There’s no questioning the class and luxury on offer but should you buy a Bentley T-Series?
Essentially what we have here is a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow fitted with Bentley trimmings, but while thousands of Shadows were made the T Series are rarer beasts. For example, just 568 T2s were made and you would have needed deep pockets to get your hands on one with a purchase price of almost £37,000 in 1979. But if your bank balance was suitably healthy you’d have been able to experience one of the most luxurious cars of its time, and one that still makes rather a special statement today.
Slide into the leather-clad driver’s seat and you’re faced with a delicately thin-rimmed steering wheel and a dashboard covered in the finest timber. This is a car that was all about comfort and unsurpassed opulence and it plays that role incredibly well, insulating the occupants from the distractions of the world outside and letting them just get on with enjoying the beautiful materials and craftsmanship. And there’s plenty of toys to play with too, from the electrically-adjustable seats to air-conditioning that can deliver an Arctic blast at the flick of a switch. So it’s certainly cossetting but what about the driving experience?
Well, it proves as comfortable and relaxing as the imposing looks lead you to expect. The ride is incredibly supple, helped by a kerb weight that simply steamrollers bumps into submission, and the handling isn’t as roly-poly as you’d think. Sure, there’s impressive amounts of body lean if you get too enthusiastic but it never feels too unruly, especially if you keep to the more relaxed pace that the Bentley encourages. In any case, the lack of support from the seats and the finger-light power steering doesn’t really tempt you to push too hard. The powerful brakes inspire confidence though, which is just as well as planting the right foot into the Wilton reveals a surprising turn of speed. Keep the throttle pinned in a T2 and sixty miles-per hour arrives in less than ten seconds, accompanied by a majestic rise from the nose, although fuel consumption that would shame a fighter jet soon puts paid to those antics.
Power Not stated
Torque Not stated
Top speed 120mph
Gearbox 3-speed automatic
Weights and Measures
Height 1518mm (59.7in)
Width 1829mm (72in)
Length 5194mm (204.5in)
Wheelbase 3048mm (120in)
Kerb weight 4809lb (2181kg)
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Major body repairs will have a calamitous effect on your bank balance, so every inch requires careful examination. Amongst the key rot-spots are the front wings where they meet the sill, the front and rear valances, the inner rear wings, and the lower edges of the doors and boot lid. The rear arches are prone too, and bubbling here almost certainly means worse horrors beneath so have a good feel around the inner lip of the arch. The sills themselves also need careful checking as complete replacement can easily cost £4000 per side. And it’s also worth looking for signs of galvanic corrosion where the aluminium panels meet the steel monocoque.
A look underneath is strongly advised as rust can attack the floor of the cabin and boot, and repairs here are a major undertaking – be wary of any signs of damp caused by perished and leaking screen seals. And pay close attention to the condition of the paintwork and chrome as quality was top notch and repairs or replacement will be eye-wateringly expensive.
The carburettor-fed V8 – a 6.2-litre unit for the T1 and 6.75 litres for the T2 – lasts well but examples without a detailed service history should be viewed with suspicion. Regular oil changes are required to prevent excessive camshaft wear and sludging of the hydraulic tappets, and correct anti-freeze levels are vital. Annual coolant changes are recommended as internal corrosion leads to the build-up of sediment and serious problems with the cylinder liners, requiring a complete re-build at huge cost. The unit also needs checking for signs of oil leaks, head gasket failure, and cracked exhaust manifolds.
The later GM400 3-speed automatic is deemed more reliable than the T1’s 4-speeder but check that gear changes are smooth and jolt-free. The electric selector mechanism can play up though so ensure that all gears engage correctly. It’s also worth checking for signs of oil leaks from the differential and any knocking that indicates prop or driveshaft joints that are past their best.
The suspension is a hefty set up comprising double wishbones and coil springs up front and semi-trailing arms at the rear and uses a complex system of hydraulics. A specialist inspection is advisable for peace of mind. Leaks caused by corroded pipework are the main concern, but you’ll also need to check for worn joints and bushes and for signs of corrosion around the subframe mounting points and rear spring pans. A car that’s sagging at the rear or sits unevenly is a worry and with a complete overhaul costing thousands don’t be tempted to ignore signs of neglect here.
Equally complex is the braking system. Specialist tools are required for many jobs and full refurbishment can approach £5000, so look for evidence of recent work or get it inspected if you’re not sure. Fluid leaks and seized calipers need watching for, along with corrosion of the brake pipes where they pass over the rear subframe. There are also more than ten flexible hoses that’ll need checking. Replacement, which needs doing periodically, is fiddly and labour intensive so if it’s been done recently, so much the better. And make sure the two brake warning lights on the dashboard illuminate and extinguish correctly – be very suspicious if not. The T2 got rack and pinion steering but check for any signs of fluid leaks around the pump and pipework on both models.
The cabin of any Bentley is a real high point, and the T Series is no different. Material quality is superb with the finest leathers and wood veneers, which means big bills if refurbishment is needed. Make sure, then, that patina hasn’t become shabbiness. There are plenty of electrical gadgets too, so make sure everything is working and pay particular attention to the operation of the air-conditioning. The sheer cost of repairing a failed system may have led to it being ignored by previous owners.
If you admire the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow but find it a bit, whisper it, 'common', then the T Series is a superb alternative. There are caveats, not least of which is terrifying restoration costs if you choose badly, and neither can it be run on a shoestring. But few cars make you feel so good, and that alone makes it worth every penny.