No sooner had Volkswagen acquired Bentley than the German company made it clear that its new prize had a glamorous future in store. The 1999 Geneva Motor Show was chosen for the first appearance of a new Bentley concept car, the Hunaudières.
This impressive two-door mid-engined coupe was named after the famous straight that forms part of France’s Circuit de la Sarthe, which hosts the Le Mans 24 endurance race. The Ligne Droite de Hunaudières is generally known as the Mulsanne Straight in English, and it was here that prewar ‘Bentley Boys’ achieved lasting sporting glory.
The astonishing Hunaudières was quite unlike any Bentley seen before (or since) but after seeing it the automobile world certainly woke up swiftly to the fact that nothing would ever be the same again for the iconic British marque.
About all that anyone familiar with Bentleys of old recognized about the Hunaudières was the famous grille. Otherwise it looked more like an Italian supercar than a traditional grand tourer — but perhaps that was precisely the point Volkswagen wanted to make with this mighty machine. The marker was down — as of then, Bentley was set to return to its stylish high-performance roots, suitably modernized for the 21st century.
The Hunaudières had a 64 valve W16 engine and there were rumours that VW harboured Le Mans ambitions that this new-look Bentley racer could pursue, though in the event nothing came of it. A few months after the debut of the Hunaudières the Bugatti Veyron concept car was rolled out in Tokyo . . . and knowledgeable observers quickly noted the similarities between the two concept cars.
It wasn’t hard — both speedsters shared a mighty similar profile, as both had been influenced by VW design guru Hartmut Warkuss.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
8,007 cc W16
Top speed of 220 mph (354 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Was it a coin toss? The Hunaudières made a big splash but was never produced. The Veyron made a big splash and was produced, hitting the headlines as the world’s fastest road car. But at least the Hunaudières made a contribution in the form of the Veyron’s W16 engine and internal design.