Bentley T2: The Legend of Big Ben Continues

Bentley is tomorrow’s classic today

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High revs at low rpm is a Bentley hallmark

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The legend of “Big Ben” continues. Who would ever have thought the Bentley would be as exclusive as the Rolls Royce. Big Ben was always treated as the bastard at the Rolls Royce family reunion…since the model became its own brand, and the Rolls Royce is no longer “throwing it shade” the world views it in a different manner. Bentley has always been a thoroughbred, a grand tourer in every respect.

High revs at low rpm is a Bentley hallmark. It wasn’t until Rolls Royce purchased the brand that it became a motoring afterthought. The Bentley was marketed as the Rolls Royce for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile. The Bentley has always been more spirited than you-know-who. This tribute represents the marque as a pristine example of motoring in the grand touring tradition. This is a 1978 Bentley T2 built in the Rolls Royce tradition.

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It looks like a Rolls Royce

As you may see from the photos, A Bentley is just as luxurious as you-know-who. It uses the same integral steel bodyshell fitted with aluminium doors, bonnet, and boot lid. It shares the same dimensions as the Silver Shadow II: 204.7” in length, 71.7” in width, and a 120” wheelbase. The Bentley T2 also shared the Silver Shadow II’s long wheelbase chassis and bodyshell. In fact, the only visible difference between the Bentley T2 and the Silver Shadow II is external badging, the radiator grille, and bonnet. Everything else is virtually verbatim…

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Bentley T2

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Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

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The Bentley T Series II was built from 1977 until 1980. Its exterior is basically unchanged from the previous version. The new bumper system for both front and rear are energy absorbing. The wrap-around bumpers are fitted with black polyurethane inserts. The mild refresh made it look more contemporary. If by chance you are in the market for a Bentley from this genre, make sure to examine the bumpers to make certain they are correct and not in need of restoration. These bumpers are grotesquely expensive to replace!

The legend of Big Ben…

Let’s take a look at the illustrious Bentley heritage. He was known simply as W.O. without even mentioning Bentley. Walter Owen Bentley (1888-1971) was a British engineer. Not only did he design motorcars, he also was the designer of aero engines. He was the founder of Bentley Motors Limited. After the war in early 1919 W.O. founded the company with his brother. By January 1920 his first complete car, the Bentley 3.0 litre began testing. His first production version was delivered in 1921. The quality and durability earned wide acclaim.

Bentley Blower

The Bentley 3.0 litre won the 24 hours of LeMans in 1924. Bentley also had victories at LeMans in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930. Which brings us to the infamous Bentley Boys. They were a group of wealthy British motorists who helped to establish the marque’s reputation for high performance. Woolf Barnato, one of the formidable Bentley Boys, purchased the company in 1925 to save it from financial ruins. It was Woolf Barnato that drove the four consecutive wins at LeMans. It was his vision and ingenuity that gave birth to the famous Bentley Blower.

Team Bentley

He also won a different kind of race. He drove a Mulliner-bodied Bentley formal saloon and beat “Le Train Bleu” known as the Blue Train Race. He made a bet that he could out run the train and be in London before the train would arrive in Calais. The race began in Cannes. That trusty Bentley ran non-stop day and night on public roads…uneven pavement, battled inclement weather and still beat the odds – that die hard Bentley didn’t forsake him. To make a long story short…Woolf was seated at his favorite club on prestigious St. James Street in London as Le Train Bleu pulled into Calais…

Woolf Barnato

The Great Depression of 1930 was the final blow to the struggling company. No one was in the market for luxury items. Rolls Royce had an eye on the company because the Bentley gave their Phantom II stiff competition. Bentley Motors Limited was purchased by Rolls Royce on November 20, 1931. Now you have all the sordid details…this is how the formidable Bentley brand was acquired – and intentionally understated…

The under-dog always wins!

Rolls Royce marketed the Bentley for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile without sacrificing luxury or performance. Throughout its tenure with Rolls Royce, it was always a bit more spirited. It is the grand touring version of a Rolls Royce. While it was a part of Rolls Royce, it was down-staged and marketed as a motoring afterthought. They produced the Bentley at a highly restricted pace which turned out to be a positive in today’s market. The rarity of the marque makes it a most attractive collectible. It was always treated as the bastard at the Rolls Royce family reunion…and now, as its own brand, it gets its proper respect. Big Ben is the fabled “Cinderfella” and just look at the brand today!

Mulsanne

Bentley Mulsanne

Big Ben Today

“Go ahead Rolls Royce…make my day…”

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It is powered like a Rolls Royce

The Bentley T2 is powered by the Rolls Royce 6.75 litre 16-valve naturally aspirated V8 engine. It produces 247 hp @ 4,500 rpm with 540 Nm of peak torque @ 2,500 rpm. The engine is mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-400 3-speed automatic transmission. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 9.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in 29.3 seconds, with a top speed of 119 mph. It sprints the ¼ mile @ 83 mph in 16.9 seconds.

