Originally Cost $167,400: 1990 Bentley Turbo R

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

Well, this is a sad sight: a once-proud Bentley Turbo R sedan languishing in a tow yard after being collected from an estate sale. This is one of those vehicles that graced the pages of any hardcover book or magazine covering the supercars of the 80s, so it tugs at my heartstrings a bit to see the ‘ol girl looking so sad. Find it here on eBay where bidding is just over $5,000 and there’s no reserve. 

In the past, I’ve questioned the value of a project-grade Bentley. But this car, if it runs like the seller says it does, looks like a worthwhile project. I get that it will never be cheap to repair or even run on a semi-regular basis, but the R models stood for something special. It could almost be called a transformative moment when Bentley began producing saloons with actual performance DNA, and the Turbo R stands out as the model that ushered in this new era of attitude at one of the world’s most prestigious brands.

The Turbo R received a revised suspension that took the Bentley from soft and wallowing to hard-edged and capable. The engineering team demanded a 50% increase in roll stiffness and achieved this by adding sway bars front and rear, a panhard rod to tighten up the rear subframe, and also received wider tires on alloy wheels. This 1990 model also benefitted from Bosch fuel injection and improved sport seats, along with a four-speed automatic sourced from GM’s parts bin. While it does currently run, that’s not nearly enough info when taking on a project like this.

The interior is said to be in great condition, but other questions remain. The seller says it has 76,000 miles but eBay seems to think it has 38K; this warrants some further investigation. Apparently, there were other Bentleys dragged out from this same estate sale, so hopefully it was at least in the hands of an enthusiast. With 300 b.h.p. and 487 lb-ft of torque on tap, this Turbo R definitely deserves to run again. The price of upkeep won’t be cheap and it will be a constant factor while owning it – but it definitely deserves better than its current fate.

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Comments

  1. Blyndgesser

    Ride height suggests failed hydraulics. Run far, run fast.

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  2. DrinkinGasoline

    Anyone interested in this better have a decent cash reserve and the Saudi Prince and the assistants who give a crap because it’s only money and the patience to research parts availability in order to bring this even close to driver condition. For the $$ involved, (to quote Shark Tank)…..I’m out.

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  3. HeadMaster1

    Yeah, the rear is too low, but it may me just in need of new spheres and some mineral oil, or it could need an entire brake/suspension rebuild……DON’T be scared, just get educated on them…..Almost all of the parts are available from the UK or France (Citroen). I bought an 85 Silver Spur that sat for years and learned all about these repairs…….Fun cars to work on and the quality is insanely good…….The wiring is a work of art, so is the hydraulic system

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      Oh yeah, don’t be scared. No worries about the replacement parts prices or the shipping costs not to mention the labor if one is not inclined. It’s all good ! Fer get about it…..I’m thinkin’ that it’s a piece of work, not a work of art. If the hydraulics are so coveted, why does it reside in the weeds ?

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  4. Adam T45

    I really love Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s. However, looking into my crystal ball, I see many dollars disappearing into a bottomless pit (sadly).

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  5. Blindmarc

    They were never worth a plug buckle to me. Over priced from new, and maintenance is over priced too.

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    • Trickie Dickie

      I sure can agree here. A friend bought a 1989 Rolls new, $159,000. Troubles started at 6000 miles. all hydraulics failed. RR even plans ahead and had four quarts on green hydraulic fluid in the trunk. Then there was a complex electrical problem, RR in the shop over a month but still not fixed, auxiliary fan wouldn’t shut off. Car under warranty and always taken to a RR dealer out of town, big hassle. Finally got up to 20,000 miles no major problems. Was called and told to bring in his car again for his 20,000 miles warranty check up. Two days later car was ready and he was presented with a $7600 bill. Unbelievable what RR calls for at 20,000 to maintain warranty, huge expensive list.Many parts replaced. All new shocks for one.
      Had more trouble at 25,000, so he had it with the RR. Gave it to a charity in LA to raffle off and went back to Cadillacs. I had even warned him about how expensive a Rolls would be, but his attitude was…..”Its a Rolls, what could go wrong”

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  6. Nigel Matthews

    The cost of admission will be the cheapest part of this deal
    A Bottomless pit, take my word for it. I worked on them for over 20 years

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  7. Jason

    “There is some cosmetic damage under the front bumper caused when being sat down from a tow.”

    What else did they damage when they dragged it out from the estate sale?

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    • Jason

      And why was it originally shipped to a Dodge dealer?

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    • DrinkinGasoline

      I’m thinking that is the least of any prospective buyer’s concerns.
      This might as well be a boat for sale in shallow mud sucking waters….

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  8. Nova Scotian

    Depreciation…bites another one!…

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  9. Nighttrainx03

    If you want to go bankrupt and also get divorced over a car just dive right in you wont be disappointed if that what your looking for.

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  10. rusty

    The thing that makes me shudder with these is that the rear end treatment looks like our family mans Ford Falcon in Australia…dullsville man. Even the profile is not much different. And I must say there is a Mercedes with a similar rear end treatment too.

