Bentley Is Restoring Its Very First Modern Car to a T (Series)
First Bentley T Series restoration article highlights:
- Though not as loved as earlier models, the T Series was the first unibody Bentley as well as its first car with modern features like fully-independent suspension and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes
- Bentley found the very first T Series in 2016, and after some significant delays, has restarted its restoration project
- Although significantly rarer than its Rolls-Royce counterpart, you can still find well-kept T Series cars for around $15,000-$20,000
Lately, automakers aren’t just supporting the devoted owners of their classic models with spare parts. In addition to like-original continuations, some brands now offer in-house restoration services to give their vintage vehicles second lives. Bentley got into the continuation car game last year with its Blower builds, but its restoration services are more modest. However, it’s no less devoted to its heritage or to keeping classic car support skills alive. And its latest project, restoring the first-ever Bentley T Series, is proof of that.
The Bentley T Series brought the British luxury car brand into modernity with a classy silver shadow
In the 1920s and 1930s, cars like the Blower Bentley and the 8 Litre cemented Bentley’s reputation for luxury and performance. However, that wasn’t enough to keep the brand afloat after the stock market crashed. And while Rolls-Royce saved it from history’s trash bin, the cars Bentley made under its care focused more on comfort than handling, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
However, it’s thanks to Rolls-Royce that Bentley evolved past its old-school coachbuilt days. And it did so with the T Series.
Admittedly, the Bentley T Series is basically a re-badged Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with a lower roofline. But it’s also the brand’s first car with unibody rather than body-on-frame construction. So, even though the T Series is smaller than the preceding S Series, it’s also lighter, quieter, more spacious, and handles better. That last benefit didn’t just come from the unibody chassis, though. The T Series also came with other brand firsts like four-wheel disc brakes and load-leveling fully-independent suspension, Hagerty reports.
Furthermore, the Bentley T Series is faster than the S Series. With a 200-hp 6.3-liter V8, the 1965 T1 has a 115-mph top speed and goes 0-62 mph in 10.9 seconds. And in July 1970, Bentley gave the T1 the now-iconic 6.75-liter V8, then rated at 221 hp. It’s no 200-mph Flying Spur, but the T Series can reasonably keep pace with modern traffic. Admittedly, the later 1977-1980 118-mph T2 is a bit better to drive thanks to its rack-and-pinion steering. However, all T Series cars are comfortable and refined at city or highway speeds.
Being a classic car, the Bentley T Series doesn’t have as many gadgets as the latest Continental GT. However, their interiors are still replete with high-quality leather, wood, and deep-pile wool. And they have some familiar modern touches such as power windows, A/C, power steering, and automatic transmissions. Plus, even the T1s had power-operated front seats, Bonhams says.
It’s taken six years, but the very first Bentley T Series car will live again in 2023
In short, even if the T Series isn’t the most beloved classic Bentley, it’s still a historically significant car. So, in 2016, the British automaker decided to add an example to its Heritage Fleet. But the 1965 T1 it bought wasn’t just any old T Series—it was the very first T Series ever made. And it needed more than a little help to look showroom fresh again.
Originally, Bentley assigned the restoration work to a group of company apprentices to train them in historic skills. However, the automaker temporarily shelved the project shortly after the apprentices stripped it down to the bare metal, Hagerty reports.
Now, though, the project is back on, and the team just fired up the T1’s 6.3-liter V8 and drove the bare chassis around. But don’t worry, this isn’t just for hooning’s sake: the team needed to see if the transmission, suspension, and brakes worked. And despite their advanced age, they did.
As of this writing, the Bentley T Series restoration project isn’t finished. Although the mechanical components work, the sedan can’t stay as a bare chassis. So, the team’s next tasks are finishing the bodywork and redoing the interior. But Bentley promises there won’t be a big gap this time: the original T1 should be ready sometime in 2023.
How much does a regular T1 or T2 cost?
Bentley had a bit of trouble tracking the first T Series down, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. While Rolls-Royce made over 40,000 Silver Shadows, Bentley only made 1868 T1s and 568 T2s. Furthermore, much like the Rolls-Royce version, the T Series was undervalued and unloved for a long time, which meant many cars went uncared-for.
Recently, though, the T1 and T2 started appreciating and are now worth more than the Silver Shadow. But they’re still relatively affordable, at least compared to other classic Bentleys like the earlier Continentals. You can pick up a well-maintained T1 or T2 for $15,000-$20,000 these days, Hagerty says. And while the rare Park Ward and James Young coupes and convertibles command higher premiums, they typically run in the $30,000-$50,000 range, Bonhams reports.
Though you may want to budget more cash if you want your own restoration team.
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