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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently picked up a 1959 Bentley S2. It was a wedding limo with a swapped-in 425 Cadillac motor/tranny and other modifications. However, the power steering was left original as RHD. As the other systems (brake linkage/master cylinders - no more brake servo, but drum brakes at all wheels are original; gas pedal/linkage; gear shift mechanism) are already modified and relatively simple to relocate, I'm considering converting this car to LHD.

Quick look at the web and Flying Spares implies that, from the steering column down, the steering box/transfer gear are definitely different for LHD and RHD. It also looks like the centre steering lever and idler lever are also different - unless they can be flipped over to become a mirror image for the other side (which I doubt). These appear to be the only three parts that would need to be changed on an early S2.

Does anyone have any experience with such a conversion and could advise what parts of the steering system from the steering box down need to be changed?
 

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I'm pretty sure the whole dash will have to be changed out.
Upon looking, the gauge centre may be left untouched, but the glove box will have to be moved, so at least that part will have to be acquired.
The speedo and instruments may be able to be switched.

New carpet set for the front as well.
 

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Owning a car that is an RHD to LHD conversion, I'd personally advise against, even though this particular example is not in the "collector class" due to other modifications (mine isn't either, just because of the conversion and what has to be done to get there). There are all sorts of rearranging that's necessary in the dash itself as well as under the car and the engine bay.

It's not a simple undertaking.
 

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Totally agree with you Guy, there are always problems that one will run into that are not anticipated.
A person almost needs an entire donor car.
One thing leads to another and pretty soon regret rears its ugly head.
 

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@Jeff R 1

Luckily, I wasn't the one who did the conversion. But having owned this car since 2006 I am constantly amazed that anyone would bother. It's just cheaper and easier to buy a LHD example if that's what you want and vice versa.

It's also "interesting" trying to figure out what's gone where when things (and not just electrical) had to be moved. Neither the LHD or RHD workshop manual information is even close to 100% accurate when you're dealing with a converted car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Brian – I must first commend you on the brilliant footnote (Paul Samuelson quote) at the bottom of your posts: “Well when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

That is something that should be written in huge letters on the front door of every government office, media outlet and educational facility. If more people did this instead of egotistically defending false narratives, we’d have a much less divisive society. I liked this so much, I’ve quoted it in my blogs on current issues.

You’re absolutely right about departures from the factory shop manual when it comes to repairs of modified cars. Unique problems with the electrical system – which is much harder to figure out than visually obvious mechanical conversions, is a further complication. Tracing a wire that disappears into a conduit which then itself disappears somewhere under the car or inside the dash is a pain. One never knows if it goes to a factory relay or someone just decided to wire a switch or whatever directly to the end unit. Even though the Cloud series is purely electro-mechanical and simpler than the later cars, it can still be a headache.

Just curious Brian – is your conversion a Cloud series or a newer car?

As for my RHD-LHD conversion: My original plan was even more ‘intense’ and would likely get me tarred and feathered on some more ‘conservative’ Roller/Bentley forums! :) I have a very eclectic history with cars, from ‘back-yard-modified’ 1960s’ muscle Mopars right up to displaying an original classic at Pebble Beach. I think there are no set rules or limitations as in what direction one chooses to go in the car hobby. Keeping a car very original to preserve its pedigree (something many would consider nebulous) makes as much sense to me as a Chevy 454-powered Phantom III resto-mod. (Damn – in retrospect, should’ve have bought that one at the Reno auction as it would already be done and cost less!)

My Cloud aspirations or inspiration came from a chance stumbling across the Icon Derelict Cloud resto-mod on Jay Leno’s YouTube channel. Being cheap, I figured I could get/make something similar for a lot less. Clouds used by wedding limo services often had the drivetrain changed to GM parts for alleged reliability, but more realistically, for ease of maintenance. (There are shops that put Clouds on GM chassis and I have a friend who has two such cars … and that’s where I get my info on these conversions.) Since I couldn’t find one already converted (long story), I decided to ‘make my own’. Anyway …. I ended up with 3 Clouds/Ss. All solid and clean #3 cars as per Hagerty’s Value Guide.

