How Bentley wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for the Sultan of Brunei

Published on Apr 19, 2022 at 10:15 AM (UTC+4)
by Ben Welham

Last updated on Jul 01, 2022 at 5:10 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Kate Bain

How Bentley wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for the Sultan of Brunei

Bentley, as we know it today, is thriving, but if it wasn’t for the billionaire Sultan of Brunei, things would be a lot different.

You see, back in the mid to late ’90s when Bentley was independent and not owned by Volkswagen, it was not selling as many cars as it should have been.

This can’t have been an easy time for many car manufacturers, especially ones that weren’t making as much money as they should be. But luckily, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, and his brother, Prince Jefri, were able to keep the plucky British company alive.

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Due to their love of bespoke cars, the two brothers invested billions of dollars into Bentley’s R&D and production throughout the ’90s, and the result was astonishing.

If you look back through some of the cars they ordered you will see just how much money they would have spent. In fact, they commissioned a grand total of 23 different vehicles, at least to public knowledge, but there could be more.

Now, some will say Bentley was just milking the Sultan, but can you blame them?

Without this boost, we would not have cars such as the Continental GT and Bentayga today, so we should be grateful.

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Cars the Sultan of Brunei had Bentley build

The Java

Well, he had a fair few commissioned over the years by Bentley. However, his first commission was called the Java and he made about a dozen of those, each costing millions of dollars to develop.

These consisted of both coupes and convertibles as well as a couple of estates.

The Java was built between 1994 and 1996, and they all had a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre, 32-valve V8 engine.

The B3

The B3 was quite a special Bentley. This was designed by Pininfarina himself and was based on the Continental chassis – making it more or less a reskinned Continental R.

B3s were built for just one year in the 90s but the Sultan still managed to accumulate about a dozen of these.

They all came with a whopping great big 6.75-litre V8 with a single Garrett turbocharger. We can only imagine how good they sounded.

The B2

Like the B3, the Bentley B2 was essentially a reskinned Continental R, but this time with a convertible soft-top roof.

It was manufactured in the same period as the coupé version and it is believed 17 were made in total.

The ‘Buccaneer’

This very special model was built by order of Brunei on an exclusive basis, making details very scarce.

The Buccaneer is a retro-looking 2-door, 2+2 sports coupé that, like the B2 and B3, was powered by a mighty 6.75-litre turbocharged V8 engine.

It was designed by GMD, Geoff Matthews Design from Coventry, and built by FD, France Design from Le Pin in France.

The Grand Prix

In 1994, the Sultan and his brother commissioned a special car called the Grand Prix and this was essentially an entirely bespoke V8-powered, aluminium-bodied Bentley that could reach a top speed of 305km/h.

One special feature you will note on this car is the letter H on the fifth position in the chassis number.

This letter indicates that it is a non-standard model for selected customers, such as the Brunei royal family.

The Dominator

The Dominator was essentially an early Bentayga, as well as the brand’s first attempt at making an SUV.

This was a very strange car for the time and one which no one expected back in the ’90s whereas now people wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

The Dominator was basically a ’90s Range Rover but with Bentley-like styling.

Not a particularly tricky job you would have thought but that didn’t stop Bentley from charging $4 million a pop. The Sultan bought three.

So, if you are lucky enough to ever see one (we can almost guarantee you won’t), then you are a very lucky person indeed.



Ben Welham

Ben is a freelance motoring journalist who studied Journalism and previously produced daily content at DriveTribe. He has a worrying obsession with Tudor watches, and his dream car is the Porsche GT3 Touring.