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Bentley’s $2 million Bacalar is all about open-air luxury

Built by 40 artisans, the highly specialised car is based on the Continental GT Speed Convertible

The Mulliner craftsmanship on display at the recently concluded Monterey Car Week in the US: (from left) the Bacalar, the Blower and the FlyingSpur Mulliner.
The Mulliner craftsmanship on display at the recently concluded Monterey Car Week in the US: (from left) the Bacalar, the Blower and the FlyingSpur Mulliner. (Courtesy Bentley/Instagram)

If you want a Bentley Bacalar, you’re too late.

Each of the 12 individuals worldwide who purchased the $2 million open-top two-seater has already spent many months developing personalized exterior paint schemes, unique tones for the Beluga leather seats, and detailed stitching patterns. The car, which was first announced in 2020, is built on the underpinnings of the Continental GT Speed Convertible but has a totally unique body—and is the first two-seat Bentley in nine decades. 

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It was built by the 40 artisans who at the brand’s Mulliner program at its Crewe, England headquarters. As the first of its kind in Bentley’s modern Mulliner operation, it is the crowning example of the kind of small-batch, highly specialized cars Mulliner aims to produce. Mulliner collections include classic models built anew, like the Bentley Blower continuation cars; extreme-luxury focused versions of existing cars from the Bentley model range; and 100% Coachbuilt cars like the Bacalar. 

Bentley could have easily sold more than twice the amount it produced, Mike Rocco, Bentley’s vice president for sales and operations, said.

Since the Bacalar and Bentley in general are in such high demand, won’t Bentley increase the supply? Neither Rocco nor Timothy Hannig, the spokesman for the Mulliner department, would commit on the record to a definitive yes, but they didn’t exactly say no, either.

Bacalar comes with a 6-liter W12 engine that feels as powerful as a tank (650 bhp) and an active all-wheel-drive system that works with scalpel precision as it varies the torque split between front and rear wheels. The car uses rear-wheel drive as much as possible during normal driving for optimum efficiency and dynamic performance, but you never feel the switch.

Yes, it is based on the Continental GT Speed Convertible, but it has 100% unique body panels, sharing only the door handles with the GT, since those contain the hardware for keyless entry. The rear “Barchetta”-style clamshell and top deck of the Bacalar are crafted from lightweight aluminum; the doors and everything else on the body are made from carbon fiber.

It also looks far more striking in person than it does in pictures. Some who saw it in person in Carmel or later on social media expressed surprise and curiosity about it, as if its announcement in March 2020 had completely passed them over, coronavirus notwithstanding. Some referred to the Bacalar—so named after a pristine lake in Mexico—as the “Bentley Balaclava” or “Bentley Baclava.” Others had no idea about its origins at all.

Which is fine. Amid the endless procession of special-edition and limited versions of these hyperprofitable, upper-echelon conveyances, they tend to blend together. 

Up close, where the eye can bend around its subtle corners, the Bacalar is a delight. Its double-bubble back and air vents along the hood and sides do just enough to rough up its otherwise stately and smooth Bentley body. The complex geometric stitching on the seats, the intense azure of the dashboard clock dial (coloured to match the famous blue water of the white limestone-lined lake), the woolen bags placed so thoughtfully in their compartments behind the seats—they don’t translate well in the highly modified glamour shots and renderings that seem to define automotive press photos these days.

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