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Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals

They’re priced much the same but chalk and cheese otherwise, so what’s the best blue blooded buy? Published: 13th Jun 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals

What The Experts Say...

A difficult decision, but overall the 90’s Continental has to be the winner because it brilliantly mixes traditional Rolls-Royce virtues with modern Aston-like road performance. The German GT is something else to drive; a genuine luxury, civilised supercar that you can buy for under £30,000. But they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, partly because of their high running and repair costs but chiefly because of their brash image, not helped by prices falling into the ‘affordable and accessible’ bracket; it’s a car that polarises opinions in Bentley circles, unlike the saloons of the same era.

And the Camargue? It’s always been a difficult Rolls to evaluate, being nether one thing or another, plus always had the Corniche as in-house competition. However, as with many classics that take time to be appreciated, we can see them having days in the sun. And pretty soon.

Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals
Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals
Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals
Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals
Rolls-Royce Camargue vs Continentals
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Rolls or Bentley – what a decision to make! When choosing a Crewe classic to go up against the more popular Bentley Continentals, it would have been easy to select the cultured Corniche – but what about the Camargue that was the forerunner to the far more likeable Mulsanne-based coupés of the 1990s?

When Bentley relaunched the Continental as a sportier, shapelier two-door take of its Mulsanne saloon, it successfully re-introduced itself into a niche market it had long left and unsuccessfully tried to fill by the Rollsbadged Camargue of the 1970s and 80s; a Bentley version was initially planned but strangely dropped. So, by rights, the bang-up-to-date VAG replacement of the same name is even more desirable? Well not quite…and there’s a definite split between the two camps; traditional against the modernist. What all three share is surprising price parity where £40-50K can see you sitting pretty as well as prestigious. But what’s the real world beater in your eyes?

Which one to buy?

Baby vs grown ups

The Camargue was launched when the world was deep in a recession which hardly helped its slow sales. Replacing graciousness with gaudiness, Camargue isn’t everybody’s dream Rolls-Royce yet this chintzy 1970’s coupé that’s based upon the Shadow has to be one of the best-kept sleeping classics on the block as well as being a rarer sight than any Bentley Continental – the latter evolving thanks to a decisive split in character and buying base with Rolls-Royce after the Spiritderived Mulsanne made its own friends in the market. The far sportier Mulsanne range was ripe for diversifying and a return to the Continental label was logical and was in fact the first dedicated model since that famous 1952 car and as well as the last ‘true’ Bentley due to the great Crewe carve up by BMW and VW in the 90s.

Where as the former Continental was a rebodied Mulsanne, which itself had strong roots with the Bentley T (a rebadged Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow) of 1965, the GT’s timeline of a decade is a blink of an eye in comparison. With an advanced W12 allied to Audi Quattrostyle four-wheel drive and every other modern contraption that you can think of, the uncharitable (and this includes many in Bentley circles) regard today’s Continental GT as really little more than a Volkswagen Phaeton saloon in posher clothes. But while there’s more than a grain of truth in this, you can’t dispute that it made all previous Bentleys look pre-historic, as one road test put it.

Style-wise the WAG’s wheels is the more showy, especially if some of the popular custom mods – which are a matter of taste – are included, in contrast the Mulsanne model looks the more cultured and dignified. We also reckon that this car won’t fall from fashion as much and certainly it has fared better, fashion-wise, than the not dissimilar looking Camargue which surfaced 16 years earlier in 1975. Both Conti’s offer a coupé and convertible option but on the 1990’s car this was better known as the Azure. There was also the very stylish special Mulliner coupé of which just 131 were made and the Sedanca Coupé which harked back to the old days although in the trade SC stands more for ‘soggy carpets’ due to the seemingly incurable leaks this roof continues to suffer from.

Much better received are the hardercored Contis like the post ’93 cars which gained more power and a new four-speed automatic gearbox with shift management plus adaptive ride control for the suspension. The fitting of a superior ZYTEK engine management system, just two years later, prompted Bentley to also install a proper traction control system, too. But the meanest Mulsanne-based Continental was the T, which sported a four inch shorter wheelbase, flared arches, uprated suspension and massive 285/45 tyres to tame this 420bhp monster.

The ‘Baby Bentley’ GT, with its twin turbo 550 plus horses, rarely needed anything faster but a 600bhp Speed offshoot followed in 2007, two years after the GTC convertible was introduced. In terms of exclusivity, this Continental remains king. The GT was not only pitched under the prices of traditional Bentley models at £120,000 back in 2003 but production was cranked up to 11,000 a year so it was no wonder that the Baby Bentley boom quickly spread everywhere and, because of this, you see them on mainstream dealer forecourts for under £30,000 although specialists advise spending more (say £40,000) on a better example as there’s many dubious cars out there. Will values fall further? Some experts believe so though not by much.

The ‘classic’ Continental can cost two or three times that of the Brooklands Turbo saloon they are based upon and £50,000 is the starting point; the higher performance S and T derivates higher still with SC and Azures six figures. The most popular model is the Continental R of which 1548 were made. There were some special editions too, such as the very rare Jack Barclay Special – just 10 were made – and the lovely Le Mans, of which only 50 were produced.

In total, less than 550 Camargues were made during an 11 year production run. The world’s most expensive car back in 1975 (at £29,250) yet you don’t need to much more for an average one these days. Concours cars are valued at £70K minimum but one recently sold at auction for less than half this.