The first one turned out to have a phenomenal pedigree. It’s a very early LHD S1 originally bought by Clessie Cummins (yes, the father of the mobile diesel) and then sold to his good friend and patent lawyer Donham Owen. It stayed in the Owen family for almost 60 years. It was then bought by the Blackhawk Museum who decided to resell it. I learned all this after I found a key with a phone number from the Owen ownership. Donham’s son Mel (turning 90 this year) who still runs the venerable family law firm was very forthcoming with lots of amazing info about the car; even sent me a box full of history and documentation and we now keep in touch. Clearly, I CANNOT butcher that car! It has some minor cosmetic quirks, but was very well maintained mechanically and needs to be preserved for its history.

Next came a 1959 RHD Cloud that was lingering on Facebook marketplace in a city where RRs/Bentleys don’t sell that well. It had no history and no apparent pedigree. Perfect! I started to clean up some of its minor cosmetic quirks and started looking for a local 1980s’ Cadillac that has a wheelbase only 1-1/2” shorter than a Cloud. The conversion shops use Caprice chassis, but those have to be extended by about 7” to match the Cloud’s wheelbase. (Even though both the Caddy and the Caprice have a larger footprint than the Cloud, they have a shorter wheelbase.) I figured the ¾” at each wheel on the Caddy would not be noticeable. What is noticeable – and how you can quickly spot one of these conversions – is the wider track making the wheels almost flush with the fenders.

In the meantime, a friend sent me a link to a local auction where a 1959 Bentley S2 was being sold at no reserve. I didn’t really want a third car, but registered and gave it a shot in case it went for a good price and I would feel stupid. Well, it didn’t go for a good price – I bought it for an unbelievable price! This happened probably because many auctions moved to the web during Covid and the thousands of car guys who used to attend these ‘car events’ in person didn’t follow them online. Another of many examples of how Covid lockdowns impacted the economy.

As this car is already ‘butchered’ or modified – depending on perspective, making it LHD is a logical next step. In fact, looking at the amount of modifications already made, the steering conversion is not that big a leap. At this point, it looks to me like only three engine-bay parts need replacing – steering box, idler arm and centre steering lever. The under-dash stuff looks like ‘move only’. (I’m hoping someone with experience can confirm this.)

The quality of the work done so far is also quite good, except for the use of a transmission-mounted Lokar floor shifter. In addition to the questionable esthetics, it also has some ergonomic issues. But, it means there is no need to relocate any shifter linkage. As such, the shifter-linkage-free steering column just needs to be moved to the left without any cutting of the dashboard wood. Yes, it’ll be under the glove box, but the glove box door opening will only be slightly limited. A cable-operated throttle mechanism has replaced the original linkage, but the gas pedal will need to be moved. Same goes for the American master cylinder and vacuum power booster sitting under the driver’s seat that ‘just’ needs to be moved over with the brake pedal. (A cross-member was welded to the X-frame to accommodate this.)

Yes, there is still substantial work, but nowhere near as much as replacing the whole chassis. Of course, the original four-wheel drums, suspension and rear end are major limitations to making this into a 400 small block-powered (yes, I’m old school – no LS motor or fuel injection!) and 4-wheel disk (aftermarket or Corvette) resto-mod, but it should make a nice cruiser. …. For now.

I just find RHD ‘uncomfortable’ as instinctive actions need to be thought about; one must consciously remember to look in the other direction than in a LHD car. For example, a quick lane change involves an instinctive sweep of the rearview mirror (inside or outside depending on direction) and an over-the-shoulder look. The angles are just not the same in a RHD car. Even a quick check of the inside rear-view mirror sometimes has me looking to the right at the driver’s front pillar. :oops:

So – if anyone out there has a GM-platformed Cloud that they ‘could not not buy’ (like my S2) or got tired of, or want to ‘go original’, pedigree or slightly modified - with cash difference made up as appropriate, I’d be VERY willing to entertain a trade!

Jeff – are you in Toronto?
 

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The car I have that is a RHD to LHD conversion is SRH33576. She started out her life on the Isles then went to Germany then came to Florida, where that owner had her for 17 years, then to Georgia, then to me. I have no idea when the conversion occurred, as documentation was virtually non-existent, as it often is for these cars.

