Bentley T-series Buying Guide

While nightclub owners and TV stars tarnished the Silver Shadow’s image, the Bentley T-series retained an air of aristocratic gentility. Here’s how to get a good one

How much to pay

• Project £3000-6000 • Good £7000-14,000 • Concours £13,500-18,000 •

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★

The T-series range is often forgotten; the curse of being a badge-engineered derivative of the game-changing Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. However, the Bentley version of what is arguably the 'people’s Rolls' is less flash, which means fewer will have been run on the cheap in the vain hope of appearing moneyed. Rarity counts, too – over two-thirds of SY series production wore the Rolls-Royce badge.

The Bentley is not a sluggard, and while it isn’t a sports car it will waft you around in supreme comfort and style. By not buying a Roller, you avoid looking nouveau riche, too. Here’s how to get the best you can.

Your AutoClassics Bentley T-series inspection checklist

Engine

All T-series Bentleys use the Rolls-Royce pushrod V8. For the first two years this was a 6230cc derivative, as shared with the Bentley S2 and S3. In 1967 this was increased to 6750cc to provide greater levels of torque. Power and torque levels were always quoted by Rolls-Royce as ‘adequate’, although it has been suggested that most models produced in the region of 200-250bhp. This means that they are considerably understressed, and thus should not be prone to failure if serviced correctly.

Engine blocks can corrode, and an adequate rebuild needs a full strip with the removal of the cylinder liners. If the engine is making nasty noises, chances are you’re too late. You should walk away.

Hydraulic tappets can wear, and while Rolls-Royce replacements can cost up to £1500 per set, GM tappets are available that at one time would serve as alternatives. Owners have reported a drop in the quality of GM tappets, but these are nonetheless still available as a budget-priced alternative.

Servicing your Bentley can prove costly if you use a specialist – and if you have a good history file, you’ll want to. With almost ten litres of oil and 18 litres of coolant as only the first of your consumable items, plus labour and parts, the bills can soon rack up.

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Gearbox

Early cars used a four-speed General Motors Hydramatic gearbox, which hasn’t been known to fail in service. However, this was only used in UK-market cars; the more common GM400 three-speeder was used in other markets where parts were deemed easier to source.

From 1970, Rolls-Royce and Bentley rationalised their range by standardising the three-speed GM Turbo Hydramatic 400 in right-hand-drive markets as well as in the left-hand-drive markets that had used it from launch. Among other cars, this gearbox also saw service in the later Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and early Mulsannes. This is a ubiquitous unit, with plenty of support and knowledge should it ever need a rebuild.

Suspension and brakes

The triple-circuit braking system will make your brain hurt if you try to understand it – and, needless to say, putting it right is a specialist job. Budget about £3000 if you need a brake overhaul – and only let a Rolls-Royce aficionado do it. It’s not a job for the man in the local railway arch. A knocking under braking signifies that the hydraulic pump is on its way out, and you should treat any leaks of green LHM fluid as highly suspicious.

Ball-joints knock, and aren’t difficult to replace – but aim for £300 a side off the asking price of a potential buy. Self-levelling spheres can harden, and if they do they will need replacing or recharging; £600 will sort it.

Bodywork

The Bentley T-series, and its Silver Shadow sister, are not terribly rust resistant. However, as a result of their storage over the years the majority don’t suffer. Many are now dry-weather-only cars, and so aren’t exposed to water or salt.

Check the arches and sills first, as these are the areas where you’re most likely to see rust. If your potential purchase is going here, chances are it will be rusting away underneath. Poor repairs here will also set the tone for those elsewhere on the shell. Check the rear spring pans in particular, as these are vital for the correct operation of the suspension.

A lot of panelwork was aluminium, but this risks galvanic corrosion where aluminium joins steel, so be careful. The doors, bonnet and boot are susceptible to dents as a result of their material, too, so check for any small knocks.

Beware cheap resprays and filler jobs, as a lot of these cars have been used as wedding transport and so run on the cheap. If you can see the filler, or if there is orange peel, walk away and don’t look back. You can find a better example. Check the chrome work for pitting, because this won’t be cheap to replace – and watch for scuffs on the corners of the rubber T2 bumpers.

Interior

Everything from the Wilton carpet to the Connolly hide was hand crafted – and what can be hand crafted once can be done again if it needs replacing. However, replacing a full Bentley interior isn’t going to be cheap – even if you use parts from breakers, a retrim will be the thick end of £2000 if you want it to look good. New hides and new veneers will only send that skyward.

As standard, all cars had a black dashboard surround and walnut trim, although as a bespoke car you could order anything – and a popular option on T2s was to have the dashboard colour coded to the rest of the interior. It will still be rare to find a car with anything other than walnut – and this relative ubiquity will make replacing parts far easier.

Leather can crack and tear – and wood veneer can crack, lift or suffer lacquer damage. With so many nice examples available, leave these cars alone unless seriously cheap. Likewise, we advise you to ensure all electrical items work, given the cost of replacement.

History

  • 1965: T-series launched as replacement for S3.
  • 1966: T-series two-door by MPW launched.
  • 1967: T-series convertible launched.
  • 1967: Pininfarina Bentley T-series produced.
  • 1971: T-series LWB launched.
  • 1971: Bentley Corniche launched to replace MPW saloon/convertible.
  • 1977: T2 launched with rack-and-pinion steering, revised suspension, rubber bumpers and new dash.
  • 1980: Production ceased to make way for new Mulsanne.

AutoClassics says…

As with the Silver Shadow upon which it’s based, the Bentley T-series is not a model to buy unless you know your wallet can sustain it. When run on a budget, cars such as these develop issues that can cost a king’s ransom to rectify. However, be canny about your purchase, choose well, and you shouldn’t find too many nasty issues waiting to bite you.

It’ll always have more class than the flash Silver Shadow, and always be far rarer – but be prepared for hordes of onlookers commenting on your ‘Roller’. Get used to it – correcting them all will begin to get boring...

Specifications

Bentley T-series
  Power 190bhp
  Top speed 118mph
  0-60mph 9.6sec
  Economy 13mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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