Look for rust

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

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.

Oil’s well?

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.

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