What’s the best to drive?

World’s apart

The two Contis are decades apart and it shows on the road. The classic one takes its chassis from the 1980 Mulsanne, which itself was a revamp of the ‘65 Shadow, and indeed the Camargue, so the underpinnings are half a century old. But for all that, there’s little wrong with the general handling given the car’s considerable size and 5340lb weight and it’s in a different league to a standard Silver Spirit, for example. Ditto the performance, where 400 plus horses and an Olympian 650lbft of torque endow the Bentley with ungentlemanly pace that will embarrass many Aston Vantage drivers.

The only main drawback of the suspension age-related limitations is the firm ride and very un-Rolls like creaks and groans when you expect some peace and quiet from this badge. “The chassis contains the [turbo] boost remarkably well and it’ll take outrageous abuse to get the rear end to break free” said Car in 1998 although its testers didn’t rate high speed stability or steering feel.

With Quattro all wheel drive, traction and stability is not a problem for the GT which is a thoroughly modern but regal supercar, possessing astonishing pace and poise, with limolike luxury. Iron fist in a velvet glove springs to mind although early models did lack the sort of refinement you expect from the very best; the ride can be jarring on rough surfaces, tyre noise is disappointingly loud (especially with the lorry-like 20inch wheel option) and early W12 engines lost their smoothness at high revs – it depends what you are used to – but apart from Audi’s R8 supercar, there can’t be an easier 500+bhp to handle so easily.

Camargues drive pretty much like the Silver Shadow that they are based upon which means a satisfying rather than sporty time behind the wheel – the later Bentley Continental is certainly the better driver but, overall, the Camargue is the most soothing of this trio which is hardly surprising given that it was essentially a Shadow saloon, albeit with a bit more power to counter the greater girth and luxury.

As with the Shadow, however, the handling was greatly improved for 1977 and improved further still in 1980 when Silver Spirit hardware was fitted; this is the model Rolls experts say you should go for, if possible.

All three are wonderful places to spend hours in and few will have any complaints on a long drive – well, all except those perched in the back perhaps in the Bentleys. The Camargue feels the roomiest and by far the most classical, with the 1990’s Continental the next up.

Owning and running

Advantage England

None will appreciate owners with empty pockets and make no mistake these are expensive cars to run, not least fuel returns where you’ll do well to see over 20mpg.

The older traditional models benefit enormously from a better, wider spread of traditional Rolls and Bentley specialists who know the car well and so can contain the costs to somewhere along Jaguar XJ-S levels. Their much simpler make up also means that routine maintenance can be reasonably affordable – say £300 – although work on the vehicle’s hydraulics is always pricey and a recomended full overhaul at 90,000 miles will leave you £2000 the lighter. On the other hand, their age benefits include classic car insurance.

The GT is a modern in every sense and while an increasing number of specialists are accepting the car, some service checks and repairs remain authorised dealer-based. The German running gear is durable, as you’d expect, if serviced to schedule and no major issues have been reported, although normal maintenance is time-consuming and complex – how about removing the engine to change a starter motor, for example!

The good news is that the fundamentals – like that magnificent V12 engine and transmission, are very sturdy and should be okay if servicing is not skipped. The biggest woes concern the electronics which can cost a fortune to fix. Some Bentley independents feel the car has sullied this great British name and prefer to stick with the traditional models as a result, although an increasing number are now accepting the car, after gearing up their workshops with correct, pricey, tooling and diagnostic equipment, because there’s so many around that will need regular maintenance over time.

Independent Chris Lees who is based in Buckinghamshire (01494 675211) says running a GT is pricey and has caught many ex BMW and Jaguar drivers trading up, on the hop. It’s the electronics which are expensive to repair which is why it’s imperative to buy a good car from the outset – check the V5 for how many owners it’s been through, it advises, adding post 2007 models are better built and more durable. Steve Brown of Hanwells of London (020 8567 9729) predicts that values won’t fall much below £15,000 before levelling and also says you have to be very careful of what you buy.

The later the Camargue the better if tighter handling is important to you, otherwise the choice is more about what’s around and their condition. The model was aimed at the more lucrative overseas markets so you may find LHD examples more plentiful if you don’t mind the attendant shipping and importing necessities. Camargues don’t come onto the market that often as owners hold on to them. The last Camargue specialist Hanwell Car Centre of West London (020 8567 1777) sold went for £45,000 but, eventually, it went overseas. Brown cites the car’s old styling, especially the ill proportioned wheels and (FAB1) headlamp treatment, as some of the reasons why the car never caught on and rates the Corniche, and especially the later Bentley Continentals, as better cars. But it’s your choice!

And The Winner Is...

Stuart Worthington of Phantom Motors Cars ( throws up his hands in horror when talking about the GTs – not so much about the cars as they are inherently very durable (especially that W12 engine) but the majority of ‘new money Bentley’ owners now snapping up the cheap (but generally neglected) buys found at mainstream car lots. “They have no knowledge of the car, they care nothing about Bentley’s history – they only want to put one on the drive to impress the neighbours,” he told us, adding that they are an entirely different breed of Bentley buyer to the traditional type; chancers trading up from a BMW or Jag – and the last willing to pay for proper servicing (a not unreasonable £650-£950 charge at Phantom) this car demands. This Surrey specialist now tends to avoid both these cars – and their owners…

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