The New Bentley Continental GTC - Body Engineering | Part Four

Bentley Continental GTC

Bentley Continental

Body Engineering - Chassis stiffening

There was one clear target when Bentley’s engineering team began work on the Continental GTC: to create a convertible that drives exactly like its coupé counterpart. By removing the roof - an integral part of the body structure that provides stiffness to the chassis - a convertible has a tendency to shake or vibrate when driven.

Consequently, the Continental GTC’s engineers were determined to rid the car of any such ‘scuttle shake’ and began an extensive development programme aimed at ensuring the Continental GTC’s steel body had a torsional stiffness in the region of 30Hz - an incredible figure for a convertible.

To hit that target the engineers added significant steel reinforcement to the sills as well as additional cross braces that run beneath the cabin. Strengthened steel tubing was also used in the A-pillars and windscreen surround. To remove unwanted resonance - as vital a task as ensuring stiffness - a great deal of time was also spent improving the mountings for the rear subframe. Despite the significant reinforcement to the car’s body, the weight of the car has risen by just 110kg over the Continental GT coupé, to 2495kg (5500lb). Vibration, too, was eradicated, resulting in exceptional levels of ride and refinement.

The convertible roof with rollover protection

The second target for the engineering team was to ensure that the car’s folding roof was as refined as possible while still fitting into a small stowage area behind the rear seats. Folding flat in just 25 seconds is a remarkable feat in itself for this complex, seven-bow, fabric roof. But just as impressive is its state-of-the-art three layer construction. The Continental GTC’s roof has superb acoustic-damping fabrics, with a thicker, more padded outer layer than is used in any other convertible. The ‘sandwich’ is also a thick, insulating layer while the third inner layer is made from the highest quality cloth material which echoes the roof lining on Bentleys of yesteryear.

Not only are the materials the best available, but the construction and packaging of the roof are second to none. Its designers were keen that absolutely all working parts would be covered, which means that whether you are inside the car as the roof is in operation or watching from the outside, not one piece of the mechanism will be visible.

The roof comes with a heated glass rear window and also an interior rooflamp in the headlining. It can be operated after pulling away from standstill at speeds up to 30km/h (20mph).

To ensure occupant safety, an advanced rollover protection system is installed beneath the rear headrests. If the car’s onboard computer senses that the car is about to roll during an accident, two reinforced steel hoops are deployed in a split second, thereby working in conjunction with the exceptionally strong windshield frame to protect passengers in the front and rear seats.

continues... | Part Five
Published 16 April 2006 Melanie Carter

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