later the company launched the Mini Marcos. This was sold as a kit car and used Mini subframes as an affordable GT sports car.  Although not a great success as a road car it earned its spurs and reputation on the track and was the only British car to finish the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour race in France.

Production of the mini Marcos continued until 1975. The question was often asked “is this the ugliest car in the world or the GT wonder for the masses?”

After poor sales of a new model, the Mantis, and a badly managed move to expensive new premises plus problems with the importer in the US, the company collapsed in1971.

1998 Mantis with the first production Concorde at Brooklands Museum  Weybridge, England

1998 Mantis with the first production Concorde at Brooklands Museum Weybridge, England

Jem Marsh continued in business by establishing a spares and service facility for existing Marcos owners. but  in 1981, the company was back in business making cars. Marsh soon launched the Marcos Mantula with a top speed of around 140mph (226kph).

New models followed, but despite some notable competitive victories and universal acclaim for the new cars, especially for the 170mph (280kph) Mantis LM series and the 200mph (322kph) Marcos Mantaray, the company became insolvent in 2002.

Canadian entrepreneur Tony Stelliga moved in and tried to save the company and a new model, the TSO, was produced, but is was too late. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 2007.

A sad end for a unique marque that has become a legend among British sports cars.

The Volkswagon L1 - 109 km per liter of gas

Volkswagon’s hyper-fuel efficient car?

By Robert Harland
The Volkswagon L1 - 109 km per liter of gas

The Volkswagon L1 - 109 km per liter of gas

I don’t know if it’s true or a hoax, but here’s a story doing the rounds that Volkswagon is about to launch a two seater car in China costing just US$600 (Php26,000). Even better is the claim it will do over 100 kilometers to one liter of gas.

All sounds too good to be true? But there may be something in it. Volkswagon’s PR people declined to comment for this story despite several requests for information.

If its true then I’m definitely going to buy at least two. Let’s look at what one will get for Php26,000.

The two-seater Volkswagon L-1 was originally a concept car designed to prove that one liter of fuel could deliver 100km of travel. It has a carbon fiber body so it’s super light at just 290kg, anti-lock brakes; airbag and an electronic stability program. It holds 6.5 liters of gas and has a top speed of around 120kph.

The power plant is a 299cc single-cylinder diesel engine positioned ahead of the rear axle and combined with an automatic shift controlled by a knob in the interior.

Safety was not compromised as the impact and roll-over protection is comparable to the GT racing cars.

All this for Php26,000? Come off it!

Numerous bloggers claim Volkswagen did a lot of very highly protected testing of this car in Germany, but it was not announced until now where the car would make it’s first appearance. Allegedly, the car was introduced at a VW stockholders meeting as the most economical car in the world.

But the Utility Consumers’ Action Network (UCAN) – a US-based non-profit, public interest consumer advocacy group – claims the bloggers have the price wrong.

UCAN writer Charles Langley says for  600 bucks he wouldn’t mind getting passed by cement trucks, risking his life on the freeway or being outrun by golf carts. But, unfortunately, he says the $600 price tag is fiction.

It is a real car he adds, but the price is closer to US$26,000 (Php1.09m). That sounds more realistic and like most Volkswagens these days, rather pricey.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the project had been scrapped, but later restarted. It’s critical of the design saying that passengers will have to sit bobsled style with their legs around the driver’s seat. At this stage no information about where the car might be launched have been announced. And there’s no mention as to where the luggage will go.

Oh well, it was a nice thought that I might be able to buy such a cute new car for Php26,000. I’ll keep dreaming.

Spilling Mr. Bean

He might be the bumbling Mr Bean on TV, but in real life, British actor Rowan Atkinson, who plays the not-so-lovable character, is anything but bumbling.

Atkinson, regarded as one of the funniest men in the world, is a business-savvy entertainer estimated to be worth more than 100 million British pounds (Php6.8 billion).

Mr. Bean with his on-screen mini

Mr. Bean with his on-screen mini

As for driving a tiny yellow mini, forget it. This Mr Bean is a collector of hyper-expensive supercars, including his favorite, a million-dollar (Php42m) McLaren F1 supercar.

But alas, Atkinson’s driving skills may sometimes be more akin to Mr. Bean than an F1 racing driver.

