My Favorite: 1990 Bentley Turbo R

About 20 hours from the time I write this, you’re going to hear a scream of anguish followed by some whimpers, because I will not be the high bidder on this gorgeous 1990 Bentley Turbo R. It’s being offered here on eBay as a barn find at no reserve, and bidding just hasn’t gone high enough yet (it’s at $8,800 as I write). More about that later. The car is located in Highland, California — perfect for a fly out/drive back to North Carolina escapade that would no doubt turn into a debacle of some type but would be the source of great stories for the rest of my automotive life. Sigh.

While others lust after the pre-war Bentleys — “the fastest lorrys” per the famed Ettore Bugatti — or the modern Volkswagen-produced toys of the rich — I’ve wanted one of these three-ton rolling living rooms with a turbo ever since the first time I saw one. And darn it, this one is affordable as well. It’s a shame I’m in de-acquisition mode at the moment. And this gorgeous blue is one of my favorite shades. Sigh.

I’ve heard all the stories about how complex these cars are and how they generally haven’t been maintained the way they should be (especially at around this price) and how the driving experience really isn’t that great by modern standards. Honestly, surrounded by this much leather and what looks to be near-perfect wood, does it really matter? Remember, you are looking at a car that stickered for over $195,000 when new!

And in case you are under the wrong impression, the only time I’d spend in the rear seats is while I was cleaning them. Which someone has already done quite nicely, thank you, down to the little foot rests. Would you like to go for a ride? I’ll drive!

Words fail me when faced with this many beautiful dead trees. The scratches on the steering wheel are the only evidence of wear I can find in the detailed interior pictures that cause me to have to wipe drool off my keyboard. The air conditioning would need to be serviced before the trip home; I think I’d just go ahead and have it converted to R134 while it was being done.

One more shot of that dash. Oh my! The odometer is showing 75,685 miles. Trivia for today: the roll stiffness of the Turbo R was a full 50% higher than the standard Bentley sedans of the day. Of course, at a curb weight of 5,400 pounds you might need that stiffness while cornering.

This car was produced during the days when Rolls Royce/Bentley didn’t release true performance ratings, but the 6,750 cc turbo V8 made approximately 300 horsepower and almost 500 ft-lbs of torque! Please, one of you buy this car and then sell it to me in a year or two! Let me know when you’ve got it!

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Comments

  1. Howard A

    IDK, Jamie, I see these ultra high priced cars when new, go for peanuts at auctions. I’m sure the buyers don’t want the headaches of a used Bentley, where hourly mechanics rates probably rival some monthly rent payments. Fantastic cars, best in the world, just better have deep pockets for this one.

    9
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Ah, but in general (AC and setting ring/pinion excepted) I do my own work. First thing I would do is source an undoubtedly expensive set of manuals, second would be to join the club…

      14
  2. NotSure

    Jamie the time has come for your young children to enter the workforce. They’ve had it too easy thus far in their lives! With their paycheck contribution going towards household expenses I’m thinking that you can get in on this car. I’m not saying that they need 40 hour work weeks but on the other hand… Builds character!!

    18
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Ha :-). One 13-year old and any money we save goes towards college for her (and retirement eventually for us). Others are adults and have their own cars to fund :-)

      5
    • Ralph

      It would also be authentically 1900’s British, which would ring well with the typical Bentley owner

      2
  3. Coventrycat

    I love these, but the 195k price served only to awe the peasants and for the rich to brag about. Now, even if it sells for 20+/- whatever the peasants can pretend they finally made it. Until it breaks, then it’s off to the next one, and the next one, until it’s in someone’s backyard under a tarp.

    7
    • Sam61

      Coventrycat…when you’re right you’re right.

      It would be like having “benefits” with Pamela Anderson at age 25 versus age 50. It’s still Pamela Anderson…you have bragging rights but time has been gruel.

      8
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    That’s just gorgeous. At the current bid, it’s almost justifiably disposable…drive it, maintain it and when something big $$$ goes on it say hasta lavista

    8
    • Ralph

      The thing is with one of these, that could happen in a few hours from purchase……

      7
    • rod444

      Well, there’s always the ubiquitous “LS swap” to save that gorgeous body from non use under a tarp.

      Car Show Rule #1: What happens under the hood, stays under the hood – you don’t have to open it if you don’t want to.

      5
  5. Chevychase71 Member

    Beautiful car great write up, as usual. Have just 1 issue with this one. The seller has an item for sale at no reserve. As such, he or she has created an auction in which they offer the vehicle for whatever the bid is when the hammer drops. However, in the last picture, they offer a “Buy Now” price that you have to call to get. I see a “no reserve” auction as one in which the top bidder is the winner. Offering the “buy now” price outside of the auction seems to circumvent the auction they’ve created, potentially cheating the highest bidder. Some might argue that if you pull the plug before the end, there’s no contract and the high bidder is basically out of luck. Im no lawyer (if its not obvious) but this manuever, at the very least, makes the seller appear less genuine. If there’s a B.I.N price, why not just make it known in the auction. Why must one call for it?

