1982-’85 Bentley Mulsanne Turbo Buying Guide
Forced-induction cars propelled brand’s 1980s resurgence – and the Turbo was the original incarnation. Here’s what to look for
How much to pay
• Project £3000-4500 • Good £7000-10,000 • Concours £10,500-14,000 •
Running costs ★★
DIY friendly ★★★
While the Mulsanne Turbo lives in the shadow of its more popular and well known Turbo R sibling, the fact remains that it was the first turbocharged Bentley – and the first to evoke the spirit of the old-fashioned Bentley Boys. While it may not handle as sharply, it’s still just as quick, and it carries the additional cachet of having been used by James Bond in the 1980s continuation books by John Gardner.
With power knocking on the door of 300bhp and an interior that would put Blenheim Palace to shame, the Mulsanne Turbo makes a very appealing classic option. This is what you should look for, if you want to buy the best.
Your AutoClassics Bentley Mulsanne Turbo inspection checklist
Bentley has used the Rolls-Royce pushrod V8 for decades, and the understressed engine has barely changed during that time. The Mulsanne Turbo employs a Garrett AiResearch T3 turbocharger, which increased power (in Bentley terms) from ‘adequate’ to ‘adequate plus 50%’.
Hydraulic tappets can wear, and the parts can be upwards of £1500 before fitting. General Motors tappets are no longer acceptable as a cheaper alternative to the originals, although while they were still manufactured in Detroit the quality was sufficient. Blocks have also been known to corrode, while cylinder liners can pit, and a nasty-sounding engine is likely to be in need of an imminent rebuild. Avoid these cars like the plague.
Be wary of models that don’t have lots of bills – even a service can be expensive, with two gallons of oil and 18 litres of coolant to consider. If the paperwork is looking thin, leave it and look for another car.
Along with other Rolls-Royce and Bentley products of the period, and several American models, all Mulsanne Turbos used the three-speed General Motors Turbo Hydramatic 400 series transmission. This strong gearbox is more than capable of accepting the power and torque figures from a Mulsanne Turbo, and there is no shortage of specialist knowledge should yours ever need a rebuild. There are plenty of parts and spare gearboxes available, too, and you won’t even need to look that hard.
Suspension and brakes
Mulsannes are prone to wear in the front ball-joints, which manifests as a knocking from the front end. If you hear this on test, you should aim to get £250 per side off the asking price. The rear of the car features self-levelling suspension derived from the Citroen high-pressure hydraulic system. As the spheres lose pressure they go firm, so try bouncing the rear of the car. If it won’t bounce, you’re looking at about £600 at a Bentley specialist to rectify the issue.
Given the braking and suspension links to Citroen, the Turbo uses LHM mineral oil in place of brake fluid. Check for leaks, and replace affected hoses or unions. We wouldn’t advise you to allow a generic garage anywhere near the triple-circuit brakes; leave them for Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists. If the system knocks under braking, check the hydraulic pump. While it’s not exactly prone to failure, this is not unknown and knocking is indicative.
The Rolls-Royce/Bentley SZ body is big, and that means a lot of it to rust. It’s fairly well protected, but it certainly isn’t exempt from rot. The wheelarches and sills are the most important areas to check first, as are the rear spring pans. These can indicate the condition of the shell as a whole, because if these have been repaired then other areas underneath may not be far behind. There are water traps around the window trim and behind the door handles, as trim rubs against the paint and eventually exposes bare metal.
Panels are mainly aluminium so tend not to corrode too badly, but you should beware of galvanic corrosion where aluminium meets steel. Beware also of parking knocks – it takes less of an impact to damage aluminium than steel, and it’s easy to misjudge when manoeuvring a car of this size. That can also account for scuffed bumpers; these are not the end of the world by any means, but make sure the price reflects condition.
These cars received a generous coat of paint when new, and it was done to a high standard. If you don’t see a deep, lustrous finish, your prospective buy has had fresh paint – and not to a good level. Orange peel is also indicative of a substandard job. Avoid any cars that have been poorly painted, as stripping and respraying one properly costs a lot.
Filler – if it’s visible through the paint – isn’t good, either. While minor parking knocks inevitably require repair, a poorly finished car will not be as desirable as an original, straight example.
There was no standard specification, but as a rule trim followed that of the standard Mulsanne. While tired leather can be rejuvenated or replaced, and flaky wood can be relacquered or reveneered, it isn’t yet financially viable in the majority of cases to opt for a full retrim. Better to find an example with a good interior to start with.
That isn’t to say a tired interior is beyond salvation. Specialist breakers may yield trim, and you might want to join those who have ‘upgraded’ their Mulsanne Turbos to later specification. You might also want to have a piano-black finish in place of walnut, in which case flaky veneer isn’t the end of the world.
Some cars were equipped with velvet trim, which is seen as passé nowadays. Again, leather can be sourced from breakers if the rest of the car is right. Best for resale are Turbos in dark metallic with pale leather and walnut – contrasting carpets are frequently seen but don’t tend to affect values. It’s important to check it still has its lambswool rugs, as a new set can set you back four figures.
Walk away from electrical issues. Parts aren’t cheap – a central-locking solenoid, for instance, could cost upwards of £300.
- 1982: Bentley Mulsanne Turbo launched in standard and long-wheelbase bodies.
- 1985: Bentley Turbo R launched as sporting model, with uprated suspension settings to improve road holding. Mulsanne Turbo initially continues alongside Turbo R.
- 1985: Mulsanne Turbo discontinued as majority of buyers are opting for Turbo R.
While it’s not a cheap car to run, the Mulsanne Turbo will return any investment threefold, such is the level of fun you’ll have. More significantly, as the first turbocharged Bentley and the progenitor of both the Turbo R and the 1990s Continental, it’s certainly set to become an investment classic – and one that will reap a significant return when you come to sell.
Buy the best you can afford because, as with all expensive classics, there is a risk that previous owners have put off inevitable jobs until the last moment, and so you may be inheriting someone else’s issues. But buy well, and you won’t regret it.
|Bentley Mulsanne Turbo|
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