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The Continental GT and me

7 months ago

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Writer:

Dr Ulrich Eichhorn | Engineer

Date:

10 August 2023

When one of your children has their 20th birthday, that’s usually an occasion to revel in some memories and take time for reflection. Now, it should be said up front that I am not the father of the Continental GT, for it was actually a car whose parentage was something of a patchwork quilt, but I was in charge of engineering at Bentley at the time it was launched, so I thought now as good a time as any to tell you how it came to the public’s attention.

In late 2002, while head of VW Group research in Wolfsburg, I was asked by then Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder and Bentley boss Franz-Josef Paefgen if I was willing to ‘go back to England’ from where I had come just three years earlier, freshly poached from Ford. When I was told I’d be Member of the Board at Bentley in charge of engineering, it was not exactly a difficult decision to make. My lovely wife Alexandra knows that when I come home from the office in the middle of the day, change is coming. She just asked: ‘Where are we going?’ And when I said ‘Britain’, she replied simply, ‘When do I need to be packed?’

When Volkswagen took over Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motor Cars Ltd. in the famous bidding war of 1997, CEO Ferdinand Piëch had gone directly to Crewe and given a speech to all employees in which he stated that VW was going to invest £500 million into its newest daughter, many times more than the previous owners had invested in the entire era before. But the enthusiastic reception he had expected was notable only by its absence. Only over the days and weeks to come did the incredulous employees realise the enormity of what he had said. ‘Did he really say £500 million?!’ In the event, that number would go far higher.

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