Tuesday, September 3, 2013

$15,000 Question: Bentley Turbo R

Car nuts like me are a combination of high functioning drug addicts and serial monogamists.  I'm always trolling eBay, Craigslist, Hemming's, and the local classifieds for something different or unusual.  But I've never seen a Bentley pop up, let alone a Turbo R.  And all for the low price of $14,995, at a dealer less than 30 miles from my house!

The Bentley Turbo R was produced from 1985 to 1997 and featured a 300 horsepower turbocharged version of the Bentley 6.75 litre V8.  The R in the name stood for Roadholding and for a 5,000 lb behemoth, it handled surprisingly well.  It didn't bob and weave like a Lincoln Town Car, or even the Rolls Royce Silver Spirit it was based on.      

By the 1980's, the idea of a performance Bentley was preposterous, like putting racing stripes on a cow. Bentley's historic string of Le Mans wins from 1924 to 1930 was already in the distant past.  Rolls Royce purchased Bentley in 1931 and as a poor but apt example, the regular Bentley became Buick to Rolls' Cadillac.  Or if you're a "Downton Abby" fan, think of Bentley as Lady Edith to Rolls' Lady Mary.

File:Bentley 6,5-Litre Speed Six Tourer.jpg

Bentley's dowdy image began to change because of cars like the Mulsanne the Turbo R.  By the time Bentley was sold to Volkswagen in 1998, it's reputation for building sporting sedans was restored.  Bentley later went on to race again at Le Mans, for the first time since the 4 1/2 litre and Speed Sixes dominated the sport almost a century earlier.

Today prices for old Bentleys are all over the map, but a good example of the Turbo R can be found for less than $20K.  Unlike some British cars of the era, the Turbo R seems to be solidly built and generally free of exasperating electrical issues.  However, repairs would likely require a second mortgage, due to the fact that the cars were largely hand built in small numbers.  

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