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Bentley finetunes Mulsanne body

Flag bearer: Bentley craftsmen employ hand-brazing skills to help assemble the Mulsanne bodyshell (below).

Traditional craftsmanship meets hi-tech production with Bentley’s all-new flagship

5 Feb 2010

BENTLEY Motors is continuing to undertake a range of tests on the bodywork of its all-new Mulsanne flagship sedan to ensure it achieves “absolute precision and quality” before entering production in the coming weeks for a mid-2010 European showroom debut.

Due in Australia in the third quarter priced from around $750,000, the Mulsanne is being tested at a new body assembly centre designed specifically for the vehicle at Bentley’s production plant in Crewe, England.

In releasing the first pre-production images of the Mulsanne this week, the Volkswagen-owned British luxury marque said its pre-production regime included tearing apart completed bodies with specialist cutting gear to analyse the breaking point of seams and welds, while ultrasonic measuring equipment was being used to analyse the strength and consistency of individual welds.

No less than 588 functions and “relationships” with finished components and the bodyshell are measured to ensure “complete precision”.

“During these early pre-production stages we are exhaustively testing the build process to achieve the absolute precision and quality we are seeking for our customers,” said Bentley Motors senior production manager Gary Picken.

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“The Mulsanne has a beautiful and very complex body made from an intelligent mix of high-strength steels, aluminium and composites. Within one assembly area we’re utilising traditional skills for which Bentley is renowned right alongside state-of-the-art manufacturing technology.

“We combine these two different approaches because it is the best possible route to create a car that will be enjoyed by generations of drivers.”

According to Bentley, it takes 125 man-hours to create the body of a pre-production Mulsanne at the new multi-million-dollar assembly centre, with robots working “in harmony” with coachbuilders.

The company said the Mulsanne’s “hewn from solid appearance without visible panel seams was impossible in volume car manufacture”.

“The seamless sweep of the Mulsanne’s roof, rear wing and boot can only be achieved by crafting a hand-brazed seam midway down the D-pillar, a task still best performed with ‘hand and eye’ by Bentley’s award-winning craftsmen,” says Bentley.

“In complete contrast to the craftsman’s time-honoured skills is the use of superforming, which is essential to create the highly complex three-dimensional curves of the Mulsanne’s front wings.

“This advanced technique, primarily used by the aerospace industry, heats a single sheet of aluminium to 500 degrees centigrade and then forces it onto a single surface tool using air pressure.”

Mulsanne customers will be able to see their vehicle being built from a viewing gallery at the plant that enables a “perfect view” of every stage of the build process.

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