Before the Bentayga, there was another Bentley SUV, sort ofby Dim Angelov, on LISTEN 05:36
The SUV craze led to many manufacturers turning away from tradition in order to capitalize on the demand for luxury and performance SUVs. As a result, vehicles like the Bentley Bentayga spawned. The model is largely believed to be the brand’s first SUV. What most people don’t know, however, is that there was another SUV wearing the Bentley badge back as early as 1996. That said, because the model was specially commissioned and wasn’t part of the brand’s official lineup, very few people actually know about its existence. Luckily for you, we are here to tell you all about it.
It was commissioned by the Sultan of Brunei
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, also known as the Sultan of Brunei, is known to have the most expensive car collection in the world. The collection includes around 7,000 cars, many of which one-offs, with a total value of around $5.0 billion. He also has about 11 palaces and a yacht named “Tits”.
Being the avid car collector that he is, the Sultan of Brunei commissioned Bentley to come up with an ultra-luxury SUV especially for him.
What resulted was a car named the Bentley Dominator.
It was based on an existing vehicle
Bentley did not have its own all-wheel-drive platform at the time and it most certainly didn’t have an SUV platform. So, it did what anyone would do – borrow someone else’s platform. In this case, it was the Range Rover P38A, made between 1994 and 2001. Bentley used Range Rover’s all-wheel-drive system, while the exterior and interior were designed in-house. In fact, Graham Hull was the designer who penned the Dominator.
The Dominator may have had a lot more in common with the Range Rover
Since Bentley didn’t have the production means for an SUV, it used whatever it could from Range Rover. Unfortunately, there are no details regarding the Dominator’s powerplant, but many speculate that Bentley may have shoved in its own 6.75-liter V-8. More specifically, the turbocharged version used in the 1993 to 1998 Bentley Turbo R, which made 389 horsepower at 4,000 RPM and 553 pound-feet (750 Nm) at 2,000 RPM.
However, some reports indicate that it has the Range Rover’s 4.6-liter unit, which produced 224 horsepower at 4,750 RPM and 280 pound-feet (380 Nm) at 3,600 RPM. Unfortunately, Bentley never released information about the model.
The Dominator was not a one-off special, but still cost a fortune
Per Sultan’s request, Bentley made six Dominator SUVs. All six cars were finished in 1996 and the Sultan paid £3.0 million or the equivalent of $4.6 million in the 1990s. In today’s money, that’s around $8.0 million, or $48.0 million for all six of them.
The Bentley Dominator was the epitome of ultra-luxury
The exterior featured the obligatory chrome trim and wheels. The Dominator featured Bentley’s signature design elements, such as the taillights, which were typical 1990s Bentley pieces. In the front, it had headlights resembling those of a Turbo R and, of course, the massive chrome grille. One thing that looks like it was carried over from the Range Rover was the split tailgate.
Inside, the Dominator featured a completely bespoke interior that looks nothing like the one you’ll find in a 1990s Range Rover.
You find the typical for Bentley vast amounts of leather and the classy wooden trim, proudly decorating the Bentley-specific dashboard.
All six Dominators featured unique color schemes
The Royal family certainly doesn’t shy away from demonstrating its wealth. Many of the Sultan’s cars are finished in bright colors. This includes some of the Dominators. Two are finished in grey metallic, while one is black. There’s also a blue one and a bright red one, but the most interesting one is the bright yellow one, which also has a bright red interior.
Just n case you’re into serial numbers, these are the six Dominator chassis numbers:
How many are still alive?
The latest reports suggest that all six Bentley Dominators are still in working condition and are being driven in Brunei. This may change eventually, as the Sultan of Brunei occasionally (rarely) sells some of his cars. Although it’s very unlikely you will ever see one in person, at least now you have the knowledge that the Bentayga wasn’t the first Bentley SUV.
Source: Images: rrsilverspirit