WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Look for rust
Major body restoration is terrifyingly expensive, and while corrosion isn’t as widespread as you’d expect it’s worth checking around the wheelarches, front wings, sills and body panel seams just in case. Rusty front and rear valances on early models were cured on later models by a switch to composite materials. The bonnet, boot lid, and door skins are aluminium but check for corrosion around locks, handles, and badges (spacers were added later to counteract this, but it can still occur). And remember that replacing exterior trim and chrome won’t be cheap – it’s not the sort of stuff that turns up at a breaker. Post1989 models benefitted from improved paint quality and wax-injected sills, and resist rust much better.
Head down under
Check underneath, too. Although rare, rot could have affected the cabin and boot floor, as well as the front chassis legs and rear crossmember. Rear suspension spring pans and turrets succumb, too, and it’s an awkward and expensive repair. Ultimately, any example that appears to contain filler or has been poorly painted should be given a wide berth. Some examples have been facelifted with later parts so ensure you know what you’re looking at.
Keep your cool
The big V8 is fundamentally strong, but look for an iron-clad service history from a main dealer or reputable specialist. The big worry is head gasket failure – changing the pair will result in a £5000 bill – so ensure the cooling system is in tip-top condition. Post-1994 cars are more likely to suffer from problems, but coolant loss at speed will rapidly lead to failure. The alloy construction means antifreeze levels are crucial in preventing corrosion, and piston-knock probably points to previous overheating. Walk away from any car exhibiting signs of excessive exhaust smoke.
Engines can leak a little oil – mostly from the rocker covers and sump – but it should only be very minor. Neglected oil and filter changes – which should be done every 6000 miles – will lead to noisy hydraulic tappets. The Garrett turbocharger rarely gives trouble, but be wary of an early carburettor engine that doesn’t run cleanly, because the Solex unit can be costly to sort. The Bosch KE-Jetronic injection is fine, although the later Zytek management system can suffer faults.
How’s the gearbox?
Bentley replaced the original three-speed automatic transmission with a four-speed GM4L80E unit in 1992. Neither is troublesome, but check the fluid – if it’s dark or smells burnt, the ’box may have overheated in the past – and look for evidence of regular fluid/filter changes. The rear axle rarely fails but can whine slightly; anything more than that is a major worry – and a potentially expensive one.