As nice as it is, and hugely advantageous as well, to have the service history and provenance of a car you're considering, the fact is that it's rare that such is available. Getting a professional pre-purchase inspection by someone familiar, very familiar, with the series you're considering buying is best practice regardless of whether historical documents are available or not.

I'm trying to find a new home for SRH33576, and she is now a project car again, though not a complete basket case. But she's also not a car that any RR collector would want because of the RHD to LHD conversion and all the rearranging that entailed. She'll never be original in the collector sense of that phrase again.
 

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Thankfully CarsGuy, I'm not in Toronto, I'm on Vancouver Island in B.C. in the little town of Lake Cowichan.
I dislike cities, too may people, too much noise, and the worst of all, garbage and cigarette butts.
Sorry, I can't complain enough about big cities. o_O
 

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"Esotericcarsguy", note that Brian's RHD to LHD was done on a Silver Shadow, a very much more complicated and difficult conversion than converting a Cloud. On a Cloud, the gauges and wiring for same are already in the middle of the dash so would not have to be moved. Control linkages are all easy, as are brakes. As for steering, use a GM power steering box and do away with the Cloud power steering system that uses a ram mounted in the front of the chassis pushing at right angles to the tie rods. I wouldn't hesitate to go ahead with the conversion to LHD on the car you have which is already modified anyway.
How about a first name instead of Esotericcarsguy?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I’m not being sarcastic, but it is somewhat of an honour to have the three guys whose posts I intentionally seek out when surfing this site for information answer my post! (Maybe Wraithman will also chime in?) Three guys who are not just articulate that their posts are clear and concise, but also technically accurate, logical and truly worth heeding. But enough of the well-deserved ‘ass-kissing’ :) and on to the pragmatic stuff. So, to first answer some questions:

Jim – Thank you for the encouragement! My name is Frank and I live in Toronto, at least for the six 'summer' months. My wife and I spend our 6 ‘winter’ months in Arizona as snowbirds. Prior to falling for the Crewe marque, I was deeply into an ‘esoteric’ Czechoslovakian car called Tatra. I’m from there, so this was partially a ‘roots/heritage’ affair. My long-neglected website esotericclassics.com has more info on these cars. One of them even took me to Pebble Beach where I provided some comic relief for Jay Leno’s coverage of the 2014 event. ;) (I seem to have a knack for looking awkward.) I even set up a YouTube channel to post videos about technical aspects of these cars. But video editing takes time and this initiative died. (Incidentally, the Cummins/Owen S1 noted in my previous post was also displayed at Pebble Beach in 1971 when it was still called the Concours at Del Monte Lodge.)

Jeff – I fully share your sentiments on big cities! I’m south of the 401 in Toronto and KNOW what you’re talking about. Incidentally, we looked at Vancouver Island as our potential retirement residence, but the warm Arizona weather ultimately took us down there. (With increasing energy costs, bureaucracy, regulations and overall isolationism/authoritarianism post-Covid - being from the former Soviet Block, I’m unusually sensitive to this - this decision may haunt us going forward!) I love my time in AZ where we’re in a little hamlet called Gold Canyon on the very east end of the Phoenix area. In addition to the tranquility, economics and lower real estate values also allow me to have a 2k sq-ft garage with a two-post lift that would only be a dream in Toronto. Here I have a cramped 1-1/2 car garage that makes any chassis swaps or large projects impossible.

Yesterday I received an email from Colin at Flying Spares (found him to be most helpful when ordering parts in the past) that the centre steering lever and idler arm are indeed specific to RHD or LHD. Unfortunately, they don’t have the LHD version in stock. They also don’t have the LHD steering box. Which makes Jim’s recommendation on using a GM power steering box even more enticing!

At the risk of getting into too much detail, this car is actually begging for this modification! There’s already a new-looking GM power steering pump installed on the Cadillac 425. Its only purpose seems to be to act as a pulley tensioner for the fixed-mount AC compressor! The high pressure and return hoses run from the pump to the RHD Bentley steering box BUT don’t connect to it. They’re simply joined together near it and just circulate the fluid back to the pump! Yes, as such, there is no power steering and the car is a bear to steer at parking speeds. There’s also a lot of looseness felt at the steering wheel.

