Bentley Motors' new Continental GT coupe was the auto industry's runaway success of 2004. Those who can swing the car's $160,000 price tag must suffer a yearlong wait to get their hands on a freshly minted model. The hero behind the car's inimitable allure: 47-year-old Belgian auto designer Dirk van Braeckel.
Van Braeckel's triumph is powerful yet understated. Bentley's chief designer says he sculpted the car around the wheels, to emphasize thrust without flashiness. "The lines of the car say, 'I have the speed and I can use it if I want to,"' says van Braeckel. A 560-horsepower, twin turbo-charged engine makes the Continental GT the fastest coupe in the world, topping out at 198 mph.