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A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne

Bet on a Bentley at 15/1 Bentley at 15/1 Published: 26th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne
A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne Mileages may be low but regular servicing is critical
A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne Look at this for a superb driving environment…
A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne Lovely interior, but not all cars are as good as this one
A Buying Guide to Bentley Mulsanne Bussey found the right car at the right price. Cheers!
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Paul Bussey spent the best part of two years looking for the Mulsanne of his dreams. But after 15 also rans, perseverance eventually paid off. He tells why

With the sale of my Chevrolet Corvette completed in April 2003 I decided to earnestly start looking for my next classic car. My potential list of desirable classics to own is simply huge and frequently changes (well, doesn’t yours?), and having owned two Corvettes for the last eight years, another Yank classic would have been the obvious choice. However, the overwhelming urge to be cosseted in a traditional clubby leather and wood veneer interior was proving magnetic and so I set my sights on either a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley; cars I’ve always hankered after owning. Make no mistake, running and maintaining one of these prestigious marques can involve big money ownership costs, so sourcing the right car is absolutely essential if you want to say solvent. Buy a lemon and it could cost you dear. It’s the potential bottomless pit scenario! Looking on the positive side, there are many independent marque specialists around nowadays offering servicing, new, second-hand and refurbished parts – even for a Roller. So you don’t necessarily have to go to a main agent, meaning routine maintenance needn’t be astronomic.

Casting a Shadow

I fairly quickly discovered that an old Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow wasn’t for me; I didn’t like the wallowy handling. True the Silver Shadow II is a much improved car, with tauter manners, but I initially made the error of thinking that I could purchase a really good one for just £8000-£10,000. Wrong! They may well be about, but I didn’t see any at the time! No, to purchase the sort of Shadow II that I was seeking would cost more like £15,000, almost twice my lowest entry budget. That kind of Ford Focus money also brings you into Silver Spirit/Bentley Mulsanne/Eight/Turbo territory anyway. After lots of homework which involved talking to many Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners, it was deemed that perhaps a Bentley would be the better proposition, especially when it came to selling the car on. Nowadays the marque enjoys a slightly better kudos than Rolls-Royce and is a tad less ostentatious! Early 1980’s models are generally reckoned not to be as well built as the later cars and so the advice I received was to go for a post ‘85 model. Choosing a car in the right colour is an important issue which I narrowed down to my favourites of Royal Blue metallic, Larkspur Blue, or Silver, preferably with parchment, magnolia or blue interiors, but definitely not black! It may work well on other cars, and it’s the best colourfor not showing the dirt I know but I couldn’t live with it on a Bentley. I kept an open mind on which model I wanted; clearly the Turbo‘R’ is favoured by most enthusiasts for its phenomenal performance andhandling (for such a huge car) abilities but I was also equally content to settle for a non turbo’d Eight.

On a mission for a Mulsanne

My original budget was increased to around £15,000, which should have been enough for a good car. In the time between April 2003 and August 2004 I looked at around 15 cars ranging from £8000 to £28,000. Paradoxically, the cheapest car I viewed, a 1981 Mulsanne at £8000, probably represented the best valuefor money with a FSH and pretty lowish mileage for the year. I have to admit this motor was highly tempting, but it was green (I don’t do green cars, my least favourite colour!) the interior was beige and a bit drab, and the bodywork had quite a few scratches and imperfections – it was around 22 years old after all. It was also the sort of Bentley that didn’t look like it had been very well loved and that’s an important factor when buying these high-brow cars.

Joining the famous Rolls-RoyceEnthusiasts Club was a wise first step, and as well as offering all the usual club benefits, its glossy colour monthly Advertiser has a good selection of cars for sale. I telephoned three vendors via the Advertiser but alas all these cars had been sold. Not necessarily having my brief set in stone, I even looked at a Silver Spirit in Larkspur Blue at £9500, but the engine didn’t run properly on a test drive plus the respray was a bit dodgy. But it was worth checking out all the same just to see what £10k buys. It soon became evident that maybe the car I was looking for was going to cost a fair bit more money than I had initially budgeted for, and so this was increased to over £20,000. When you are purchasing a car like a Bentley, it can cost a lot of dosh to repair when things goes wrong, so paying more at the outset for a better car, should in theory be wiser than buying something a bit ‘ropey’ and continually having to put your hand in your pocket. For £20,000 plus, you enter a new league with models as recent as the early 1990’s. One drawback is that at this price, depreciation is still a consideration, and depending when you come to sell the car on, you may well lose a significant amount of money. I looked and test drove a seemingly mint 1991Bentley Eight which could have virtually won a concours event, but it had a number of significant faults and didn’t drive too well (which shows you that looks aren’t everything with Concoursed).

