Bentley unveiled their latest show car at the 1999 Geneva Auto Show, the Bentley Hunaudières, a real low slung sports car. This prototype car was based on a Lamborghini Diablo VT chassis, later Bentley would develop a special chassis to cope with the 600 Bhp W-16 engine they plan to use in the production car.
The Bentley Hunaudières was named after the straight on the famous Le Mans circuit in France, just like the Mulsanne and Arnage are also names found on this circuit, where Bentley became almost legendary racing there during the 1920’s.
This exclusive concept car was created to show the audience the way Bentley would like to go after the VW take-over, Bentley plans to build high-power cars but with a high level of finish and practicality on the road.
The Hunaudières could very well be used to compete in the 24 H. of Le Mans in the beginning of the next century, a press release stated that if the public opinion allowed it, the Bentley Hunaudières would enter production during 2001.
The engine in this English super car is a W-16 engine, developed by VW, who actually combined two V-8 engines together at an angle of 72 degrees, a displacement of 8 litres and a total of 64 valves produced 623 Bhp at 6000 Rpm on all four-wheels. Each V-8 engine held two banks of 4 cylinders at 15 degrees, this way the massive engine was still quite compact considering the power output and a torque of 561 Lbs.Ft at only 4000 Rpm.
When the car would eventually be available, you could surely count on an estimated price of over £ 250,000. But for this amount you would take ownership of a real high-performance street legal super car with all the refinement and comfort of your ‘every day’ Bentley Arnage.
The roof line of the Hunaudières was about 85 mm higher than that of the 1999 Diablo, therefore headroom and interior space was a little better, together with improved accessibility and visibility, the Hunaudières could become quite a competitor for the new Lamborghini Murcielago that would be introduced as late as September 2001.
On the inside the Hunaudières was finished in the purest Bentley tradition, full leather and nubuck for the seats and dashboard, and a very nice touch of milled aluminum on the dashboard and central console.
On this central console a panel covered the stereo and air conditioning controls, neatly hidden from the eye, but who in his right mind would try to steal the stereo in a Bentley anyway, the alarm system fitted was probably better than most house alarms. Another nice touch were the two rear view camera’s fitted behind the front wheels, the monitors were placed on the left and right of the speedometer and rev counter. This way no big rear view mirrors were necessary that would only destroy this very clean design, still, these monitors would take some getting used to once you’re behind the steering wheel. Although with an estimated acceleration of only 4 seconds to 60 Mph and only 12 seconds to reach 100 Mph, who cares what happens behind you, you would need to focus yourself on the road ahead, things can get very close extremely fast at these kinds of speed. The last thing you want to happen is getting a dent in this very clean looking aluminium and carbon fibre bodywork, just try telling dad you’ve crashed his Bentley into a slow moving truck.
The prototype was finished in a very nice metallic English racing green, with a green and tan leather interior and chromed lower body panels, also the 20 inch (!!) wheels became chromed. This way the Bentley looked really stunning under the Auto Show highlights.
The Hunaudières would be fitted with a five-speed automatic gearbox, possibly with a button-shift option on the steering wheel, according to Bentley, customers are awaiting an exotic sports car without the hassle of changing gears, this new Bentley should be extremely fast, a top speed of over 200 Mph was stated, but still it would be highly comfortable and easy to drive.
All the advantages of a mid-engined car but without the drawbacks of the currently available super cars, although I can’t see any drawbacks in driving a Diablo but than again who am I to dispute the Bentley statement.
When the Geneva Auto Show was over, the Hunaudières returned to Crewe and work began on the chassis, the Bentley engineers would built a full performance prototype and test this one thoroughly before taking the decision of making a production car from this magnificent show car. According to Tony Gott, acting Chief Executive at Bentley in 1999, the market should be large enough to built about 300 Hunaudières a year, and be able to sell them too, so start saving your money, and buy …
the Lamborghini Murcielago, this way you still have a real Lamborghini, a true exotic car from Italy, the place where exclusive mid-engined super cars are built.