Over at the wood shop, operations manager John Fisher displays the $250,000-plus stock of wood veneers of cigar-paper thickness. The veneers come from the root ball at the base of a tree -- "that is where we get that classic burl effect," Fisher said.
The root ball is peeled on a lathe the way you would an apple.
Bentley uses nine types of wood, including Madrone from the olive tree, Vavona from the giant redwood tree, walnut, cherry wood and eucalyptus. Sheets of about 0.6 mm are stacked by type and individual tree.
Fisher said the factory representative will go through 72,000 square meters of veneer from the supplier in Italy and "of that we will bring back 30 to 35 meters."
A single car requires anywhere from 17 to 24 sets of veneers that are mirror matched for left and right patterns. "On average to get about five square meters, we use 10 square meters to get rid of the imperfections," Fisher said.
The craftsman selects the wood, and it is cut by a laser. The pressed and flattened wood gets five coats of lacquer and is again flattened and polished by hand.
"We do have some automated polishing, but it is finished by hand due to the complexity of some of the parts," Fisher said.
They're just as fussy at the leather workshop, where only the skin of bulls is used for seats and trim because it is more taut than that of cows and has fewer imperfections.
Gary Lazenby, senior production manager for seats and leathers, says only leather is used for the seats and interior trim. "There are no plastic, synthetic or cloth seats."
The average Continental requires about 12 whole bull skins and about 250 individual pieces of leather. The Mulsanne's interior needs the skins from 17 bulls -- about 400 pieces of leather.
The leather comes from across Europe, usually Germany, from slaughterhouses.
"We do not kill anything for the leather; everything is a byproduct -- and, no, you are not the first to ask," Lazenby said.
Like the wood, the leather is inspected for defects, which are marked by hand and cut out. There are certain "minor" imperfections that can be used, but they will go under a seat or in an area where they are not visible, he said.
Bentley assembles its own seats -- the frames and mechanicals come from Volkswagen. Workers sew in different areas, handling seats or dashboards or headliners. About 75 employees sew seats and "nothing else," Lazenby said. "We try to use the best technology, but we rely on the guys and the girls."
Bentley allows buyers to customize their interiors, which can be as simple as a crest on the headrest or as elaborate as offbeat colors and trim.
"We recently did a car with a black interior with pink stitching and a heart on the head rest," Lazenby said.