Johannesburg - The formerly understated, almost gentlemanly marketing of British luxury marque Bentley in South Africa is about to get revved up, with the news that the distribution and dealer rights for this country have been acquired by Porsche racer extraordinaire Toby Venter.
Venter is the driving force behind LSM Distributors, SA's Porsche distribution and retail network, and became an instant celebrity in July 2014 when he bought the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Midrand for R205 million to save it from developers.
Venter said he was inspired by Bentley's rich heritage, its numerous racing triumphs, and the passion and craftsmanship that goes into making each car - but what hooked him was the way the brand has been brought up to date in recent years.
Bentley Motors was founded by former railway and aircraft engineer Walter Owen "W.O." Bentley on 18 January 1919, with a straightforward philosophy: to build big, tough, very fast luxury cars.
The results were arguably the very first muscle-cars; Ettore Bugatti, whose masterpiece at the time was a jewel-like 2.3-litre supercharged twin-cam straight eight, called the 4.5-litre four-cylinder Bentley "the world's fastest lorry".
Bentleys dominated hill climbs and sports-car races at the newly-constructed Brooklands circuit throughout the 1920s and their reputation for durability was cemented by iconic victories - usually against purpose-built racing cars - in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 at the hands of a group of talented and wealthy amateur drivers led by Captain Woolf 'Babe' Barnato, known as the Bentley Boys.
The Depression forced Bentley into insolvency in 1931, whereupon it was taken over by Rolls-Royce, and became simply another Gentleman's Carriage - until 1998, when it was sold to Volkswagen and began a renaissance that culminated with yet another win at Le Mans in 2003 with the Speed 8. Bentley is still active in GT3 sports-car racing with considerable success.
Bentleys are now hand-built built at Crewe in Cheshire, where its nemesis Roll-Royce once built the legendary Merlin aircraft engines, to world-class standards of luxury, but today's Bentley Boys have not lost sight of W.O.'s original vision. To this day there is no such thing as a slow Bentley.
Which makes this uber-luxury brand a good fit for a petrolhead who made his name selling and racing Porsches. Venter intends to establish a new South African home for Bentley in Melrose Arch at the corner of Corlett Drive and Melrose Boulevard. There the existing Bentley range - the Continental, Flying Spur and Mulsanne models - will be joined in April by the company's first SUV, the tank-like Bentayga.
And, whereas previously nothing so crass as price was ever mentioned aloud in a Bentley showroom, it is a measure of how much change Venter has already wrought that the full price-list (with the exception of the just-launched Mulsanne) is printed below, with a note that these prices include a three-year or 100 000km maintenance plan.
Continental GT V8 - R3 562 000
Continental GT V8 S - R3 791 000
Continental GTC V8 - R3 794 000
Continental GTC V8 S - R4 168 000
Continental GT - R3 909 000
Continental GT Speed - R4 163 000
Continental GTC - R4 165 000
Continental GTC Speed - R4 577 000
Flying Spur V8 - R3 622 000
Flying Spur W12 - R3 622 000
Mulsanne - TBA
Bentayga W12 - R3 987 000