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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Aug 1, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By JOHN GRAFMAN Whenever we are invited to a launch of something new whether it be a car or a film, we can’t help but feel our heart rate increase just a bit. Something new, exciting and different always keeps us on our toes.

When I received the invitation to the gala Beverly Hills debuted of a Bentley Arnage Shooting Brake (station wagon to us westerners) that had been crafted by a small design and fabrication firm in Wisconsin, I was definitely interested. Held at Symbolic Motors on Wilshire Boulevard, The cars that encompassed the downstairs showroom seemingly were there to pay homage to something fabulous in the upper level. By no means were any of the cars downstairs slouches. Of course you had the Bentleys, Rolls, Maserati and Ferrari awaiting buyers. Symbolic even had an Aston Martin Vanquish to round out the selections. Of course anyone with enough green can walk in and drive away with any of those incredible rides. The Von Genaddi Design Bentley was another matter altogether. It appears that with most of the cars on display, if you spend the big money, you get a whole lot of car. Mark Gerisch of VGD took an expensive car and made it more expensive. However along the way the VGD Bentley never really hits the mark of being a better. Some of this may have gotten by several of the other journalists at the event, but then again maybe not. After years in the trenches with teams devoted to developing prototype vehicles, I have gotten a bit fussy when it comes to the details. I can’t say they didn’t start off with t he best of intentions on this project, but it just didn’t come off one hundred percent. The actual premise of turning this into a wagon isn’t a bad idea. Some of the features included did have some added value such as the unique sliding bed floor, yet when you rework a car like a Bentley, the quality had best be at the same caliber as the original or face the journalists’ wrath. When you consider the pricing for the Shooting Brake upgrade begins at $87,000 (optional items are additional) on top of the base price for a new Arnage that hovers in the neighborhood of a quarter mil (including tax and license), the results should be no less than amazing. First flaw is the design of the window in the rear quarter follows the fender line downward towards the rear. This creates a look that you are perpetually hauling around a load of bricks or bags of cement in the rear. We shall call this the saggy, dirty dipper look. If the window line crept up as in the Dodge concept Wagon, the Bentley would have looked as if it had a little bit of lean forward aggressiveness, like a sprinter in the blocks awaiting the firing of a starting gun. The Second flaw was the execution of the workmanship. I know as well as anyone that creating a one off of the highest caliber takes skill, time and patience, and a health amount of money. If you are missing any of the ingredients, the end result is in jeopardy. The proof is definitely in the pudding. I sympathize with a company trying to get in on the custom exotic business. It isn’t an easy road and it’s usually an up hill battle to boot. The competition in the marketplace is not just fierce but also excellent. Releasing this with so much fanfare only emphasizes the flaws. Far too many items were left unresolved. Everywhere I looked it seemed that not enough attention was paid or time had expired. The widow molding was ill fitting, There was widow tinting on the exterior of the glass to mask off more problems, exposed hinges in the rear, and an overall lack of poor functionality in the operation of the rear door and glass was another large issue unto itself. When you see the level of fit and finish attained in concept cars at the L.A. Auto show or any of the numerous other shows in the state and across the globe; take note of how amazing these one offs are. Also take a gander at the Bentley Arnage itself and marvel at how well it all comes together. The VGD still has a way to go before it comes together as well as most production cars on the market today or even those built for display only. In meeting the new owner of the car, who thought he was taking delivery that night, coupled with a publicized reception, the implication was this Bentley no longer a work in progress. As it turned out however, according to VGD, the automobile was not delivered to the waiting hands of its new owner. They felt the automobile was not what they would have considered a done deal at the presentation but was still in an unfinished, pre-production stage. So in an effort to make the shooting brake all that it could be, the Bentley was brought back to Wisconsin for completion. Mark has many years under his belt and wants this vehicle to reflect it. In the big leagues of corporate America, terms such as integrity are often lost in the hunt for a fatter bottom line. The determination of a small company such as VGD can overcome the mega bucks spent by the marketing departments of the big players to make up for the lack of virtues like integrity. The proof, as always, can be found in the product itself. The third flaw was the experience. Like all the manufacturers know, presentation is all-important. VGD missed the boat on this. “You’re not in Kansas anymore” might be appropriate here. I hate to say it but they looked like they just came off a plane from the dairy state. When in Beverly Hills, do as they do. Look the part and it would help lend more credibility to your product even if you still have the other flaws to deal with. Instead looking far out of place and having no actual presentation and a rather weak looking set of designs for us to ponder on, we are left questioning the true capability of this company. It is always refreshing to see what others can do to improve upon automotive achievements that came before them, but we can’t ignore the obvious. I don’t know if they bit off more than they could chew on this project but one the questioned we had to ask was why? As it turns out the buyer who commissioned the build was looking for something unique. He got it!

More information on Von Genaddi Design More on Bentley Motor cars Read the LA Car article on the Bentley Arnage R

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