Earlier in the year, I decided to turn a Speedhunting trip down to Hiroshima into a little holiday with my partner.
At one point during the getaway we found ourselves in a fancy little bistro which seated all of 10 customers and served delicate dishes in quick succession. Being more of a ramen and tap beer bloke I felt a little out of my depth, but when the chef asked if we knew about the car museum on Kurahashi-jima, I was quickly brought back into my comfort zone. A car museum on an island? Now that needed some investigation.
A quick search on Google Maps unearthed the F.H.Royce Museum. Pictures of classic cars, chandeliers, an opulent gold-trimmed chaise and an owner who looked a little like a wax dummy from Madame Tussauds, meant a road trip was inevitable.
The trip down to the south coast of Kurahashi-jima is worth it just for the scenery. Archipelagoes spanned with suspension bridges, dotted with fishing villages and inhabited by eagles and hawks – it was breathtaking.
As we soon found out, the F.H.Royce Museum itself doubles as a restaurant and hotel, and even has its own private beach.
Inside, you’ll find an extravagant, fluorescent pink-embellished ballroom and a lounge filled from ceiling to wall with model cars of all makes and models. It’s totally over the top, but totally amazing at the same time.
Is that Dominic Toretto’s Charger on top of an ornate antique buffet?
Unfortunately, the museum’s eccentric owner, Mr. Hidenori Hayashi, was unable to meet with me – I would have really loved to meet the man that built this place – but a member of his staff (fully tuxedoed up with pink uwabaki, I might add) was on hand to give us a little tour.
I’ll admit, most of the information he told me went in one ear and out the other; a burble of dates and production numbers that were impossible to remember.
But amidst all the classic and vintage machinery sat something a lot different. The elephant in the room was a bippu (VIP) style 1996 Bentley Continental R.
Sure, the museum collection was pretty much all Rolls-Royces and Bentleys and this was one of the latter, but it definitely came as a surprise. Or maybe it shouldn’t have given what I had already seen elsewhere in the venue.
This particular Continental R was one of that last coach-built cars to leave the Mulliner Parks Ward factory in Willesden, London. But it’s what was done to the giant coupé after it left the UK that’s important here.
Sometime during its life in Japan, this Bentley was given the right royal wide-body treatment. Custom vented fenders have added 140mm, pushing out the car’s overall width to a maniacal 2.01m (6.6ft).
But not only has it gone out, it’s also gone down – way down over giant 22-inch wheels.
They say it’s all in the details though, so I hope you’ve noticed the embossed Bentley logo on the boot, the jewel-encrusted badges, the smoked headlights, faux stacked exhaust tips and a sprinkling of LED lights for some extra sparkle.
Now, I’m sure many of you are questioning the value of such a unique styling choice. I am too, and I wonder whether having the only one of something is going to drive the desirability of this car, or whether it means that there’s only one for a reason. I’ll let you decide.
Mr. Hayashi obviously loves this thing, hence why he added it to his collection. He also drives the bippu Bentley regularly, which is awesome.
One thing is for certain though, if you’re ever going to find a car like this in a place like this, it’s going to be in Japan.