Rowan Atkinson, AKA Mr. Bean, in his McLaren  F1 before the crash

Rowan Atkinson, AKA Mr. Bean, in his McLaren F1 before the crash

Driving recently at what Atkinson said was an embarrassingly slow speed he lost control of

Mr. Bean's supercar after the crash

Mr. Bean's supercar after the crash

his McLaren on a wet patch of the A605 in Haddon, England, before spinning several times and crashing into a tree and a lamp post.

Aktinson escaped serious injury though the left-hand side door had to be cut away to remove him. Unfortunately, his rare McLaren F1 was was not so lucky. It was wrecked and caught on fire though rescue crews did manage to eventually put it out.

It might be possible to rebuild the car, but if not it will be a costly accident for Atkinson. Another F1 recently sold at an auction in London for more than $4m (Php178m).

This is the second time Atkinson, 56, has crashed his beloved McLaren. In 1999 he was involved in an accident crash with a Rover Metro, but again he escaped injury.

So, just what kind of car does Mr Bean get for a million dollars?

His F1, which he bought 15 years ago, is one of only 106 built by McLaren between 1993 and 1998. The chief engineer Gordon Murroy`s concept refers to the use of expensive materials like carbon, titanium, gold and for the first time, the use of a carbon fiber monocoque chassis.

It remains one of the fastest production cars with a top speed of more than 386 kph and a 3.2-second 0-to-100 kph acceleration.

The supercar is powered by an V12 engine built by BMW producing 627 HP at 7400 rmp. The F1 was the fastest production car in the world until the Bugatti Veyron was introduced in 2005. That car has a top speed of 430 kph.

The F1 is lighter and has a more streamlined structure than even most of its modern rivals despite having one seat more than most similar sports cars, with the driver’s seat located in the middle and slightly forward of the passengers seating position providing excellent driving visibility.

The British car magazine Autocar said the McLaren F1 is the “finest driving machine yet built for the public road and it will be remembered as one of the great events in the history of the car.”

Good luck with the rebuild Mr Bean.

Road Hog!

By Robert Harland

In my youth I never claimed to be much good behind the wheel. In fact, I was then such a bad driver I once appeared on a TV driving quiz program as an anonymous road hog.

Some accidents are caused by overloading

Some accidents are caused by overloading

Funny thing was I beat the other panelists in the quiz and they were all so-called professional drivers. Perhaps I wasn’t as bad I thought.

These days there are dozens of Reality TV programs around the world about bad driving — all in the quest by desperate TV stations to find viewers.

Accidents can also happen when you're distracted

Accidents can also happen when you're distracted

But just who are the world’s worst drivers? I’m sure many would immediately say Bacolod Jeepney drivers. They could be, but for really appalling driving I suggest a trip toIndia or Pakistan.

Some vehicles are safer than others

Some vehicles are safer than others

According to the World Health Organization, traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people a year with fifty million people injured or disabled. The WHO adds that 90% of the deaths happen in poor countries. Globally, more than half the total accidents involve drivers between 15 and 44 years. Males are involved in almost 75 per cent of all accidents.

Americans own more cars than in any other country so one would expect the US to have he highest numbers of accidents. It does. There are about six million traffic accidents a year in the US.

Texting while driving is definitely not a good idea

Texting while driving is definitely not a good idea

In Europe, Italy and Poland lead the pack with the most number of fatal accidents.

Accident statistics are collected mainly from insurance companies. But in Africa and Asia many cars are not insured so statistics for accident rates are not reliable.

If you think driving standards are poor here, what about these examples of downright driving lunacy.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico a man with four previous drunken driving convictions was stopped for weaving in and out of traffic. His excuse for poor driving: his passenger spilled his beer.

A Canadian man, with 46 convictions for bad driving, is said to be easily distracted and often doesn’t look at the road when he’s behind the wheel.

A Virginia man driving at 140 kph was said to have been drunk and having sex with his girlfriend.

And a contestant on the Dutch TV show Who Is The Worst Driver In The Netherlands? well and truly staked his claim after he ran down a TV presenter during filming of the final episode.

Safe travels!

Save the Car!

Japanese youngsters are losing interest in cars and that’s worrying Toyota.

The high cost of owning a car in the Land of the Rising Sun has shifted the aspirations of its youngsters from cars to the latest trendy electronic gizmos.