My own personal philosophy is “If you are in the slightest doubt, walk away” there will always be plenty more cars to view. And so it proved. A 1994 Brooklands was another mint example, but again, there were a few niggles, it didn’t drive faultlessly and was priced at over £23,000. I then looked at a 1989 Eight for £16,000 with the best magnolia interior I’ had seen to date – it was as new and stunning – but there was some dodgy paintwork again (why are so many fairly new Rollers so affected?) with suspect bubbling on the sills, plus a strong smell of anti-freeze from the engine. The latter could been nothing, but who knows? Another 1989 Bentley Eight with ultra low mileage looked good value at under £14,000, but it had Ebony woodwork, which I didn’t like, and reading between the lines of the service history it looked like the engine’s oil may not have been changed for long periods of time, even though the car had seen little use.

My search continued up until early August 2004 when I decided that I couldn’t be without a classic car for any longer! The withdrawal symptoms had already kicked in around April 2003, which by now were horrendous. I’d already missed almost two summers of driving enjoyment and attending shows in my own classic and as the right Bentley for me was proving too elusive, on 28th August I became the proud new owner of the “Pink Lady”. She’s a 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria two-door hardtop Coupe finished in Tropical Pink and Snowshoe White! It’s a very rare model here in the UK, I know of only four other examples, it’s in mint condition, a real head turner and I have instantly acclimatised to 1950’s American land yacht cruising, crossplies tyres and all!

So where’s the Bentley then?

Despite owning the above, the dream of Bentley ownership hadn’t gone away – it was merely on hold. Then on Saturday 25th October and totally unexpectedly, I found my perfect Bentley and only five miles from home! I saw it at show and was being offered for sale by an acquaintance of mine, whom I’d known for years. It’s a 1991 Turbo ‘R’ LWB (an extra four inches of leg room in the rear) in Royal Blue metallic with parchment leather interior. It comes complete with entire Bentley main dealer FSH (two services excepting) with lots of receipts and every MoT certificate since new, lambswool overrugs, footstalls, an electric sliding sunroof (a rarely seen option and hugely expensive to fit at the factory), rear walnut veneer picnic trays, drinks cabinets with crystal decanters and glasses, CD player, etc, etc. Having covered 88,000 miles from new it’s slightly higher than I’d have preferred, but experience gained proves low mileage under used cars aren’t necessarily always the best buys and can prove problematic due to lack of activity. This Bentley just undergone a full main dealer test and report, which highlighted a few faults, most of which were rectified on a recent service costing in excess of £2000. Over the last six years in excess of £10,000 has been spent on servicing and replacement of parts, including lots of expensive suspension, braking and running gear components. However, most importantly of all, this car drives beautifully. When you are shelling out your hard earned dosh on a car like a Bentley, for goodness sake take your time inspecting it, and give it a proper test drive. A quick spin round the block will not be sufficient!

Altogether I spent around five hours on two visits with the vendor when purchasing my Bentley which included an approximate 40 mile road test. Having acquired my Ford Fairlane (which I have absolutely no intention of parting with at the moment, as I still had a reasonable amount of money left over from my Bentley fund) what I’ve actually done is virtually purchased two cars for the money set aside for one! I’ve got £100,000 worth of quality in the Bentley for a mere £15,000! For that sort of money I’ve got a car that’s been impeccably maintained, loaded with highly desirable options, and in the right colour combination for me.

However, bear in mind that in 18 months I’d looked at 15 Bentleys before finding the right one for me, proving that they are out there, if you are patient enough to shop around until you find one. As a matter of interest my insurance premium on an agreed value, limited mileage, cherished car policy works out at £264.86 for 1500 miles with a £100 excess, and isn’t much more expensive for 3000 miles per annum.It took a bit of shoehorning, but both the Bentley and the Fairlane fit in my garage, just! As a great believer in fate and destiny I am of the firm opinion that the reason I didn’t find the right Bentley for me prior to October 2004 was that I was meant to purchase the Ford Fairlane, the Bentley then followed in a very short space of time – and you can read all about this in a later issue! Grateful thanks to my good friends and Rolls-Royce/Bentley marque enthusiasts Ken Sizer, Keith Tribe, and DavidBrock-Jest for all their expert knowledge and assistance, and in particular to Tim Buller who has guided me and been my mentor from conception to fruition of realising the dream of owning a Bentley. Now it’s your turn to fulfill your dream…

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