Classy But Tatty: 1953 Bentley R-Type


One of 2,323 built, this Bentley R-Type is running and driving thanks to $8,000 of mechanical work done less than 100 miles ago. We don’t know how long ago that was time-wise, but since the seller has only driven it 50 miles in 5 years, we know it’s been at least that long. The pictures are craigslist quality at best but they show a complete car that needs a paint refresh and probably some chrome plating. There’s also some rust, never trivial in a body of this type. It’s showing through on the door surfaces, but the seller also says the door sills have rusted through. The right-hand-drive drops the value by 30% according to the value guides I looked at, which puts the $16,000 buy-it-now price here on eBay about right, but not a bargain. Would you refurbish the body or drive it as-is while you enjoy your Grey Poupon?


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  1. Dan h

    A correct re-paint alone would cost way more than its worth. Better off keeping it as is and enjoy!!

  2. John H.

    Poor pictures and craftily written ad – “original leather is very good… except some cracks that can easily be repaired’ (Not, I speak from experience), “body good… only some surface rust… except for some spots rusted all the way through” (which is it, body good? surface rust? or holes and how many?). “Wood work is good …but could use a coat of gloss” (You mean the interior has to be dissabled to do this.) “Car was in Beverly Hills” (OK, for how many days before you bought it from Beverly Hills Car club, which has a notoriously bad reputation?). $8K spent. (A pittance for a car of this vintage compared to what it might cost to bring it up to #2) I agree with Dan H.

    • Barry T

      “original leather is very good… except some cracks that can easily be repaired’ ??

      I hate to sound like a dummy, but just how in the world is leather “easily” repaired?

      • Brakeservo

        Easy leather repair is that done by a used car dealer and looks good for at least a few months . . .

  3. Dale L

    As we find out in Canada, it’s not any more difficult to drive a RHD. I actually think that makes it authentic, more unique, possibly more rare, and therefore maybe even more desirable.

  4. brakeservo

    My gosh – I USED TO OWN THAT CAR!!! And virtually NOTHING in the ad is true or correct!! Most of that paint was rattle-canned in a farmyard in Battleground, Washington. It has always amazed me at the quantity of pure FICTION that people spew out when trying to sell an old worn-out car that needs a complete restoration. Figure $100,000 to do it properly and you’ve got at best a $60,000 car when done. Apparently someone didn’t like it’s Oregon and Washington history as there’s no mention of it. When someone makes such outlandishly and obviously false statements such as it’s “fifty year old paint job” who do they think they’re foolin’?
    If in fact it still runs well (I may have done a complete brake job but I can’t remember anymore) just drive it and enjoy it’s dilapidated condition – at any car show or gathering it will attract more attention and be much more fun than an immaculately restored original! When these cars run right – they are such a joy to drive, the four-speed manual is the absolutely BEST shifting gear box in a vintage car that you will ever experience. Yeah, if it runs well it’s worth what they’re asking – but there’s just no need to stoop to such hyperbole when one can tell that most of the description is pure b.s. A good running Bentley is a joy and this one might still be.

    Like 1
  5. brakeservo

    To John H. – to my knowledge that particular car has never passed through the hands of Beverly Hills Hair Club -I got it from someone in the entertainment business, either in west Los Angeles or maybe Beverly Hills who had owned it for many years. It’s a shame it was allowed to deteriorate hence my quick and easy rattle-can paint which made it actually look better than it had been!

  6. jtnc

    I agree with everything brakeservo said. I own very similar 1950 Bentley Mk. VI which was cosmetically restored in 2006 – 2008 and based on that experience it will likely cost at least $60,000 – 75,000 to do a high quality job on this car. (And believe me, the inner sills are undoubtedly horribly rusty.) More than it’s worth, so you have to do it for love, but these are on an upward value curve. Great vintage car to drive, especially the excellent 4-speed gearbox. The seller doesn’t say what the $8,000 in mechanical work was spent on. Mine was and is in excellent mechanical condition, but it’s easy to spend $8,000.

    • Horse Radish

      Expenses on Mechanical work :
      Parts $75.80
      Labor $100.00
      Booze and dope to keep staff entertained : $7,824.20

      (just a wild guesstimate)

      There was one (actually had decent paint and new(er) leather interior, but amateur work) at an estate auction in O.C./CA that just sold for $26,500 +B.S charges ….. and I thought that was too much.
      Bentleys and Rolls’ were cheap for the longest time and you can still pick up the occasional decent deal…. just not this one….