The engine block is made of high silicon aluminium alloy. It has aluminium alloy cylinder heads with cast iron wet liners. The hardened steel crankshaft runs in five main bearings. This 412 CID V8 has overhead valves and hydraulic tappets. The pressurized cooling system has a water pump mounted 7-blade fan with an electric booster fan in front of the radiator. The engine is equipped with an electronic ignition, air injection system with exhaust gas recirculation. It is fitted with a stainless-steel dual exhaust system with twin catalytic converters.

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It is built like a Rolls Royce

The Bentley T2 is built as monocoque construction, where the body and chassis are fused together as a single entity. Its front suspension uses independent lower wishbones with stabilized upper levers, coil springs, and telescopic dampers. Anti-roll bars are fitted to the front and rear. The rear suspension is fitted with independent trailing arms, coil springs, and telescopic dampers. The rear is set-up for automatic height control. The four-wheel independent suspension allows each wheel to react, thus, refining the ride even smoother.

It is equipped like a Rolls Royce

Standard features include power rack and pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brakes with ventilated front discs. The sophisticated braking system uses two separate hydraulic systems pressurized by engine-driven pumps. This type of system facilitates independent operation of both front and rear systems. Should one system fail, all four wheels will still halt, each wheel independently.

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BOTH

Ok…so which is which?

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It’s as luxurious as a Rolls Royce

The Bentley T2 received a few interior enhancements. It sports a new dash with instrumentation arranged in three convenient groups. Everything important to the driver is directly in sight. Electronics replaced the speedometer cable – the last possible source of mechanical noise…and of course, some things will never change. Such as the hand-crafted, hand-polished mirror-matched veneers so durable that a cigarette can be stubbed out on its finish without leaving a trace.

The impeccably hand tailored leather is still crafted by Connolly Brothers. It is hand-cut, hand-stitched, and hand-fitted all in the legendary Rolls Royce tradition. Wilton hand-tufted 100 % wool carpet trims the interior as well as the boot. Lambswool rugs – the kind found in fine homes – are the opulent finishing touch for the Bentley T2 experience…

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Which is which? I am going to keep you in suspense…

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The Bentley T2 is equipped with automatic temperature control. It is the Rolls Royce Motors automatic system with separate controls for upper and lower independent temperatures. Once this sophisticated system is set no further intervention is necessary. It automatically controls the rear window demister. Ambient air is dehumidified and then heated or cooled. Stale air is extracted through the boot to the atmosphere.

Standard comfort and convenience features include: automatic speed control, power windows, power door locks with central locking feature including the boot lid, power seats, power fuel filler door, automatic headlamp control, interior courtesy lighting with 7 second delay, AM/FM quad stereo/tape system, and electric clock.

Hand crafted like a Rolls Royce

The Bentley T2 received interior enhancements. Its new dash has instrumentation arranged in three convenient groups. Everything important to the driver is directly in sight. Electronics replaced the speedometer cable – the last possible source of mechanical noise…

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Some things will never change…such as the hand-crafted, hand-polished, mirror-matched veneers. It is so durable, a cigarette can be stubbed out on it not leaving a trace. The impeccably hand-tailored leather is still crafted by the artisans at Connolly Brothers. It is hand-cut, hand-stitched, and hand-fitted, all in the legendary Rolls Royce tradition. Wilton hand-tufted 100% wool carpet trims the interior as well as the floor of the boot. Lambswool rugs – the kind found in fine homes – are the finishing touch for the Bentley T2 experience.

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So…the Bentley T2 is every inch a Rolls Royce. The Bentleys from this genre are merely a Rolls Royce wearing the fake nose, glasses, and mustache…sh-h-h we weren’t supposed to have noticed –

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The Bentley T2 is really a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II. The only exterior difference is the iconic radiator grille, bonnet, and badging. It is powered by the same 6.75 litre alloy V8 engine. It shares the exact same interior trim level right down to the walnut veneers, leather trim by Connolly Brothers, and Wilton hand-tufted carpets. It has always been the Rolls Royce stealing the spotlight…while Rolls Royce rode off on its high horse – Big Ben was left to clean the stable.

Bentley was the proverbial bastard at the Rolls Royce family reunion. However, the contemporary Bentley and the Rolls Royce have become separate brands. They are now fierce competitors. Both brands are equal. We cannot forget Bentley’s heritage. Its hallmark is high revs at low rpm. Today, Bentleys such as the T2 saloon are prized collectibles because Rolls Royce built them at a highly restricted pace. Did you ever think you’d see the day when Cinderfella (Big Ben) would be worth more than “you-know-who?”

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Special thanks to Rodd Sala at Park Ward Motors Museum

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The legend of Big Ben continues…

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