1989 Bentley Turbo R: For the Price of a Six Year-old Camry…..

1989 Bentley Turbo R - 1

Chances are if you’ve found this blog and you’re reading this post that you share with us some degree of automotive enthusiasm. So when it comes time for you to think about that next car purchase, and you can’t swing a new AMG E63 for a hundred grand or even a new 5-series for sixty, what do you do? Let’s say you can afford $20,000: folks smarter than me will tell you to buy a used Lexus if you’re in the market for luxury, or a BMW 3-series if you’re in a sporting mood. I beg to differ. A real car geek wants to stand apart from the crowd, automotively speaking. Nope, what you need is this Bentley, which can be found here on CraigsList in Tampa Bay, Florida for a paltry $16,995.


1989 Bentley Turbo R - 2

“What’s wrong with it” you ask? Well, if history and the marketplace tell us anything, nothing is significantly wrong with it, and the seller’s description would support that. The fact is, depreciation is king when it comes to luxury cars, and for some reason British cars from the 1980s and 1990s are particularly susceptible. Heck, if you want an even better deal but a little less panache go find a 1995-1998 Jaguar XJ6 and don’t pay more than $5,000 – but I digress. While seventeen grand is a not insignificant amount of money, consider what you get for the money in this Bentley: a hand-built car that originally sold for in excess of $195,000, one of only about 7,000 built over a 12-year period, approximately (they never told) 300hp and 485lb-ft of torque from a durable turbocharged 6.75 liter V8 with its roots based squarely in Rolls Royce of the 1950s. You also get a car that is somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 bigger than nearly any other sedan on the road. If you appreciate “presence” you’ll love driving one of these.

1989 Bentley Turbo R - 5

Here at TTS we like our British cars designed and built by Brits. Not that the new Voksbentleys and BMRolls’s arent wonderful cars, they are, but they are also Germanic in their execution, but with perhaps more wood and leather. There is a charming imperfection about the Bentleys and Rollers of the past which adds to their personality. Just sitting in one of these cars gives you the impression that someone who looks like Benny Hill and sounds like Michael Caine put it all together, and had to “make things fit” when they weren’t quite right. And lest you think that the Turbo R is just a rebadged Rolls Royce Silver Spur, know that in addition to the turbocharger, the Bentley’s suspension is about 50% stiffer than that of its kissing cousin, and it makes all the difference on the road. While still huge, these cars “handle” instead of floating. Not for nothing, we also prefer the quad round lights to the US-version Rolls quad rectangular sealed-beams that look like they were pulled off of a dilapidated Ford Fairmont.

1989 Bentley Turbo R - 3

This example simply exudes class in its black on black scheme with red accents inside and out. My wife keeps telling me that a real luxury car has to come in a dark color, and although I have tried to convince her otherwise on numerous occasions for personal benefit (i.e. to con her into buying something I want more than I care about what color it is) I think she’s right. I don’t want my Bentley Turbo R in white or silver – Black, Navy Blue, or British Racing Green, thank you. The oxblood piping and accents are a nice touch inside the car, and give a little sporting flavor to the bolstered four place seats despite their overall bulk. Heck, the scheme worked on the original GTI, right?

1989 Bentley Turbo R - 4

I’ve only ever driven one Turbo R, and being that it was in a funeral procession I didn’t really get to stretch its legs much. I was in awe of the commanding view it gave me over the road and all the other cars around me. These cars are so big that you find yourself at eye level with drivers of minivans, small SUVs, and crossovers – but those guys are looking at you, because, well, you’re in a Bentley. They don’t need to know that your car cost a quarter of what theirs did. The only trouble I had with the Bentley was trying to make the archaic climate control system function, so we ended-up fogging-up the windows as we processed. It at least added some levity to an otherwise depressing drive. To this day I’m not convinced that there wasn’t something with that car’s system, versus me being incompetent as a driver (and my front seat passenger being equally incompetent, by the way).

1989 Bentley Turbo R - 6

If you think you’re man or woman enough to step outside the box of used car convention, keep a few things in mind: 1) this will cost more than a Camry to own. It will get miserable gas mileage, and if the motor, brakes, or suspension give you trouble, you are going to max-out your credit cards or your home equity loan making them right (read: get a pre-purchase inspection!!). 2) If the transmission craps out, you’re in luck. These cars use GM parts, and you really can get them serviced (or even replaced) at your local AAMCO. 3) People will stare, and judge you in this car – particularly your coworkers who can’t see past the badge, never mind that they just shelled-out $35K for a Honda Accord. Nonetheless, we’d buy this, swap the slatted grille insert for one of those cool retro Bentley chrome cross-hatch sport grilles, and enjoy the ride.

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3 responses to “1989 Bentley Turbo R: For the Price of a Six Year-old Camry…..

  • Scott

    You guys know I don’t like big cars much at all – rather be driving a Lotus Elan S2, or an old bug, or a 356. Or even a RB. But this! This I could get behind!! I remember considering a couple of 70’s RRs in The Recycler in SoCal 20 years ago but realzing the build quality really was Benny Hill -esque.

    I won’t buy it. But yeah some lucky crazy bastard will and will have a blast!!

  • Elan

    Such an interesting idea. I wanted to learn more about this car, but the craigslist ad was pulled. However, the first one on Hemmings stated this in the ad “Great to keep at a vacation home.” Nice!

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