  7. Brakeservo

    I just re-read the sellers claim of 50 miles in 5 years. That is not a good thing. I know these cars well. Just six months of inactivity will lead the front brake wheel cylinders to seize in place leaving you without front brakes, the points in the SU fuel pumps will corrode leading to likely failure soon after the car is put back into service, and five years of disuse/neglect will lead to bad fuel combined with the corrosive effect of ethanol on the fuel tank and carburetor float bowels causing all sorts of damage. The radiator/cooling system should be flushed annually just as the hydraulic system for the front brakes (the rear are mechanical) should be whether the car is driven or not. The Bijour system is most likely at least partially plugged by such a long period of non-use. Neglectful non-use is more harmful than regular careful use on these cars. Knowledgeable buyers will buy cars that have been properly used. Disused examples are money pits that will also suck up your time and patience as well. If the sellers claim of only 50 miles in 5 year’s is correct it probably runs even worse than it looks!

  8. Mike_B_SVT

    Ok, after reading the comments I would stay far far away from this one. But…

    How F’ing cool would it be to have something like this as your daily driver?!? The only thing that would get old about it would be having to constantly roll down your window at the stop lights to tell people “No, I don’t have any Grey Poupon”.
    Oh! Or better yet, you buy a case of Grey Poupon to keep one in the glove box to hand out to anyone that asks! LOL! Would probably make a good prop at the local car shows and cruise-in’s too!

    Ok, time to put my cr@ck pipe down and get back to work :-)

    Like 1
  9. Dave Wright

    I studied one like this with the interest in buying it maby 20 years ago. It was in Southern California and could have been bought really cheep……maby 1000? The wood and leather repair at that time would have cost more than the value of the car. I was amazed how small it was. The photos make it look like a reasonable size car but it is like a VW bug inside. I looked and thought about that car for months but decided against it. I prefer the similar vintage Jags…..but I am a sucker for wire wheels

    • brakeservo

      The size of the whole car is deceptive – overall it’s within 4 inches in length of a Toyota Camry but the proportions and verticality make one believe it is so much bigger than it really is. However there is so much more interior room than a VW but like an old Beetle, you’ve got a flat windshield right up in front of your face! I believe that if you were seven feet tall there is still far more legroom available in the front seat than you’d ever use. As far as vintage Jags go – there is such a great difference if you really want to drive and use the car – even an old neglected Bentley like this will probably be very reliable and dependable – I’ve totally given up on Jaguars, in spite of their great beauty because they were built so poorly (down to a price?) so that if a Jag gets you where you want to go, (and that’s a big IF), there’s no guarantee it will get you home again. I could never figure out why OLD Bentleys and Rolls-Royces like this are so reliable when they ostensibly use much the same pieces as the Jaguar did – such as SU fuel pumps and carbs, Lucas electrics etc yet the stuff very rarely fails on a Bentley yet rarely seems to ever work on a Jag! No offense to any Jaguar owners out there, but that was my experience and why I’ll never own a Jag again yet I still regularly drive my 63 year old unrestored Bentley across the country in complete confidence! Incredible irony that the mass-produced Jag seems to be worth so much more than such a limited production car like this – no more than 800 – 850 were built per year! So they remain the best ‘undiscovered’ classic car bargain out there. Get one now while they’re still cheap!

      • Dave Wright

        Comparing this to your 63 is like comparing a model T to a 57 Cadaliac. Very different cars that are seemingly unrelated. I think the early Bently is much simpler mechanicly than tha Jag. That probably helps the reliability. The late 50’s and 60’s cars were off course wonderful, especially with a V8

  10. Dave Wright

    I forgot…….my old buddy Tony Handler in LA had one I should have purchased. It was a similar year Bently that had been Frank Loyd Wright’s California car. He still had registration in his name from the 50’s. It was like a town car with a chaufer’s driving posisition that could be opened. (I can’t remember the tearm) it was a white car that needed restoration but wasn’t bad. Had been in a garage for 20 or 30 years. Tony wanted something like 8K for it.

    • brakeservo

      The subject car of this whole discussion also passed through Tony Handler’s hands many years ago – that’s how I got it in the first place!

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