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I have enjoyed reading many of the interesting views on this site, and feel that other readers may benefit from my own Bentley experience.

Over the last 30 years I have enjoyed many great vehicles, but it was about three years ago that my interest turned to Rolls Royces & Bentleys. What triggered my particular interest was assisting a German client with the rebuild of a Bentley S3. The Bentley was of sentimental value to the client, and I was asked whether I knew any specialist restorer in the UK who could perform the task. I did know of such a restorer, and in fact two years on the Bentley was restored to perfection. The client was delighted, and along the way I purchased a 1974 Silver Shadow. I enjoyed the Shadow for about 18 months, but due to the need for garage space the Shadow found a new home.

Earlier this year I was focused on acquiring a Bentley T2, but I was unable to find quite the right car. In fact a really nice example was presented to me, but I could not quite come to terms with the price; a decision which in time I have no doubt I will regret. It was then by chance that I felt that a Bentley Turbo R might be a better option, and I am delighted to say that about two months ago a late 1997 Turbo R arrived in my garage.

The purpose of this note is to provide some lay advice to anybody else out there who is thinking about a Bentley Turbo R as a purchase. What I say is not professional advice, and is based entirely upon my own opinion which you may choose to accept or reject. Although, much of what I will say is based on pure common sense I do feel that a special set of rules do apply to buying a Bentley Turbo R. The rules I believe are as follows:

(a). At the very outset you must have in mind that the Bentley Turbo R, although representing great value now, was a very expensive vehicle to buy when new, and equally expensive to maintain. In short they were acquired by wealthy individuals / companies who had the required financial means. As the vehicles become older it is important to remember that the maintenance required increases as sadly although the build quality is high everything has a life. Hence, maintenance becomes an even greater issue, but against that the usage will be less.

(b). The first stage of the purchase price is to decide on a budget. Of course, the later the model the better, and in my opinion a 70k mile 1995 model is far preferable to a 35k 1987 model. Mileage can be important, but it is only part of the equation. Within your budget you should also allow for perhaps an additional £3k for immediate post purchase repairs. Once you have decided on the budget then start looking for the car. In the initial phone call enquiry you should initially ask about the service history. In my experience the service history of so many vehicles came to an end in 2005 or before. After that date either little or no work had been recorded. It is absolutely critical that you establish that the vehicle you are enquiring about has a full service history, and that the servicing schedule has been adhered to the letter / number; the Schedules being 'C'. '1', '2','3', & '4'. You must also ensure that all the servicing invoices are available. If, all the servicing records are present then ask the seller if there would be any objection to you contacting the dealership / specialist garage that have maintained the vehicle. This can be a very useful exercise, and in my case the dealership said to me that in their view the vehicle I intended to purchase had in fact been 'over-serviced.'

The Bentley Turbo R is a complex piece of machinery that requires constant attention. Parts suffer by age alone, and unless the servicing schedule has been adhered to you are more than likely entering a financial minefield should you proceed to purchase. Unless you feel from your conversation over the phone that the service record stands the test I have outlined then I would be inclined to end the conversation. If, you are satisfied then ask about the rest of the vehicle. In particular the condition of the body with regard to rust. These vehicles do rust, and it is almost impossible to find an example that is rust free. Ask about any rust bubbles along the edges of the windows, around the door handles, the arches and the lower areas. It matters not in my view that the vehicle has had paintwork, and in fact it would be perhaps impossible to find one that was free of body restoration. What matters is the standard of the restoration! In relation to the interior ask whether it has been connolised. I personally would avoid a vehicle that has been connolised, but if a vehicle has been connolised well then that is another matter. However, you should be aware that a freshly connolised vehicle may look very inviting, but it may not last long unless the process has been completed to a high standard.

