Forget the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, probably the most recognised terrorist weapon in existence. The latest B6-specification Bentley Mulliner protected limousine can cope. It offers ballistic protection from even more significant firepower and will protect occupants should high-powered hand grenades detonate above the roof even while two detonate simultaneously below the floor.
Bentley Motors’ Mulliner division, the company’s specialist bespoke department, now offers the most comprehensive armoured protected vehicle service in the world. Work includes anything from simple ‘smash and grab’ toughened side glass, to bulletproof glass, to full armour plating designed to pass the world’s toughest security standards.
Bentley incorporates the armour plating and energy absorbent materials into the vehicle at the initial production stage. This is unusual. Most other manufacturers offer armour added as ‘bolt on’ extras, usually by third parties.
"Bentley makes armoured cars, not cars that have been armoured," says the director of Bentley Mulliner, John Killick. "It is a crucial difference. We not only do the vast majority of the work in-house at Crewe, but we also do it to the quality levels expected from a Bentley."
The suspension, brakes, traction control and stability programmes are re-engineered and upgraded to match the armoured body shell and to make sure the vehicle still stops and handles like a Bentley. The whole vehicle is more durable than an after-market conversion. Performance, road behaviour and durability are also improved. The cars also look ‘normal’, as opposed to being overweight and bloated. Five armoured prototypes were specially built and subsequently tested around the world in representative high and low ambient conditions.
The protected limousines, based on the Bentley Arnage saloon, are offered in 250mm, 450mm or 728mm extended wheelbase guises, and are individually tailored to the owner’s choice. For full B6 protection, the typical cost is about £200,000 on top of the normal car – but this depends on the degree of personalisation.
Further safety options include an oxygen supply system and exploding door hinge bolts that blast open doors allowing a quick exit. Driver training is also offered.
Bentley Mulliner is newly launched but can trace its ancestry back more than 200 years. It is formed out of the old Mulliner Park Ward coach-building division that once serviced both Bentley and Rolls-Royce, but now has a broader remit and a bigger workforce.
Apart from armoured protection vehicles, Bentley Mulliner personalises vehicles in virtually any way that the customer wants. This includes handcrafted cabins, long-wheelbase limousines and even unique one-off vehicles. Last year it built the State Limousine, as used by Her Majesty The Queen to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. About half of all Bentleys are personalised by Bentley Mulliner in some way.
"No other motor manufacturer offers the level of bespoke hand-made service provided by Bentley," says Mr Killick. "We do not just change trim colour or materials, we can completely reconfigure the interior. Imagine an empty room…. we can build-in whatever ‘furniture’ and technology the customer desires… every car is unique."Published 15 April 2003