My Car Quest

November 18, 2019

Luxury Car Marketing: The Bentley Life, as Shown in two Recent Publications

Margaret Mead would have loved it…

by Wallace Wyss –

Long ago, when I was in grade school, I remember the fuss made about Margaret Mead, who would go to these far-off islands in the Pacific and write about the practices of natives (in books like Coming of Age in Samoa) and we, back in the US of A would decide “do we really want to go there?” considering some of the native’s practices were, uh, risky.

Bentley Magazine

Bentley Magazine is Vertical Format

Well, now in the age of the internet, you can find out just about as much as you want to know about any society you want but it’s still interesting to see printed matter that illuminates the practices of one tribe or another. How about a tribe whose whole raison d’être is based on what car you buy?

In this case I cite two recent publications published by Bentley, an English car maker owned by the German firm, VW, though of course the VW ownership is barely referred to anywhere in either of these publications lest it detract from the Britishness of the whole presentation.

Bentley Book

Bentley Book – The hard cover book had gold patina which, alas, rubbed off in spots.

THE BENTLEY MAGAZINE

I don’t really know if it’s a yearly or a quarterly but this softbound 126-page perfect bound (spine is flat) publication called simply Bentley Magazine is as nice as any of the $15 fashion magazines at Barnes & Noble; perhaps more so. The printing is great, there’s plenty of two page (called “double truck” in the publishing world) spreads. Normally this type of reproduction is only found in expensive “coffee table” books.

But what it really does is present an idealized world. It gives you a glimpse of a sort of “Great Gatsbyish” world in which all the people are beautiful and all the cars are even more beautiful and you see these Bentley cars being driven to and fro in the most delightful scenery existent—from the Cote d’Azur to deserts at dusk.

Now I venture to say, having had Bentleys pass ever so briefly through my hands as a one time barn finder (my biggest find was a S2 Mulliner convertible in Venice CA), that I was vaguely clueless as to what Bentley people do. I mean now that you own one, what do you do with it?

Well, I’ve hit upon it, haven’t I? That’s what these life style publications exist for. They show you places, such as in this 100-year anniversary issue (Issue Sixty Nine Summer 2019), there is an article on the Maldives, and another one “Exploring the sun soaked roads of Southern Spain in the new Continental GT convertible.” And then there’s food, an article on “trailblazing chef who champion zero waste cooking.”

And fashion, well, what are Bentley owners if not fashionable? There’s an article about jewelry made of stone. And an interview of the eccentric British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes.

Bentley Magazine

Bentley Magazine – Both publications make certain you know Bentley’s got a racing background

And art. I, as a fine artist, have to say Bentleys are art, but of course in the magazine they go beyond cars, highlighting such fine artists as James Turrell who uses light in fantastic ways.

And Bentley uses the magazine to tie in present day Bentleys with the prewar Bentleys that created all the fuss at LeMans (blower Bentleys, the ”Bentley boys” and all that).

Every few pages they go back to a tour in a Bentley, such as a drive from Paris to Verbrier. Never say, Los Angeles to Needles, mind you. And of course Bentleys doesn’t just talk about the race cars of the prewar period, there’s been very recent race cars and those are covered when Andrew Frankel drives three iconic Bentleys on the track at Silverstone.

One of the stories I enjoyed most was the training of young recruits at Bentley working on things like customizing Bentleys to suit the discerning buyers.

I can’t tell you the price of this Bentley magazine but mine was free, picked up at the Quail concours, but I have also picked them up at Bentley showrooms such as the one in Pasadena on Colorado Boulevard.

Now my question is: would this philosophy of “look at the wonderful world you are entering” work with a car without so illustrious a background, say an Infiniti? I doubt it, because Bentley really does have the roots that they can claim influenced their present day cars/and life style. The implication is that, by owning one, you can live this life style once you own a Bentley.

For example when I have made by annual excursion to Monterey for Car Week three times previously, I was a guest at Bentley House, a large mansion a few hundred yards from Pebble Beach golf course, where I sampled appetizers and talked to a Bentley interior designer anxious to hear how I wanted to customize my new car’s interior. And in the magazine they show there are other such events taking place here and there around the globe. I am sure your Bentley dealer can line you up with an invite if you have that desire (Alas, Bentley didn’t answer my query about a visit in 2019; they might have checked my income and found out that I am not, after all, prime customer material).

