Emerg­ing clas­sic: Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT

De­pre­ci­a­tion can be a cruel tyrant when it comes to ex­pen­sive lux­ury cars like the all-wheel drive Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT, which makes in­vest­ing in a pam­pered early ex­am­ple very tempt­ing

Classics Monthly - - Contents -

Early ex­am­ples of this V12 coupè are start­ing to be­come more af­ford­able.

WORDS IAIN WAKE­FIELD A lthough Bent­ley re­ceived a favourable re­sponse to its Project Java pro­to­type show­ing a hint of what was to come at the 1994 Geneva Mo­tor Show, at that time the fa­mous mar­que was still very much a part of Rolls- Royce Mo­tors and oceans of stormy wa­ter lay ahead. A lot of be­hind the scenes ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Rolls-Royce own­ers Vick­ers, BM W and Volk­swa­gen con­cern­ing Bent­ley’s long-term fu­ture would take place be­fore this most Bri­tish of mar­ques could de­velop a brand new tech­ni­cally ad­vanced model like the V12 pow­ered Con­ti­nen­tal GT.

We haven’t enough space here to cover all the in­tri­cate wind­ings of how the VW Group even­tu­ally took con­trol of Bent­ley over BM W’s claims to the mar­que, but the up­shot was that car pro­duc­tion re­mained at Crewe and the up­mar­ket VW Phaeton ended up pro­vid­ing a lot of the me­chan­i­cal un­der­pin­nings for the all- new Bent­ley.

Although the 1994 Java project didn’t make it into pro­duc­tion, this ex­cit­ing con­cept did pave the way for a more af­ford­able Bent­ley. At the time, a Con­ti­nen­tal R cost over £180,000 and although the new Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT would be largely hand built, the re­vi­talised com­pany started geared up to mass pro­duce the new coupé in never be­fore im­aged num­bers.

There was no deny­ing that Bent­ley’s fu­ture hinged on the suc­cess of 2003 launched Con­ti­nen­tal GT. Un­for­tu­nately early press re­views for the new Grand Tourer weren’t that favourable and claimed the car didn’t fully ex­ploit the po­ten­tial of its 6.0 litre, twin tur­bopow­ered V12. The good news for Bent­ley, how­ever, was that these crit­i­cisms failed to per­turb fu­ture own­ers and or­der books for the new £110,000 Bent­ley GT started to quickly fill up.

The spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the Raul Pires and Dirk van Braeckel de­signed Con­ti­nen­tal GT was im­pres­sive to say the least. A stan­dard fit Torsen-based per­ma­nent four-wheel drive set-up planted the 2485kg GT firmly on the Tar­mac and with an un­lim­ited top speed just shy of 200mph, the new 552bhp Bent­ley GT had en­tered su­per­car ter­ri­tory.

Like a fine wine, the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT slowly ma­tured and by the time the GTC Con­vert­ible ar­rived on the scene in 2006, most of the early crit­i­cisms con­cern­ing power and driver feel had been laid to rest. Bent­ley raised the stakes in 2006 with the launch of the slightly lighter and more pow­er­ful 610bhp Speed and Bent­ley now had a mas­sive suc­cess on its hands.

The fi­nal gen­er­a­tion one GT was the 630bhp Su­per­sports, which in the right con­di­tions could ac­cel­er­ate from zero to 62mph in a stag­ger­ing 3.7 sec­onds. Se­ries one pro­duc­tion came to an end in 2011 and model vari­a­tions in­cluded the Con­ti­nen­tal Fly­ing Spur (2005), the ul­tra rare Di­a­mond Se­ries (2007) and Mulliner Driv­ing Spec­i­fi­ca­tion (2009).

WHAT CAN GO WRONG? BODY­WORK

The Con­ti­nen­tal’s steel coupé styled mono­coque isn’t known for any cor­ro­sion re­lated is­sues but it’s a wide car and the body­work can be sus­cep­ti­ble to car park dings and dents. Most own­ers will have main­tained the body­work in tip-top con­di­tion but stone chips can of­ten pit the GT’s slop­ing nose and putting this right can be an ex­pen­sive busi­ness.

If buy­ing a Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal, check care­fully for any poorly re­paired ac­ci­dent dam­age, es­pe­cially around the sides and front of en­gine bay and boot area (although trim may have to be re­move here) and that all the panel gaps are all nice and equal.

EN­GINE & TRANS­MIS­SION

The cylin­ders in the GT’s twin turbo W12 en­gine are con­fig­ured in a ‘ W’ for­ma­tion, which means the Con­ti­nen­tal’s 48-valve 6.0 litre en­gine is ba­si­cally formed of two VR6

units placed al­most side by side on a com­mon crankshaft. This ar­range­ment has the ad­van­tage of short­en­ing the length of the en­gine when com­pared to a tra­di­tional V12 and keeps the weight of the power unit fur­ther back in the chas­sis.