    All I can say is did the designers meet for coffee after the preceding London Motor show and accidentally share some thumbnail sketches on a napkin. For the money I’d want something a little less Falcon and something that said Bentley not just the badge.

    Coming up behind this is like approaching the family down the road on the way to the shops [mall to you guys] in the 80’s. Once you passed it then and only then does it look anything like grande with that front end treatment not brilliant but pretty good by fitting into the bland body lines.

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  11. Woodie Man

    Always invest in OPM! To boot it has absolutely no aesthetic appeal. Looks like a Russian Zil to me. Among the other things I would teach my children is that the appreciation of automobile design, while subjective, has certain rails. Checker cabs and this iteration of a once beautiful marque are two of them.

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  12. JagManBill

    perfect car for a wax commercial…

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  13. Nick Hockman

    This type of car just reminds me not to buy new high end car. Years later it will be worth less than a Pontiac Fierro GT and look dated and old.

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  14. Tirefriar

    What, no one wants to drop an SBC into this one?

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    • John

      4bt😏

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  15. BOOTSY FUNKWELL

    It’s only worth a SBC restomod…which would be an improvement over the original drive train.(imo) That being said…the day can’t come soon enough
    that the curious culture of bragging about the astronomical service and maintenance bills on your overpriced “top shelf” car disappears entirely. I’ve had Benz & Ferrari salespeople actually brag to me about the five figure cost of of the initial service.As if to suggest this it’s not a big deal that their product is poorly made…and that you should be thrilled to pay for it.

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    • Tirefriar

      The problem with used high end cars is that their value drops like a rock but the cost of maintenance only goes up. I own a CLK55 W208 body. The cost of the service cycle is still the same as it was new, perhaps made more expensive by increased dealer labor hour rate although plenty of good indie shops that can do it for less. Also had a Jag XJR X308 chassis, probably one of the best cars I’ve ever owned. Maintence was on par with what it was when new. Moral of the story is that if you can’t maintain them, don’t buy them. The worst thing anyone can do to a premium car is fail to properly maintain it. That also goes for quality of maintenance as well. Get a Honda or a Toyota instead. You’ll benefit from cheap operation but will miss out on performance, handling and style. BTW, the reason Ferrari service is so expensive is that for most models, changing oil and spark plugs requires engine out.

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  16. Ben T. Spanner

    Scrub it with Comet, rinse. Add 2 or 3 thick coats of NU Finish. Remember the junkyard commercials where they shined up an old red hood? Just do it in your neighbors driveway to avoid the red runoff.

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  17. Don

    The rear looks like a Ford LTD 2 4 door fox body

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  18. nessy

    Most of these comments are because many guys just don’t know these cars. I have 3 of them, all of this vintage, two of them have had minor issues from time to time, while the third car has been rock sold and never gave me one single problem. The most important thing to do with these cars? Drive them. The more they sit around, the more problems come up. The minor issues on my 2 cars came from not being used enough. This era Rolls Royce/Bentley can now be bought for a very fair price and they still have that impressive look and feel. Hey Barn Finds, where are the thumbs up and down?

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    • Jeff

      I agree

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  19. OhU8one2

    Ok I’m going to give those that are interested a little tidbit information. I run an all British car repair shop in Southern California and the shop gets quite a few of these coming in. Any Rolls Royce or Bentley made after 1937,any part,and I do mean ANY part can be had for these two lines of car’s. I’ll bet 90% still from the dealer. If the dealer has the part’s expertise to find them. Not all dealership’s will help you. But I use Bentley of Zionsville, from Indiana. Another fact to share,these vehicles are way over engineered. More so than any other car builder. You could actually have a component fail and not know it for awhile. Roll’s Royce has a brake system like no other,it runs at 2500 psi,and when you start the car,you cannot throw it down to drive and go. NO! The car need’s some time to build up pressure for the brake system. They can and are expensive to repair. Part’s prices are in the stratosphere compared to other vehicles. If you do own a Roll’s or Bentley I strongly suggest a yearly inspection,just so you will know where you and the car are on the same page,so to speak. If your thinking of purchasing,again I highly suggest a “Pre-Purchase” inspection. Have it looked at by a shop that knows these car’s well. It will save you from a lot of headaches in the future. And lastly,the worst thing you can do to either car. Roll’s and Bentley is to leave them sit. If they have set idle for awhile,be prepared to spend some money. These car’s are super heavy,you’ll feel this when you drive one. So tire’s just don’t last like they did on the Gran Prix. Otherwise I recommend joining the local club chapter and the National Club. The owner’s of these car’s are Eccentric and definitely stand out Ina crowd.

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  20. newfieldscarnut

    Bolt it to a pole and put it in front of your business for advertising .

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  21. Mike S

    This car is magic. It can make $$$$$ disappear.

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  22. norm bissonnette

    These are the kind of Rolls/Bentley that , even mint , go for peanuts at auction and lesser late-sixties muscle cars bring bigger $ . The parts / shop-rate for these are expensive ….