Still, I recommend this magazine to those who want to see how, even in 2019, a car can be sold on the promise of the world it opens up before you. It gives you a glimpse of a worldwide tribe of connoisseurs….

THE BOOK: PURE BENTLEY

The recent hard cover book I received at the Quail, 142 pages, does much the same thing as the magazine, but is much more focused on the product, the past, the present and the future.

Bentley Book

Every few pages, both the book (shown here) and the magazine give a glimpse of the latest Bentleys

But still never so boring as the American magazines published by American automakers. And how could the Americans compete? Bentley is selling these cars to the jet setters with almost no holds barred on the prices of the extras offered for your new car, so they can talk about things that American automakers can only dream about.

One particular thing I liked seeing was the picnic section you can order, stainless steel containers, china cups, etc. because in the world of Bentley you must be properly equipped wherever you go.

A longtime Anglophile, I am reminded one reason for that is that I like the British attitude seen in the film The Bridge on the River Kawi where, even though the British in the film were prisoners of the Japanese, they stopped work every day to take tea, as proper British people are wont to do.

Bentley Book

Accessories? Well picnics are in order so why not picnic gear?

The car is only the beginning. Then there’s the extras by which you mark it as your own. Say for instance, there’s a whole section entitled “A World without limits” that talks about custom matched luggage, or perhaps having your dashboard, that mere 1 mm thick film of veneer, modified to reflect some passion of yours, such as the time, say, you climbed Kilimanjaro. You would think, if you were some ranting and raving Socialist, that there are enough woes in the world to dash all thoughts of doing your own Bentley dashboard, but that’s what this book, and the magazine, does, showing you what’s important in this tribe, i.e., having the right warpaint.

I enjoyed the several page spreads on special models, not one offs but at least Limited Editions, such as the Mulsanne Speed that has a deeper grille surround, in chrome, and W.O. Bentley’s signature on the seat backs plus a few other exclusive details. Only 100 of the Continental GT Number 9 Edition cars were scheduled to be made and they were probably sold out before the books were even finished. Another special model is one continuing the Bentley Boys Legend of No. 9 (a car the Bentley Boys won with) so this is a modern one with an “engine turned” console (you Philistine Yanks might only know the ’70 ½ Firebird Trans Am engine-turned dash).

The Bentley race cars of old receive plenty of attention just like in the magazine and I was surprised to see even the SUV which is of course a behemoth weighing 5,340 lbs set some sort of record at the Pikes Peak hillclimb. So the lesson is: we don’t just talk about performance 70 years ago, we have it now.

The most fun picture in the whole book is a Bentley of the S series, from the Sixties, that has been painted in a wild psychedelic color scheme by a bloke who sold it to the Beatles. As a former Beatle maniac, I think they should not only bring back this precise wild color scheme but sell it together with a CD of the Beatles’ greatest hits.

Bentley Book

In the book and magazine both they remind you that when Bentley wants to go racing, they do.

In sum, I think this is a fine souvenir book that will give you great pleasure as fireside reading on a cold winter’s night. I am not selling them, though, and I don’t think Bentley is, but again if the dealer takes a liking to you, (and you can convince them that you are in point of fact right on the verge of ordering a new car) you might luck out.

All I can say is either the magazine or the book opens your eyes to a world that you thought existed long ago in America, say among Duesenberg owners, but still exists today with Bentleys. And the implied promise is you have only to buy a (new) Bentley to gain entree…. I live in hope.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has written ads for cars as diverse as Chevrolet and Lancia. He has been a consultant to automakers large and small. He can be reached at Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Summary
Luxury Car Marketing:  The Bentley Life, as Shown in two Recent Publications
Article Name
Luxury Car Marketing: The Bentley Life, as Shown in two Recent Publications
Description
What do Bentley owners actually do with their fine cars? Read these Bentley publications to find out.
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Comments

  1. Thanks Wallace, driving a Bentley is one of a car lovers dream machines. For example a Flying Spur can coddle and secure you/yours while decimating any type of traffic, fast cars in the way or road conditions. Then if need be it will rapidly escort you to the next parish or state in graceful comfort. Sort of like riding on a lion while taking a machine gun to a knife fight. Rented a S550 for the 2019 Monterey week, my 27th time, a great car but lacking in the upper level refinement of my Flying Spur. Keep up the good work.
    Jeff Cobb

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