All the con­fig­u­ra­tions of the GT’s en­gine have proved to be long lived. Spe­cial­ists ad­vice is to buy a high mileage car with a full ser­vice his­tory over one that’s sat around for most of its life, as these car’s don’t like be­ing stored for any length of time. The Con­ti­nen­tal has a main bat­tery and a back up and both these should be in good con­di­tion to keep the car’s ex­ten­sive elec­tri­cal sys­tem in good or­der.

Prob­lems are few and far be­tween, with a few re­ported cases of failed head gas­kets – a £15,000 dealer job, as the en­gine has to come out. The VW curse of dodgy coil packs also haunts the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal but at £360 a set, this re­pair shouldn’t break the back. Spark plugs can be dif­fi­cult to change due to the com­pact en­gine bay and a new set of long life plugs for one of these cars will cost around £150.

Tur­bos are bul­let proof so long as the oil changes have been done on time (use 0W40 fully syn­thetic oil) and any blue smoke from the tailpipe will in­di­cate a worn turbo. If do­ing a pre-pur­chase in­spec­tion, take a look at the con­di­tion of the ra­di­a­tor, as it’s a mas­sive job to fit a new or re­con­di­tioned one.

The Con­ti­nen­tal’s ZF six speed au­to­matic gear­box and four­wheel drive sys­tem has so far proved ul­tra re­li­able and any gear­box is­sues are likely to stem from faulty elec­tronic sen­sors and con­trollers.

SUS­PEN­SION & BRAKES

The Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT is a heavy car, so tyres and brake pads can wear out quickly if the car is driven en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. At the front, the GT’s sus­pen­sion set up com­prises of dou­ble wish­bones and the rear con­sists of mul­ti­ple links. All round air springs dampen the ride and the Bent­ley’s Con­tin­u­ous Damp­ing Con­trol (CDC ) pro­vides a range of four dif­fer­ent driver se­lected set­tings. Although this sounds com­plex, the CDC sys­tem has proved to be very re­li­able but any clunks or bangs from the sus­pen­sion will in­di­cate worn bushes or joints.

Four ex­tra large ven­ti­lated discs pro­vide the stop­ping power but on the Su­per­ports these are made of car­bon ce­ramic and fit­ting a new set can cost over £10,000 against around £800 for a set of dealer sup­plied cast iron discs.

One weak point on the GT’s im­pres­sive brak­ing sys­tem is the elec­tronic hand­brake, as the con­trol mod­ule can act up. How­ever, fit­ting a re­place­ment mod­ule usu­ally clears this is­sue up. As this Bent­ley is a very fast car, a good set of qual­ity tyres is es­sen­tial. Tyre pres­sure sen­sors can be a prob­lem, as the bat­ter­ies can run out af­ter a few years and this re­quires new set of sen­sors to be fit­ted.

IN­TE­RIOR

The ba­sis of the Con­ti­nen­tal GT’s in­te­rior was about the only part of the 1994 Project Java con­cept to make it into

VER­DICT

As we said in the in­tro­duc­tion, de­pre­ci­a­tion can be cruel with re­gards to the price of ex­pen­sive cars like the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT and £21,500 should be able to se­cure an early 03/ 54 reg first gen­er­a­tion ex­am­ple with around 60k on the clock.

As with all ex­pen­sive qual­ity cars, a full ser­vice his­tory is es­sen­tial and with these cars now close to the bot­tom of the de­pre­ci­a­tion curve, good ex­am­ples will even­tu­ally start rise in price. The Con­vert­ible is ob­vi­ously more ex­pen­sive and prices for these de­sir­able mod­els start at around £30,000.

In our view, the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT is def­i­nitely a clas­sic in wait­ing and with plenty of ex­tremely well pre­sented coupés and con­vert­ibles to choose from, now is the time to in­vest in one of these cars that took the her­itage of the com­pany’s founder W.O. Bent­ley into the 21st cen­tury. pro­duc­tion. It takes a small herd of high qual­ity hides to cover the GT’s spa­cious and ex­tremely com­fort­able seats and any re­pairs to scuffed seat fac­ings and worn bol­sters will be ex­pen­sive to re­pair.

Most Con­ti­nen­tals will be what the trade call ‘ fully loaded’ and from 2005 a lot of GT’s were fit­ted with a very ex­pen­sive trim op­tion that grouped most of the pop­u­lar op­tions to­gether. These in­clude di­a­mond quilted, two-tone up­hol­stery, Bent­ley logo em­bossed seats and a choice of wal­nut or pi­ano black ve­neer.

As a lot of the GT’s elec­tron­ics are lo­cated in the left hand-side front footwell, it’s es­sen­tial to check this area for any signs of damp en­ter­ing the cabin from an im­prop­erly fit­ted wind­screen or leak­ing soft top seals.

The Con­vert­ible’s elec­tro/ hy­drauli­cally op­er­ated soft top is, as would be ex­pected on a Bent­ley, fully in­su­lated and a Rolls Royce/ Bent­ley spe­cial­ist should be able to proved a re­place­ment cover for around £3000 plus fit­ting.

As ex­pected, acres of high qual­ity hand se­lected leather and ve­neer grace the in­te­rior of these big Grand Tour­ers.

Silky smooth V12 power makes the Con­ti­nen­tal GT a su­perb cruiser.

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