It’s not unusual for a car maker to offer a swan song for a popular model, a special edition, one last kick at the can for a favourite old trooper - the cynic might say one last chance to squeeze a final drop out of this particular mango.
That would be the Bentley Continental GT Speed Series 51, built in either coupé or convertible body styles, using the GT Speed mechanicals, bringing with it the 600 horsepower version of the twin-turbo W12 engine and firmer suspension settings than the base car.
A specific and limited palette of interior and exterior colours is offered, along with unique design cues.
The 'Series 51' nomenclature commemorates the year a separate styling department was set up for Bentley cars, under the direction of John Blatchley. He penned the first Continental, which is generally recognized as one of the all-time great post-war classic cars.
At that time, Bentley was part of Rolls-Royce, and this department was an attempt to help Bentley break away - at least stylistically - from its parent.
That break never really happened until Volkswagen took the company over in 1998; as part of that divorce, Rolls-Royce was absorbed by BMW.
There’s not much doubt that the Continental GT saved Bentley from extinction. At the VW takeover, Bentley engineers recognized they had some pretty neat hardware in the corporate parts bin, in the form of VW’s big Phaeton luxury sedan. But apart from a handful VW fanatics in Germany, there were very few car enthusiasts ready to part with six figures worth of - well, ANY currency, for something with “VW” on the grille, no matter how good it may have been.
Solution - wrap that hardware in gorgeous two-plus-two coupé bodywork, call it a Bentley, and stand back.
Worked a treat. Starting in 2003, the GT and its various convertible, sedan and high-performance variants thereof have been the best-selling Bentley family ever.
Heck; there have probably been months when sales of these cars were greater than what Bentley previously did in most decades.
However, all good things must come to an end. The buff books are preview-testing the GT’s replacement as I speak; it is expected to make its public debut at this fall’s Paris Auto Show (we’ll be there to let you know all about it).
So if you have $207,000 US burning a hole in your Levis, and want to honour an old stager who can still show off some amazing chops, a Series 51 is your chance.