CREWE, England — The Geneva auto show's cancellation did not dampen Bentley Motors' zeal for showcasing the car it had planned to spotlight there — the 1.5 million-pound ($1.9 million) Bacalar roadster.
For Bentley, the Bacalar is a way to remind the world — or at least those who have $1.9 million to spend on a car — about the automaker's bespoke division, Mulliner, which began life as a builder of horse-drawn carriages in the 1500s. Bentley bought the brand in 1959.
Now in its 101st year, Bentley is channeling its engineering and design resources to make more out of the Mulliner name.
Other automakers have relied on third-party coachbuilders of renown, including Pininfarina and Zagato, to create exotic niche products. Bentley has such a partner inside the company, said Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark.
"We've always owned one of the oldest and most renowned coachbuilders," Hallmark told reporters during a roundtable last week, hastily put together here to make up for the lack of a Geneva show audience. "But we haven't always done the best that we could with it."
That effort revs up with the Bacalar, a two-seater with an interior that incorporates wool trim and a wraparound dashboard cut from preserved 5,000-year-old wood. Under the hood is a 6.0-liter W-12 engine with 650 hp and 667 pound-feet of torque. Its exterior borrows heavily from last year's EXP 100 GT concept.