So light, just pick it up with the handle at the rear and  pull it as you would a suitcase

So light, just pick it up with the handle at the rear and pull it as you would a suitcase

But Toyota is fighting back. In an attempt to win hearts and minds Toyota has launched what seems to be a rather desperate campaign. Called ‘Save the Car (and us)’, Japanese teeners are being encouraged to enter competitions to generate ideas to make Toyota cars more appealing to young people.

It costs a lot to own a car in Japan. In Tokyo a parking space will set you back a cool Php43,000 a month. And if you run into the supermarket for a can of beans, you can count on a minimum of Php350 an hour for the privilege of parking your car.

If parking is the biggest cost issue, perhaps Toyota should look at producing a car on the lines of the Peel P50; a car so small you can even park it in your office or bedroom.

Officially listed in the Guinness World Record book as the world’s smallest production car, the Peel P50 was originally made between 1962 and 1965 on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. It’s 1.35m long, 1m wide and 1.05m high. It weighs 60kg.

Top speed is around 60 kph, but it does an amazing 43km to one liter of gas. In those days it sold for 199 British pounds (Php14,000).

Parking? No problem

Parking? No problem

The Peel P50 is powered by a single cylinder 49cc engine. It has a three speed forward gear box, but no reverse – you simply get out and turn the car yourself with a handle on the rear. Its lightweight fiberglass body makes it light enough for this to be an easy task.

These little cars were sold all over the world inducing the US. On its American test run the Bureau of Transportation inspector rolled the car down an embankment, but as he escaped without a scratch, he immediately passed the car as suitable for use.

The P50 shone in a variety of tests including a 25 km road test in London, where it completed the route a full 30 minutes ahead of a sedan car of the day.

Designed as a city car, it was advertised as capable of seating “one adult and a shopping bag.” The vehicle’s only door is on its left side, and equipment includes a single windscreen wiper and only one headlight.

Although production stopped in1965 these diminutive vehicles have achieved cult status among car buffs, especially after 1.95 meter tall motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson test drove one on BBC TV’s Top Gear program.

Buoyed by this new-found interest, a company in England recently produced a replica version. Externally this car is very similar to the original but with many major mechanical differences in the suspension, steering and drivetrain.

Some 50 replica Peel P50s have been made and they’ve been selling well. Only19 are left, but if you feel you’d like one, be prepared to pay a whopping 15,000 British pounds, (Php1,050,00) – a far cry from the 199 pounds in 1962.

A Case of Left or Right

By Robert Harland

As a Brit, I’m always amused when Americans say “You limeys (American slang for Brits) drive on the wrong side of the road.”

Keep to the left so you can protect yourself with a sword in your right hand.

Keep to the left so you can protect yourself with a sword in your right hand.

There is no ‘wrong’ side of the road. Countries either have left or right-hand driving. It’s also a mistake to think that only the Brits drive on the left. A quarter of the world does – including the Japanese.

There is a perfectly good reason why the Brits drive on the left and it goes back many hundreds of years.

In the Middle Ages one was a constant target for robbers and bandits. Most people are right handed
so you traveled on the left-hand side of a road or track to make sure you could easily draw your sword to protect yourself if attacked.

In the Middle ages one was a constant target for robbers  and bandits

In the Middle ages one was a constant target for robbers and bandits

This custom was given official sanction in 1300 AD, when Pope Boniface VIII invented the modern science of traffic control by declaring that pilgrims headed to Romeshould keep left.

In the late 1700s teamsters in the United States began hauling farm produce in huge wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. Instead of a driver’s seat, the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team.

Since you were sitting on the left, naturally you wanted everybody to pass on the left so you could look down and make sure you kept clear of the wheels of passing wagons.

Thus you kept to the right side of the road. The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was also anxious to cast off all remaining links with its British colonial past.

Once America drove on the right, left-side driving was ultimately doomed. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, if you wanted a decent motor car, you bought an American model. Initially they only made right-hand drive cars.

From then on many countries changed out of necessity.

The last European country to convert to driving on the right was Sweden in 1967. I was living there in 1966 and well remember the preparations taking place for the changeover.

Right or left hand drive. It doesn't really matter when  the steering wheel is in the middle.

Right or left hand drive. It doesn't really matter when the steering wheel is in the middle.

Interestingly, in 2009 Samoa changed from right to left-hand driving. The main reason was they wanted to buy secondhand, modestly-priced right-hand drive cars fromJapan and New Zealand, which both drive on the left.