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Bentley Mulsanne

Published: 27th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne
Bentley Mulsanne

Buyer Beware

  • The body has a lot of aluminium panels, so check them carefully for dents and dings rather than corrosion. Don’t forget though that the basic structure is steel, and this will need careful checking for rust. Start with the wheelarches and lower rear corners, as well as the sills.
  • Bentley had a pretty good stab at rust protection though, so you should be equally vigilant in your search for poorly repaired accident damage as this will break down the car’s defences quicker than anything.
  • Panel gaps and paint finish should be uniformly excellent. Beware of nice looking two-tone cars which could well be hiding rust and filler work.
  • Beware of any missing or damaged brightwork, as replacements can be dear. That includes the bumper corners, which can get damaged when people underestimate just how big the car is.
  • One other rust spot that is well worth checking is the rear spring pans. And talking of suspensions, don’t dismiss a dashboard warning light that stays on to warn of trouble with the active suspension, as this can be very expensive to repair.
  • A full service history is hugely desirable, ideally backed up by receipts rather than just stamps. But equally important is an engine bay that is clean and very neat – items such as drive belts, coolant hoses and wiring can give a very good indication to the amount of care that has been lavished on the engine in general.
  • On low mileage cars, the tappets can be a little noisy on start-up, but should soon quieten down. On any car, a ticking from the hydraulic pump is normal on initial start-up if the car has been standing for a few hours or more, but this should disappear after a couple of minutes at most once the system is fully pressurized.
  • Differentials can whine. Many were replaced under warranty, but not all so listen out at around 50mph as replacement will not be cheap.
  • It goes without saying that tatty interiors are to be avoided. Not only are they hugely expensive to re-trim, but such neglect is a sure-fire sign that you are looking at a dud

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    These things roll uphills! Turbos have real grunt and good handling.

  • Usability: 3/5

    Fairly good as a weekend treat. Naturally a good one will be reliable.

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    Complex but fairly DIY friendly in the main. Service history important.

  • Owning: 3/5

    If you can afford an XJ6 then the jump isn’t as great as you’d think.

  • Value: 4/5

    Cracking value for money and a good one will hold its value as well.

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It may not be the best car in the world any more but few prestige cars can match a Bentley Mulsanne for sheer value for money and punch per pound

Remember the days when people used to dream of owning a Rolls-Royce or Bentley simply because they were widely believed to be the best cars in the world? Sadly it’s not a boast these now German-owned companies can categorically lay claim to because the rivals are so good these days, not least those made by their parent companies! It was the same story 30 years ago when the then Crewe-based combo launched the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and the Bentley Mulsanne to replace the old Silver Cloud and T Series respectively, which by now were more than long in the tooth. Heavily based upon the old car but improved where it matters, they took the fight to the German brands to recapture the crown. But now it was Bentley that would be the talking. Previously only about five per cent of Shadows were delivered as Bentleys. However, something stirred at Crewe in the early eighties.We didn’t know how daring until ‘82 when the Mulsanne Turbo was launched but from then on the die was well and truly cast and Bentleys became the badge to be seen in once more.

Which model to buy?

The chief difference between a Rolls and equivalent Bentley is their sportiness.With the Mulsanne, a definite split occurred between the two brands – and that’s how owners wanted it. Barely only 500 standard Mulsannes were produced as against well over Turbo models. And if you didn’t want Turbo power then you could still benefit from a sportier chassis if you opted for certain models, too. If you have a choice of cars, then one difference that is worth noting is that for 1987 the engines year enjoyed fuel injection. This makes a big difference to driveability and dependability as carb-fed Turbos could prove fickle. Another improvement was the switch from three to four ratios in the autobox from 1992, although the difference is only really noticeable if youdrive your car hard., which is tempting in a Bentley Turbo R we hasten to add! As you’d expect the Mulsanne received continual improvements and upgrades during its 18 year run, not last better build by the mid 1990s. The entry model Eight and Brooklands versions boast slightly less luxury – but not that you’d really notice and unless you must have a Turbo the Mulsanne’s overall provenance and condition count for much more.

Behind the wheel?

You don’t so much drive a Bentley but waft around in it

It’s a big car but the vehicle’s front wing corners give extra reference points and make the big car deceptively easy to place on the road and store. If you’re used to Jag XJs or a US car then the Bentley’s mass and size won’t phase you.If you are lucky enough to have driven a T Series or Shadow, the Mulsanne experience will not be too dissimilar, although considerably less wallow-prone than its forbear. That said the steering is still fingertip light with little feedback, while the brakes also have servo assistance by the bucket load. You don’t so much drive a standard Mulsanne as get wafted along by it. Body roll through the corners is enough to remind you that back roads are not really thi’s car’s forte. But give a Bentley a main road though and it will glide along in near silence and great serenity – which for many is good enough.It’s a different matter with the Turbo and R models however. For a start there’s 50 per cent extra grunt and the torque of a juggernaut for astonishing get up and go from such a leviathan limo. It knocks almost four seconds off the 0-60 mph time to match an E-type for pace and top speed. As the chassis was left more or less stock it taxed the handling of this 2.5 ton monster! For sports car like agility you need either a model with the optional suspension pack or the Turbo R (for Roadholding) which gained the improvements as standard., along with higher-rated extra performance tyres. Perhaps the Mulsanne S and the Brooklands offer the best compromise. These lower run models provide the tauter chassis of the Turbo R (which even if you’re not a press-n drive we pretty sure you’d still appreciate the added feel) but without the power and complication of a Turbo, which by nature may well had led a harder life. As a standard Mulsanne is about as quick as a modern family hatchback, it’s ample enough if all you want to do is cruise. You sit high up as you’d expect from a car as grand as this. The seats are soft and comfortable, but the flat cushions promise little in the way of lateral grip – even onthe Turbo. Ahead of you, is typical old school Crewe; the indicator stalk is on the left and the gear selector on the right of the steering column along with the scattered switch gear. And we like it that way.