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  23. olddavid

    At $15k I would take a flyer on a Continental, but not on the four door. The two door coupe looks like it will eat whatever car is next to it and spit it out while smiling. I saw one in Calgary two years ago when they were getting used to $40 oil and selling everything. I went to $22k and realized that I’d be Thirty Large in before it turned a wheel in anger. Cadillacs, Lincolns and the occasional Mercedes will have to do for me. Sadly.

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  24. glenn

    i see about 50k in repairs to make this lady great again

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  25. charlie

    To paraphrase Cornelius Vanderbuilt, who when asked what it cost to operate his yacht, “IF you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”

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  26. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    The suspension is overly complicated, but not unmanageable.

    The engine is bulletproof, the transmission is American and well built.

    The brake system is a piloted master cylinder. It uses a hydraulic pump to achieve that high pressure is always available and the piloted system controls it, not a big deal but not the norm. I’ve a 50’s era Jaguar that uses that. The D-Type also used this design.

    If the interior and veneers are in good shape, I’m doubtful that much needs attention other than the suspension.

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    • glenn

      a good paint job will run you 15k

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    • Jeff Lavery Jeff Staff

      Nice to hear from people who knows these cars in and out. I don’t deny that it will have some higher costs compared to a domestic, but I think a first-gen Turbo R has the kind of significance that makes it worth fixing.

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  27. Rex Kahrs

    I thought “car porn” was just an expression, then you wrote about the panhard rod tightening up the rear suspension. Maybe I have a dirty mind…

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  28. john C

    Well, after carefully looking at all these pictures, and mostly for all the upbeat dialogue ( that all american “GO FOR IT !!”) and positive spirit here in Barn Finds on this automobile, I WILL go for it !!! Just gotta ask the wife….

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Let us know how the discussion comes out, John!

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  29. GregS

    Had my ’79 SS ll for over 7 years. I have owned many collectors cars over the years. Jags, Alfas, Jensen Intercepter, American muscle cars, you name it. Ask my wife what her favorite one was and she always misses the Rolls the most. 12,000 miles from new, 30 years old and never had any problems. Bought it from an elderly neighbor who always maintained it impeccably. That is the key folks. Just take care of it and find a Specialized Dealer who knows these cars and you can really enjoy the craftsmanship as well as the attention these cars bring.

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  30. PAR

    Come on people think outside the cost square and open your minds to profit!! Buy this outstanding beast and break it up for parts. You will triple your money at least because you know there is loads of “Enthusiasts” out there looking for parts purley becuase of the reliability factor clearly stated on these hallowed pages!! ROCK ON.

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  31. HeadMaster1

    Believe it or not, that paint probably WILL buff out…..These cars have about 15 coats of paint…When I bought my Spur it had sat outside in Palm Springs for years and looked about the same……Break out the 1,000 grit and wet sand, rub , and polish……Parts are cheap as long as you have enough experience to know what else they fit. Most electronics are Bosch or Delco, didn’t have much Lucas on mine…..They are awesome cars, and this is the 1 to get as it has the Overdrive Trans and it’s a fuel injected…….If somebody on here buys it, contact me and I’ll tell you where to get parts direct from the UK for about 10% of what the dealer’s in the US charge…..And if anyone needs the special tools to rebuild the hydraulic pumps let me know, they’re in my toolbox 😉 Working on these cars is a joy, you feel like your working on something very special, and you are….BTW- paid $7,500 for my 39kmile Spur, had about $10k into it when done..

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    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Headmaster1, have to agree with you. These are like working on an Adenauer or a Grosser 600 Benz.

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  32. glenn

    That is what Mike on wheeler dealers thought that paint is pitted to the surface it was a flaw for a few years with new paint tech

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  33. Paul B

    These are high class cars for people with resources to match. If you take care of a well built high class car by spending to maintain it, you’ll enjoy it for years. If you don’t, you won’t. If you don’t have the money to maintain it, don’t buy it because you don’t belong in its club. Get a Toyota Yaris instead. You’ll drive it for years without incident or expense, and enjoy it for its low cost reliability. A red high performance sleeper Bentley. I’d love to bring it back. But since I’m not in the club, I’ll simply look on.

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  34. HeadMaster1

    @ Paul B , you don’t have to be asked to join the club, just do what I did, kick down the door, stare the geezers in the face, and ask for some mustard……These are NOT high tech vehicles, but they are complex. Cost was no object in the building of these cars, and wasn’t a consideration for the servicing either……That said, there is NOTHING a decent mechanic can’t repair or fix on these, just take your time, “measure twice, cut once”……Mine has a fuel accumulator go bad….It was mounted up above the rear diff and almost impossible to get to…..But you know what? It took about 15 mins to lower the entire diff down to gain access…..My rear suspension spheres were bad, took about 10 minutes to replace them, and 8 mins of that was removing the carpeted panel in the trunk to gain access……You can buy a really good one for about $15-20k, so make sure this project type of RR/Bentley pencils for you. For me it was an absolute pleasure to work on, something I’ll always treasure. And the parts from the UK come in less than a week usually, and the best part is that they speak “English” over there…..way easier than ordering parts for my Maserati’s

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  35. charlie

    But it has 4 doors, and I hear no complaints! But then I am a fan of the mid-50’s – late 60’s 4 door hardtops.

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