Bentley remained in the shadows of its sibling the Rolls Royce….
….well, this is all about Bentley, this is the model few even knew were available.
……….I am going to show you how luxurious this saloon really is
Bentley, the hand-crafted luxury saloon from the UK has had an illustrious history. All the hype of the Rolls Royce down staged the Bentley, or “Big-Ben” as I often refer to the brand. Bentley became diluted with Rolls Royce through the years. What most people don’t know is the fact that Bentley is a grand tourer in every respect. From the 1920s, Bentleys driven by the infamous “Bentley Boys” won major events at LeMans. High revs at low rpm was the thoroughbred instinct designed into the ultimate grand tourer. It was always over-shadowed by its Rolls Royce sibling stealing the spotlight.
Bentley has always been a serious road car for the advanced driver who demanded the sporting attributes without sacrificing luxury. A Bentley was for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile. The only differences between a Rolls Royce & Bentley was the slightly lower bonnet with a rounded radiator shell, the engine tuning, and the Bentley flying “B” badges. Before we look at the 1978 Bentley T2 series, let’s retro a bit to the car’s history just to show you how impressive a Bentley really is….not “the bastard at the Rolls Royce family reunion” like many have classified this legend.
“There’s no replacement for displacement” was the famous pre-war British Motor Racing slogan created by Walter Owen Bentley, the company’s founder. What that meant was what the Bentley 4 ½ litre or the “Bentley Blower” disproved on the tracks. It was developed by Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin, one of the formidable Bentley Boys who was more into super-charging the engine rather than larger displacement.
The Bentley Blower touring model produced 175 bhp @ 3,500 rpm and the racing version produced 242 bhp @ 2,400 rpm. Birkin produced five super-charged Bentleys for the competition at the 24 hour de LeMans. Tim Birkin won at LeMans in 1929 racing a Bentley “Speed-Six.” The Blower’s most famous win was in 1932 at Brooklands. The Blower set several speed records. The Bentley Boys enjoyed consecutive wins at LeMans between 1927 and 1931.
Or Better still…. “I’ll be at my London Club before the Blue Train reaches Calais…..” were the famous words spoken before Woolf Barnato; Chairman of Bentley set out in his H.J. Mulliner bodied Bentley Speed Six. He wagered 100 pounds sterling March 12, 1930 at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes France as he scoffed at a Rover claim being faster than “Le Train Bleu” express……he said it was “no big deal.”
March 13.1930, Barnato and friend Dale Bourne as relief driver started the trek. They battled heavy rain, lost time in Auxerre searching for a pre-arranged refueling stop, and got hit with heavy fog in Central France. They blew a tire after reaching Paris requiring the use of their only spare tire. The unaffected Bentley raced non-stop over uneven pavement all night on the “Routes Nationales.” They reached the coast and sailed across the Channel on a packet steamer. The Bentley was parked outside “The Conservative Club” on prestigious St. James Street in London……four minutes before The Blue Train arrived in Calais……..
The Bentley Boys!
“The Avengers” John Steed always drove a vintage Bentley on the show….he was the quintessential Bad-Boy!
1967 Bentley T1 series
In 1965, the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and the Bentley badged variant appeared on stage at the Paris Motor Show. They were both completely new from the ground up and sans chassis, these all new luxury saloons were built using monocoque construction where the body and platform are fused into a single entity, increasing structural rigidity and greatly reducing weight. They shared not a trace of the Silver Cloud and the Bentley S series. These sleek all-new saloons were 7” lower, 5”shorter and 3.5” narrower than its predecessor. It was smaller on the outside but roomier on the inside with a spacious rear passenger compartment. The luggage space also increased.
The 1978 Bentley T2 series
The Bentley T series ran from 1965-1980. It was a full-sized front engine rear drive luxury saloon. The T1 series was produced from 1965-1977 and the T2 series was made from 1977-1980. The upgraded T2 series featured power rack and pinion steering, improved climate control, rubber faced bumpers along with a Bosch CIS fuel injection system. The Bentley T2 was available as a four-door saloon on the standard wheelbase and a long wheel base variant, and a hardtop coupe and luxury convertible.
The two-door fixedhead coupe had coachcraft by James Young and Mulliner/Park Ward while the Drophead’s bodywork was done solely by Mulliner/Park Ward. For model year 1971 both the coupe and convertible were renamed Bentley Corniche and very few were ever made making this a highly collectible Bentley series.
The Corniche coupe and convertible didn’t share sheet metal with the four-door saloons, these were custom crafted bodied with a lower waist line augmented with a “cupid’s bow.” They were built on the standard wheelbase platform. These were very elegant not to mention luxurious with a style all their own, identified anywhere by their iconic stature. The Corniche series was the absolute pinnacle of luxury and presence.
The Bentley T2 series used the proven normally aspirated 6.75 litre alloy V8 engine. The transmission was either a three or four speed automatic transmission both of which are GM variants. The T2 had four-wheel disc brakes with a triplicate hydraulic brake system, which also supplied pressure to the self-leveling independent suspension system. The Bentley was the sports-tuned Rolls Royce. It is hard to write about Bentley without mentioning Rolls Royce because they were really one in the same. I always thought of the Bentley as a Rolls Royce with a fake nose, mustache and glasses masquerading as a common vehicle!
The Bentley T2 series had a posh cabin. Exquisite hand stitched leather by Connolly Brothers, hand polished veneers and Wilton hand-tufted carpets with mouton rugs….just like Rolls Royce, in fact, if you removed the Bentley motifs from the cabin it is a splitting image of the Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce diluted Bentley into subservience through the years and they became practically identical. The T2 series got upgraded eight-way power seats. Power windows, power door locks that included a central locking system with security alarm, automatic boot release and fuel filler door were also standard. Bentley has always been a bespoke vehicle; no two Bentleys will ever be alike.
These sheep skin wool “throw rugs” were in addition to the plush carpet installed into the cabin
the throw rugs in place
glassy hand-rubbed walnut veneers were mirror-matched
a cigarette could be stubbed out on the veneer finish without a trace….
a piece of the veneer was serialized and kept on file for future replacement if need be
Now you see the charismatic attributes of the Bentley, it’s always been all about the Rolls Royce, so I decided to put “Big Ben” in the spotlight for a change. With its V8 power, meticulous hand-craftsmanship, and NOTORIOUS history, the Bentley T2 series was an ultra luxurious grand tourer with safety, speed and reliability. Since the separation of the two are making them rivals now, the older Bentley models will retain their unique character and will continue to be a highly sought after collectible with collectors all around the world.
Keep an eye out for more of the iconic Bentley in its classic form…..I’ll surprise you!!! “Big Ben” is really going to fascinate you………..