(b). The second stage is that of the vehicle inspection. I personally begin by having a look around the body, and usually within perhaps less than a minute you will know whether to be jumping back in your car to go home! Really examine every panel, and in particular in those rust spot areas. Do not discount the vehicle if there are some minor body issues, but you should be able to see what is a minor body issue as against a major body defect. In examining the inside of the vehicle assess the leather work, and in particular be careful if it looks very perfect. Have a look in the engine bay. Is it well presented? Can you see any oil leaks? Check all the various levels; transmission, engine, hydraulics. In my view a messy engine bay is often an indicator that a vehicle has not been well looked after.

(c). The third stage is to examine the service records. Spend time going through the service records in detail. In particular look for any work that has been carried out with regard to major components; that would include the brakes, the back axle, steering rack etc. All of these are very expensive to replace, and I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the hydraulic service; Service 3. Very expensive and critical. Do not be frightened to spend the best part of 30 mins plus going through the service invoices.

(d). The fourth stage is to take the vehicle on a test drive. Insist before you come that you want to start the engine from cold. How does it sound? There is a test you can carry out on the hydraulic pressure. I know the test but best take expert advice. On the test drive how does the vehicle drive? How well do the brakes appear to work? Are there any noises? Make sure the radio is off. Make sure the test drive is around 20 miles.

(e). The fifth stage is to have a look at the underneath of a vehicle on a ramp. Start by having the vehicle at a height that you can see the lower parts of the doors, wings and sills. At this height you would be amazed at what might have looked perfect at first glance now looks very different. Once the ramp is fully extended take a torch and have a look underneath. Initially in your own mind you want to form a view of how the vehicle presents itself from underneath. Does it all look very rusty, or in fact quite tidy? With the use of the torch go from the front end to the back. Look very hard for any fluid leaks. Leaks can be expensive. In heading towards the back of the vehicle you will see at the bottom of the rear springs suspension cups. Unless these have been replaced they will almost certainly be well and truly corroded. Remind yourself if there was any mention of suspension work in the service records.

(f). The sixth stage I regard as optional but highly recommended. If, you are satisfied in your own mind that the car meets your criteria then I would advise that you have a Bentley specialist also look at the vehicle. Although, you may feel that you are going over old ground a second expert opinion can be very helpful. Almost certainly the specialist will identify anything that appears worrying, and advise you accordingly. Of course, you may have the confidence to proceed without a specialist opinion, but if you have to spend £400.00 on a pre purchase inspection it could be a drop in the ocean with what you might have to pay for any unidentified problems.

Having looked at a few Bentley Turbo Rs many have fallen so far behind in relation to mechanical maintenance and body repair that they have little or no value. However, the really good examples will always have a value, and provided you start with the right example, and maintain it as required, the vehicle will be thoroughly rewarding. It is no bad idea to discuss with your specialist garage not only the existing service, but repairs for the future. This will enable you to budget accordingly. As time progresses I will let you know as to whether my own buying advice worked for me!

I stress again that I am only providing my lay opinion and not expert advice. I am no mechanic and no expert, but I felt my views just might help future buyers.

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1,558 Posts
Well I have read your post and believe what you say
But people don’t like buying an expensive car when they can get one a lot cheaper but then complain when it has to go to the Garage and spend 3k having it fixed
But your total correct and I have been saying this for a long time
I have a RT and love it

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7 Posts
Great information Kwaja, quite sobering,

I’m considering making my first Bentley purchase early next year, possibly importing to Aus from the UK.
It needs to be 15 years old to bring it in here (ridiculous I know) and I was thinking a lower mileage Turbo R. 'Possible to find a good one in the UK of that vintage ('96) for reasonable money?
Maybe Michael Bentleyman22 might be able to point me in the right direction?
I did see a '96 advertised on a web portal to go to auction recently with only 600 odd miles on it, I wonder what it sold for.
thanks Michael.

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802 Posts
For what it's worth, I wouldn't be looking for a low-mileage car. These cars suffer more issues from lack of use (water in the brake lines, sludge in the fuel system, corrosion due to degraded coolant, dried-out seals, etc.) than they do from over-use.

I'd want to see at least 30K on the clock of a '96, and preferrably closer to 50K.

-- Jeff.
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