This raises a few questions. Is there some leak or other issue in the power steering system so the hoses were disconnected? Or, is the pressure from the GM pump incompatible with the Bentley system so the hoses were never connected? Or, was the pump simply put there as a tensioner for the AC and the lines were routed just for show? It also makes one wonder about lubrication of the steering box if no fluid is being fed to it. …..and the wear on the steering box and transfer gear if extensive force needs to be applied to the steering wheel at parking speeds.

Now, one way to find out would be to get the right fittings and attach the hoses to the steering box and see what happens. That’s what I was planning to do even though this is an arduous task without a lift. Unfortunately, I recently had my lower back flare up AND as a result also fell and twisted my ankle – so I’m currently immobile. (And have more time to write long post! ;) )

If Jim’s Bristol Motors was in Toronto rather than BC, my obvious plan would be to see if he’d be interested in doing this conversion to the GM steering box and LHD. (A marque specialist shop in Toronto quoted me a ridiculous figure, citing an expected 2 months of having the car sit on a lift for the basic RHD-LHD conversion outlined in my initial post!) I really like Jim’s idea but expect some previous experience with this is important as a mount will need to be welded to the Bentley frame for the steering box and some adaptor will need to be made to join it with the Bentley steering column. (A LHD mount is already welded in place for a stock RR/Bentley power steering box on my RHD car. It looks to me that Crewe built the frames to be universal, no matter what the final assignment.)

As for the GM power steering box, a 1987 Caprice box is mounted at the front of the car's frame and its arm extends to the back of the car to operate the steering linkage. (I’ll attach some photos.) On the S2/Cloud, this arm extends forward from the steering box at the firewall. Also attached are some photos of a GM-platformed Cloud showing how an adaptor rod extends from the Cloud steering column towards the GM steering box. As such, I’m curious how much of the original Bentley steering linkage would need to be replaced, with what and how the GM steering box would be connected to this linkage. The adaptor rod from the Bentley steering column to GM steering box should be comparatively simple and basically made like the one in the GM-platformed Cloud. .... Unless the GM steering box would be moved to the outside of the Bentley frame and some sort of transfer gear would then be needed to connect it to the Bentley steering column.

Jim could you just quickly elaborate? …… Perhaps even include a photo of such a conversion? …. Many thanks!

PS. I'll also include a photo of the Lokar shifter for (a) your entertainment and (b) to illustrate how this removes all shifter linkage.
Frank
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That shifter inside the car looks like it belongs in a rat rod, :oops: I would change that.
At least install a proper lather boot and replace that utilitarian rubber one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Jeff R 1 - Thanks for the hint about the boot! I have some left-over leather from my previous SZ car seats that can be used for this. Esthetics aside, that shifter is also too long and obstructs some dash controls. As such, I'm looking at a shorter lever.
 

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Hi Frank, I've always thought Tatras are very cool. I have been to PB several times and was there in 2014 and probably saw your car, I remember seeing one or two there but can't recall exactly which year that was. I remember seeing one locally in the early 1970's when I first got into cars and before I started the business, it was running but rough and not on the road. I should have bought it. I've never converted a Cloud from RHD to LHD, but I have built complete car chassis from scratch and have done drive train and suspension modifications to many vintage cars over the years. I've just finished designing and installing an electric starter system in a 1913 LaFrance fire truck for a local fire department, now they can use it any time rather than call in a strongman to crank it over.
I should have said install a LHD steering box from any other car, I just said GM which I meant as a generic example. A steering rack would be even easier to install, I should have mentioned that. Cutting the column and adding a collapsing section to connect to the stock RR upper column and wheel is not difficult. I would get rid of that shifter completely and connect the trans linkage onto the the stock Cloud shift lever by cable, For brakes use a hydroboost setup to do away with the large vacuum chamber, you can use the power steering pump for both the steering and brakes then. Or you could use an electric brake pump and accumulator like on 1990's Jeep Cherokees.
 
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