CC Capsule: 1999 Bentley Azure “Spyder” – Mulliner-Park Weird

I’m rarely at a loss for words when cars are concerned. Whether it’s utterly misguided BS or well-researched information is sometimes a matter of some debate, but that’s never stopped me from writing another paragraph. However, when I chanced upon this white monster a couple months ago, the waffling was replaced by baffling. All of the online sleuthing I could muster did little to change that. It did give me just enough to finagle some sort of post, but I still have more questions than answers.

I’m sure we’re all more or less acquainted with the Azure, at least in theory. These were born back in 1995, derived from the early ‘90s Continental R coupé that heralded the return of Bentley as its own marque, relatively speaking. The 6.75 litre turbo V8 (providing a very healthy 385hp, from 1997 onwards) and everything around it is all Rolls-Royce technology, but at least this design was reserved for Bentley only. The power soft top was designed and made in Italy by Pininfarina, making this the most expensive car in the Bentley range.

In 1999, Bentley introduced the Mulliner version of the Azure – just an extra level in the amount of bespoke customization available to the well-heeled customer who elected to purchase one of these rare automobiles. Production rarely reached above 200 units per year until the model was pensioned off in 2003 – in all, about 1300 were made, 80% of which were LHD like our feature car. So far, so pretty clear-cut.

The state of the car is a little unusual, due to its being “stored” under an overpass for a long time – alongside a number of other expensive British cars, might I add (remember this one?). So it’s far dustier than the usual Tokyo show queens we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on CC. But this particular car is a lot more quirky and murky than the usual Azure (whatever that means), due to its peculiar tonneau cover. Not to mention that dodgy-looking “Azure Spyder” badge… The plot thickens.

There are traces of this very car on the web, including a set of detailed interior photos published nine years ago, and a more recent one with the top down. The problem is trying to interpret the sparse and sibylline comments written on these couple of pages featuring this clearly unique Azure. It doesn’t seem that this is the Mulliner version (unlike what one of the pages seems to claim), as those have quad exhausts and wing extensions, but then who made the elaborate tonneau cover on this car?

Well, according again to our Google-translated Japanese internet sources, it seems that this “Spyder” was the work of Kondo Manabu. From what I could gather, this firm was (and perhaps still is?) a luxury car dealer / specialist in Kyoto with a particular focus on Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and, oddly enough, the Toyota Century. But that’s all I could find about them, really. So if this Bentley special their handiwork, did they do more than one? Who ordered this car originally? Why is it now gathering dust outdoors? How come it has pre-1997 wheels and a post-1998 mesh grille? Lots of questions, but few concrete answers.

The grime on the windows defeated my attempts at capturing the interior, unfortunately. Just another in a long list of pending issues regarding this car that will just have to remain unsolved for the time being. But hey, even a small CC post about the Bentley Azure – even in this so-called “Spyder” variation – is arguably better than none at all. Perhaps CC’s legendary collective intelligence can figure some of this out. Anyone’s spydery sense tingling?