NEW YORK — Bentley Motors Inc. hand-builds and customizes its ultra-luxury cars to buyer specifications that sometimes are incredibly exacting, says Stuart McCullough, a Bentley board member.

He tells Ward's about one special request that brought smiles to a lot of British stiff upper lips at the auto company.

“The guy was buying an Arnage and said he wanted the interior trimmed in oak. We said, ‘Fine, we can do that.’ He said, ‘Not just any oak, but oak from my forest.’

“So we went out there, cut the wood, cured it for 18 months and then ultimately used it in his car.”

Bentley customers place all sorts of special orders — from inlaid gold to embossed family crests. The finished product can end up costing $1 million.

At the New York auto show, Bentley unveiled the Brooklands, billed as “the world's most exclusive coupe.”

Over the next three years, Bentley will build just 550 of them at its U.K. factory.

It will feature Bentley's most powerful V-8 engine ever. McCullough calls the car “a rakish, 4-seat grand touring coupe with a British look,” even though its chief designer is a Belgian, Dirk van Braeckel.

With all that buyer customizing, it's possible all 550 Brooklands will be unique.

“We have three criteria when it comes to custom orders,” McCullough says. “It has to be within the realistic realm of imagination. It has to be legal. And you have to be able to pay for it.”

An announcement is pending on the Brooklands' base price, but McCullough says it will cost about the same as the Bentley Azure, which starts at $329,990.

In 2003, Bentley sold 995 cars. Last year, under Volkswagen AG ownership and with an expanded 6-car lineup, Bentley sold 9,200 units.

It won't make more than 10,000 vehicles a year, says David Reuter, Bentley's public relations manager. He cites capacity constraints and a desire to maintain brand mystique.

Still, “to increase sales 10-fold in four years is phenomenal,” Reuter says.