This year marks the 20th anniversary of the automobile that placed Bentley back on the map. Before the Continental GT, the British luxury brand sold less than 1,000 vehicles per year and was mostly forgotten, living in the shadow of its then-owner, Rolls Royce. But that all changed in 2003 when Bentley revealed a one-off Mulliner-fettled GT S at the Shanghai Auto Show to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the contemporary Continental's launch.
The unique GT is dressed in a somber Magnetic dark gray metallic with black chrome trim and riding on a pair of black 22-inch 10-spoke wheels. Red details on the mirror caps, brake calipers, and discreet body modification keep the unique GT from seeming too tasteful.
On the inside, additional red, including a red pinstripe running across the doors and into the Granite Stone console, red leather parts on the door cards, lower dashboard trim, and seats, and red stitching on the seat backs and steering wheel. The end creation results from several Mulliner guys working on a Civic Type R in their leisure time.
But the shapes of the first and current generation Continental GT coupes feature on the glovebox and console, each picture appearing above words reading '20 Years Of The Continental.' Another anniversary reference may be seen on each door sill, and the LED welcome lamp in the door is unique to this vehicle.
As a Continental GT S, it lacks Bentley's 650 horsepower (659 PS) 6.0-liter W12 engine, which the manufacturer claims is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Conversely, the S is driven by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 542 horsepower (550 PS). The duration from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) is 3.9 seconds, or 0.3 seconds faster than the W12, and the payoff is less weight over the nose for more agile handling.
The Shanghai unveiling is only the start of a series of celebrations for Bentley's Continental. Drive hubs in Bentley's Crewe headquarters in England and Geneva, Switzerland, will allow drivers to test all three generations of Continental GT, there will be a relay drive event that will transport a Bentley Baton across multiple continents, and this year at Goodwood, Bentley will put on a display to commemorate the W12 before its demise in 2024.