Ease of Ownership?

Not bad – if you buy a good one from the outset. The maxim that you should buy the best car you can afford is sound advice for any classic car, but is never more apposite than when looking at a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. And even then, you must leave some money over for the unexpected because it is easy to underestimate the
potential cost of repairs. Huge depreciation has seen even good Bentleys dip well under the £10,000 barrier and even known specialists deal at this price range. The earliest cars were built in 1980, and there are some really ratty ones about. It is never economic to restore a poor example unless you have plenty of restoration skills and are prepared to donate your time for free. Even then, it will be a close run thing as these big cruisers are still depreciating, albeit slowly. This also means that there are many cars around tha have suffered from skimped servicing and a lack of TLC, so it pays to find a specialist you trust and deal with them for sales and service work. Actually that’s good news in disguise because there’s many independents (many R-R dealer trained) that provide the same craftsmanship at saner prices. There’s even dedicated breakers around but don’t run away with the idea that you can run one on Mondeo money. However, if you own something bigger, swankier like a Jag then the difference won’t be that great. You should allow at least £1000 per year for servicing and normal running repairs, not least because everything about this car is larger than life – it’ll take 18 litres of coolant and 9.4-litres of engine oil, for example! Earlier we spoke about the upper crust build and engineering excellence and by and large this is true. However there are those who reckon that the Mulsanne wasn’t screwed together as well as the model it replaced. Most of the problems will have been sorted by now we’d wager but the fact of the matter is that pre 84 models weren’t as built as later models which is why its vital you take your time and buy with care – and enlist the help of a specialist if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Finally, let’s talk about rust! Yes despite most panel being alloy the do rust and it’s common to see many tatty examples. Two tone cars look classical but is the fresh paint on the flanks hiding something sinister/ Ditto the cabin where deterioration to the wood and leather really sullies the experience. And somehow set of pull on seat covers doesn’t feel right here!

The Daily Option?

Probably not - but would you really want to use one for work anyway? The biggest disincentive is the one that most immediately springs to mind, one which is such an obvious drawback to these cars that we have deliberately avoided harping on about it until this point! We are talking, of course, about the car‘s fuel economy. And with a 6750cc engine and 2245kg of metal and leather to hump around, keeping it’s glass fully charged is clearly going to hurt. On a run, you can realistically expect to get 17mpg, but around town this can easily drop as low as 10mpg without trying. Some owners of Turbos with four-speed gearboxes reckon they can get even see the right side of 20mpg (our own US classic car expert Paul Bussey is one of them), but the tank still holds nearly 24 gallons and the low fuel level light comes on when there are still 3.5 gallons left! But major repairs will make fuel cost insignificant in comparison and this is why you have to buy the best you can from the outset. Condition is everything, as it is with any prestige classic, and Rolls-Royces and Bentleys are no exception despite their hand build quality. If you get a good one in the first place (and this means nothing less than a full blown service history and caring owners) and keep on top of the maintenance, a good ’un will go on for ever, and many owners will vouch for this. Buy on the cheap from a skinflint owner (and there are plenty of these around sadly) and you’ll cop all the expense.

Timelines

1980

The Mulsanne is unveiled late that year alongside the Rolls- Royce Silver Spirit. It’s based upon the old T2 platform and running gear albeit revised. Tailored rear seats and repositioned handbrake fitted.

1982

Mulsanne Turbo introduced with Garrett turbocharger offering a claimed 50 per cent extra power. (298bhp/450lbft of torque) Running gear is stock as is exterior and interior but LWB models available.

1983/4

Improved door locks and then central locking systems (September’84) installed. Additional interior lighting and power amplifier fitted. Bentley Eight launched in ‘84 as entry model with less spec and trim; 1734 made.

1986

Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection replaces earlier carb set that October to counter poor running. Antilock brakes standard, overall weight stated at 2245kg for non Turbos.

1987

Bentley S joins range featuring firmer suspension of the sportier R models but in non-Turbo guise. Alloy wheels are standard. 909 moels were made up to its demise in 1992.

1989

S2 is launched. Suspension revisions see Shadowderived self-levellers replaced with a network of sensors and electronics that feed info to a processor, for automatic ride control.

1990/1991

Catalytic coveters made optional for UK market. Four-speed GM gearboxintroduced late in 1991 to replace the venerable GM unit while another revise to the central locking is made.

1992/4

Brooklands replaces Eight (‘92) as new entry model, engine power increased with new ECU. Higher-powered Turbo S with charge cooling introduced yielding 408bhp and a massive590lbft torque. Sixty are made.

1995

S3 replaced S2 with a higher compression ratio (now a claimed 385bhp) and rear axle ratio to improve economy. Top notch Alpine ICE equipment, too. ZYTEK engine management installed on TurboR and Continental ranges.

1996-98

Ultimate Turbo R Sport offered - Turbo R model is now only available in LWB guise. For 1997 the 400bhp RT is added to the range as a special run out model with only 50 made out of some 7200 Turbo versions in total.

We Reckon...

Who had thought it… that a proper ‘Blower Bentley’ for the price of a decent nearly new Ford Focus is there for the taking. Crushing depreciation has made these prestige powerhouses amazing value for money and a good Mulsanne is a pretty amazing car. Buy a good one and look after it and you may even see a fair return for you money, too.



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