As the T1/T2 mar­ket hard­ens, the Ar­nage Green La­bel the new en­try-level Bent­ley – but not for long

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - BUYING & SELLING -

How do you put a price on lux­ury, par­tic­u­larly when it’s one of the best-known of Bri­tish car mak­ers? Not a lot, judg­ing by the prices Bent­ley Ar­nages are cur­rently mak­ing in auc­tions.

Some might ar­gue the Ar­nage is, well, just a bit too mod­ern, but look at it as the last model de­signed and slipped into pro­duc­tion be­fore Rolls-Royce/Bent­ley par­ent Vick­ers de­cided to call it a day (which was fol­lowed by the much-crit­i­cised BMW/VW carve-up) and the Ar­nage has his­tory firmly be­hind it.

And, un­like the Con­ti­nen­tal GT that soon fol­lowed, there’s some­thing pleas­ingly old-fash­ioned about the Ar­nage, but in a way that suc­cess­fully em­ployed then up-to-the minute tech­nol­ogy to woo buyers per­haps a lit­tle jaded by its Sil­ver Spirit-de­rived Turbo/Turbo R pre­de­ces­sors. It’s the ear­lier, pre-2000 cars that are nos­ing into clas­sic sales, although later mod­els still make ap­pear­ances.

While on the draw­ing board Bent­ley par­ent Vick­ers de­cided new en­gines were the or­der of the day, pri­mar­ily to re­place the age­ing 6.75-litre V8 that dated back to the S2. Even­tu­ally the com­pany set­tled on us­ing BMW en­gines, with a 4.4-litre V8 for the Bent­ley and a V12 for its Rolls-Royce Sil­ver Ser­aph sib­ling.

But such was the com­plex­ity over the BMW- and Volk­swa­gen­con­tested sale of Bent­ley and Rolls-Royce, new Bent­ley par­ent VW, fear­ing the sup­ply of V8s would be cur­tailed, hur­riedly re-worked the old 6.75-litre V8 to slip into the Ar­nage’s en­gine bay.

Ul­ti­mately, BMW con­tin­ued to sup­ply the 4.4-litre V8 and with two en­gines of­fered, the model was re­branded as Ar­nage Red La­bel for the big­ger-en­gined car, Green La­bel for the smaller.

These ear­lier cars, later up­dated as the long-wheel­base RL, the Ar­nage R (ef­fec­tively an up­dated Red La­bel) and the Ar­nage T, where there was a clearly de­fined hi­er­ar­chy, make hid­ing-in-plain­sight first-class buys, and the smaller-en­gined model es­pe­cially so due to its lower run­ning costs.

If proof was needed in His­torics’ most re­cent sale (see re­view) a 1998 Green La­bel sold for £10,640.

Bent­ley Ar­nage Green La­bels have fallen be­low the magic £15,000 bar­rier – but they won’t be this cheap for­ever.

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