Motoring Monday: 1959 Bentley S2

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Thanks to Barn Finds reader Brian C for calling our attention to this cool Arlington, Washington find! The Bentley S2 is similar, but not identical to, the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, and along with the SCII marked the introduction of the Rolls Royce/Bentley aluminum block V-8 that would stay in production for 50 years! Other than that, there weren’t a lot of changes from the Bentley S1, which is not a bad thing in my opinion. This particular S2 is for sale here on craigslist with a listing price of $9,500 although by the language in the ad lower offers may be accepted.

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At first glance it’s easy to focus on the obvious rust and body damage. The car has not been started in over 15 years and it shows, although it’s been stored in a climate-controlled environment. I’d like to see some more pictures of the damaged spots, the underneath of the car and the engine compartment before making an offer, and obviously an in-person inspection would be best. I know enough about older Rolls/Bentley cars to know that their systems are very complex, and I’d want to do a lot more research before committing to one of these beautiful cars. However, I admit to seriously thinking about this one despite it being across the country from me. I did go far enough to find this set of reproduction stainless steel bumpers on eBay for $2,115, which I’m pretty sure would compare favorably with the cost of re-chroming those massive parts. The grille doesn’t look too bad in the pictures, so I’m deluding myself into thinking the bumpers would be all the brightwork I’d need to refinish for a driver. And once you open a door, buying this project starts to make more sense.

bentley2

Here’s part of the reason why I was interested. The interior really looks spectacular in the pictures, and apart from some wood refinishing on the driver’s side door capping seen above, I don’t think it would need anything else right away. I would swap out the modern stereo and speakers for something more period in appearance but keep the modern seat belts as I’d intend to drive the car a lot. I haven’t driven right-hand-drive cars often in the US, but I’ve done it enough to know it can be challenging. When I looked up the value of the car, it surprised me that RHD dropped the value 30%! Something for me to remember in the future for my British car aspirations; maybe I can afford an RHD version of a car that I can’t otherwise consider.

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The back seat of this S2 is another stellar environment, although the obvious body issues on the left of this picture temper my enthusiasm somewhat! I’m pretty sure my daughter would enjoy rides in the back, though. My mental math came up with about $10,000 worth of stuff I’d have to do to get to where I could drive it and be happy, and that was with making some positive suppositions about general engine health. Obviously, that’s with me doing all the work myself, including body and paint. If that were true, the car would be worth about $10k more than that once completed according to the value guides I found. But that’s making a lot of assumptions, not the least of which would be that I’d ever sell it once completed. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t. Have any of you restored a car you thought you’d be selling and decided to keep it instead? Tell us about it, or whether or not you’d like this “gentleman’s express,” in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. jim s

    when i needed a ” pick me up ” i used to just sit in my rolls. this car looks like just as nice a place to spend some time. yes it would need a very good PI by someone who knows these and their systems. and it would cost a lot to get it and keep it running. but it might be worth the price ( or make an offer ) just to have it setting in the garage ( or house?!! ). put a big screen TV in front of it and have a personal drive in. great find

  2. That Guy

    Posting already deleted by author. Looks like someone got to it.

  3. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Well, here’s some S1’s on ebay–last one seems the most promising price-wise. First one has a Chevy V8 but is pretty:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bentley-Other-/221809328892
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bentley-Other-4-door-/171834559212
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Bentley-Other-SD-/271915441885

  4. Rusty Bentley

    That car’s been for sale off and on for I don’t know how many years . . . if the buyer paid the asking price, or anywhere near it . . . he’s gonna be sorry. Early post-war Bentleys such as the Mark VI or R Type are the most marvelous and undiscovered/underpriced classic cars out there – 100+ mph top speed with fast acceleration, supremely powerful brakes (when the servo is set up right), build quality the absolute best in the world and annual production numbers running no more than about 850 per year! But the versions with the early V8 such as this car are to be avoided as huge money-pits! They are the only car where a properly engineered Chevy V8 conversion actually improves the car, again, the key consideration is properly engineered and most are backyard hack jobs by hillbillies with with a welding torch and Sawzall.

  5. brakeservo

    Your $10,000 worth of work to make this a driver – does that include the $30,000 engine rebuild (if in fact it’s even rebuildable – many of the aluminum blocks have corroded to ruin by now), the $3500 trans rebuild and a couple of thousand more for the brakes?? That’s assuming the rust isn’t too bad, the wiring’s acceptable etc etc etc.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @brakeservo — as I said in the article, that $10k was making some positive suppositions about the engine. I actually found some professionally rebuilt engines for under $20k but that would still kill the project. Brakes came in at around $1780 all in (yes, I spent some time on this) and I had no reason to assume the transmission was bad just from sitting, so the assumption was flush and filter. But you’re absolutely correct in that it could be a money pit and warrants some close examination before purchasing. Assuming that car was bought as the ad was pulled down, I hope whomever picked it up did that examination!

      • brakeservo

        I’ll bet those bargain ‘professionally rebuilt’ engines you found were coming out of either Florida or Nevada but I think you’ll find in both cases that they will require a rebuildable core, that these ‘rebuilt’ engines are more along the lines of ‘freshened’ with new rings and bearings, but reassembled with Chrysler lifters (tapets) old pistons, oil pumps etc. and then you’ll be dinged on your core when they charge you for more wear than anticipated etc etc etc. It is possible to cut corners and it happens all the time. Caveat Emptor but more than that, knowledgeable enthusiasts avoid the V8 models altogether and stick with the relatively bullet proof six cylinder. Then there is the effort just to remove and replace the engine – you are dealing with 50 year old hardware, nuts and bolts that’s been corroding and seizing together for half a century or more and of course your bargain price won’t include a new water pump, rebuilt generator or alternator, distributor or carburetors, all things a prudent owner will replace while he’s at it. As far as a sub $1800 brake job – what isn’t included – labor or parts?? There are six wheel cylinders and two wheel cylinders that will very likely need to be re-sleeved and rebuilt, the servo will need to be rebuilt and relined, and woe to the mechanic that in anyway upsets the adjustment and balance of all the rods and levers in this Rube Goldberg inspired brake mechanism. Typically five grand will properly cover the brakes on an ignored/unloved Rolls or Bentley. Bottom line – if you don’t spend at least $30,000 on the engine rebuild, you’ve left something out that’s going to bite you expensively in the future, and frankly speaking from experience – that Hydramatic is going to need a rebuild but fortunately it’s the cheapest job you’ll have – $3500 should cover it which is less than a brake job but just as crucial.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        @brakeservo — I’ll defer to your expertise on these; it’s obvious you know a lot about them. The brake cost was parts; I’ve been rebuilding and restoring British cars for the last 35 years and operate and have access to machine tools so I’m pretty comfortable with the labor side of things (although admittedly I’m NOT familiar with these systems, and I freely admit being somewhat intimidated by the complexity–but I’d give it a go). Nice to know what to look for when someone else is rebuilding one of these engines. I’m curious; what about the transmissions goes bad just from sitting, especially in a climate-controlled storage area where I would hope condensation would not be an issue?

  6. Stewart

    At that price it probably will be on a boat back home!! £70k back here done

  7. brakeservo

    Jamie – I can’t give you a scientific explanation, but mere empirical observation of many examples where long-time sedentary Hydramatics are suddenly put back into use, whether flushed and re-filled with new fluid or not, within a very short period of time they seem to shed their friction material where it collects on the bottom of the pan when the car stops moving.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Good enough for me! Thanks for the explanation!

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