Bently Boyz

bently boyz

I recently read the official "preview" of the Continental GT. It was catatonically comprehensive, written in the stuffy style one associates with one's Bentley. From the outset, the anonymous PR flack claimed the new GT would bring Bentley ownership to "a wider audience of discerning enthusiasts than ever before." Considering the magazine that printed the puff piece, it's hard to argue the point.

"Makes and Models" features Japanese cars that have been tuned into a caricature of their former selves, and glossy pictures of young women who've suffered the same fate. The Bentley GT position as M&M's cover girl (along with a non-functional Nissan Skyline R-32 and a shot of four "models" obscuring a race-ready Marcos) is proof positive that Bentley no longer depends on port-swilling gentlemen racers for its survival. These days, nouveau riche "Bentley Boyz" are the "discerning enthusiasts" on whom the company's future depends.

Seriously. Just before the Germans invaded Crewe, American black street culture rescued Bentley from oblivion. When rap virtuosos like Puff Daddy (later P. Diddy) recorded odes to their Bentleys, and displayed them in music videos, the British manufacturer's overweight, over-powered, over-priced luxo-barges acquired unimpeachable street cred. At a stroke, Bentley drivers were transformed from white capitalist swine into ethnic exponents of cutting edge cool. Safe!

But not from the Germans, who seem genetically predisposed to turning small manufacturers' unreliable yet fashionable cars into sleek chic jet aircraft. Even a glance at the GT's spec sheet reveals a hugely over-engineered machine: 500+bhp twin-turbo W8 engine, four-wheel-drive, under floor petrol tank, multi-link rear axle, air suspension, Electronic Stability Programme, Emergency Brake Force Distribution, etc. The resulting performance will certainly appeal to well-heeled pistonheads, but what of Mr. Diddy's fans, friends, followers?

M&M's interest certainly augers well. Any car that can compete with Elizabeth Ewald's Spandex hot pants has got to have some serious street cred. Equally important, M&M hails from southern Florida, a region devoid of corners and infested with speed cops. Car buyers feel free to purchase an automobile based on nothing more than its pose value. If the hi-tech GT appeals to drivers who have about as much use for four-wheel-drive as a motorcyclist, it's bound to earn the affections of America's technologically blind style victims.

That said, M&M is a bit… white. So the question remains: will the more culturally influential Brothers take to the GT?

The answer may come from The Source, a monthly bible for hip-hoppers. In its pages, Funkmaster Flex writes a column for on whips (cars) called "Drive Buys" (I swear). According to Mr. Flex, Bentleys are as deeply unfashionable as the rapper Ice-T. "Bentleys were big," Mr. Flex asserts. "P. Diddy kind of pushed that trend. But now they're definitely played out. The hip-hop world and young kids in general are coming back to American cars."

Need proof? Listen in as Mr. Flex asks Baby, "CEO" of rap group Big Tymers, about Bentleys…

"I'm just done with that luxury sports car European thing. I did that. A few years ago, I was a nigga comin' out the projects, Flex. A nigga who never had nothing, so a nigga got to try on a Bentley. I had five different Bentleys at the same time. And don't get me wrong, I'll do it again if I feel like that's what a nigga wants to get into. That ain't no thing…

"Fuck them ol' Bentleys and Lamborghinis, all that ol' foreign shit. You can pull into the neighborhood and nobody knows what the fuck it is. Meanwhile, I can pull up right next to that nigga in a stocked-out, candy-kitted Cadillac and the whole hood will light up."

It may not sound like typical focus group feedback, but Bentley ignores Baby's comments at its peril. Which means they're in peril. According to the PR piece, Bentley aims to reach its new customers "through strategic alliances with other luxury non-automotive companies, organising joint activities and promotions, highly-targeted direct marketing and Internet activity."

Somehow, I don't think mail merging with hip-hop record labels is what Bentley has in mind. I don't expect a GT to form part of Flex' "Celebrity Car Show". Nor do I anticipate the company adding a Bentley link to www.funkmasterflex.com.

Which is a shame. By aiming their marketing efforts at the usual multi-automobiled, performance-crazed Euro-snobs, Bentley is turning its back on the very people who could give–have given– the marque the post-modern gravitas it needs to compete in the increasingly crowded £100k+ supercar field.

Funny thing is, it might happen anyway; the street may still claim the GT as its own. After all, P. Diddy, Baby and friends found Bentley, not the other way 'round. Mr. Flex might unleash his Team Baurtwell car conversion crew on a new GT in spite of Bentley, not because of them.

Comments
Join the conversation
  • ToolGuy Name two innovations spearheaded by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
  • FreedMike …but did they ever partner with Stutz?
  • FreedMike Translated: if the manufacturers want the credit, they have to put some money into American workers’ hands. I give that two thumbs, way up. And for the record, this requirement is a walk back from the “union jobs only” restriction from the original BBB, and I give that two thumbs, way up, as well.Sounds like the manufacturers in question should stop whining and start figuring out how to increase their local sourcing.
  • Bobbysirhan After massive bus fire, CT pulls electric fleet from service (middletownpress.com)At least they're following the science.
  • SPPPP I got a kick out of the three paragraphs beginning with "As a reminder..." and ending with "straight(ish) line". In no small part because they showed up twice in the article. As I scrolled past the next picture, I was gleefully excited to see if they would show up a third time. But no, the rest of the article continued as normal. Competent though it was, the magic was gone.
Next