    12
    • David Frank David F Member

      And, because the BIN is not stated, the bidding can go higher than the BIN. One could call early in the auction and if they actually give you a BIN it would be interesting to see if the bidding goes beyond the BIN or if it’s just a pipe dream number.

      (How does a seller become a “top rated” seller with only 144 rated transactions? I have 100% feedback from over a thousand transactions and nothing…)

      7
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Just for grins and giggles, I texted them to ask. Since the auction was within 12 hours of closing they said that option was gone. Sigh.

      3
  6. ken tilly

    Jamie. Do yourself a favour and buy it. I had a Rolls Royce Shadow 2 some years back and it was followed by the Bentley and apart from the general quality of both cars there was no comparison when it came to the pedal to the metal time. Whereas the Rolls did exactly that, the Bentley was a real handler in the twisty bits for a gigantic motor car. Sell off three or four of your present stock in order to make room for the Bentley and you will never regret it. (So long as it is as good as it looks!)

    7
  7. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Ha, nice work, Jamie! If there were any justice in the world (and we know that there isn’t), this car would be titled in your name in the near future. What a beauty and you are the only living human that I know of who could keep it in tip-top shape in your fabulous shop. Do we know what’s wrong with it? Why is it less than half price with only 10 hours to go?

    4
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Apart from the non-functional air conditioning…nothing that I’m aware of. However, given the complexity of a car like this there will no doubt be some “fettling” to be done. Which would be great fun on a trip back from California. Sigh.

      3
  8. RayT Member

    Drove one of these back in ’90 and must agree with Ken Tilly. They handled remarkably well for such — shall we say — massive machines, and were quick in a straight line.

    Also put more miles on the Turbo R’s almost-brother Rolls-Royce, and must say that, despite the luxury fitments, cloud-like ride and all the rest, it was not that much of a slouch on a twisty road either. I can remember shocking a guy in a 911 (okay, maybe he wasn’t trying too hard, but I still caught him unawares) on a mountain road above Pasadena, CA one summer night….

    For all that people poke fun at these cars, I developed a real fondness for them. Even the factory (works?) people would tip you the wink when they related all the over-the-top details (like the “adequate” output of the powerplant) and I can say from experience that it is easy to get seduced by the wood and leather and the fit and finish of both Rollers and Bentleys.

    A lot of what the original owners were paying for was mystique, and I have to believe many knew it. It still works, and only the vast gulf between the current bid price — plus expenses to drive it across the country — and what I could sensibly spend keep me from a least giving a long thought to putting in a bid.

    Oh, and in 1990 I had a cat who kept a safe distance away from all the cars I brought home. Except the Rolls, which she immediately jumped into and curled up for a snooze on that lovely wool carpet….

    10
  9. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    I really wish this car would go higher. Quickly.

    2
  10. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    $12,211. AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH! (whimper….). Not me. Was it one of you?

    5
    • Chuck CUESTA

      I was the successful final bid. A nice addition to a frowning stable.
      Fortunately, I have high friends in low places who are very capable of maintaining this vehicle.
      Contact me anytime if your are in the area.
      Chuck

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        Congratulations, Chuck!!!! I hope it brings you many hours of driving pleasure!

  11. Ken Tilly

    Maybe you will live to regret not buying the turbo Jaimie?

    1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Probably. But for right now it was the right decision (he accepts grudgingly).

      4
      • Del

        I fail to see the attraction.

        Thing probably not worth 3 grand ?

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        Del — beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If we all liked the same cars it would be a more boring world (and this website wouldn’t be half as interesting).

        6
  12. Ralph

    These aren’t that rare or valuable today, there’s plenty around when you’re ready.

    2
  13. YourSoundMan

    Tech Q?:

    What is “roll stiffness”? Body flex?

    1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Leaning over in a corner about the center axis of the vehicle. What “anti-roll” or “anti-sway” bars try to limit.

      2
  14. peter r

    not so many good Turbo R’s around – see praise by Jay Leno on his utube video. I almost bought one – needed $6k in minor work but before I could close the deal someone offerred more “as-is” which made no sense to me.
    One sold at the recent RM Auctions in Fort Lauderdale for about $50k but it had only 12k miles on it and looked brand new.

    2
  15. Steve

    I understand. The one that makes my heart melt is the Continental R. Everytime I look at one it’s like seeing it for the first time. I WAnt it.

    3
  16. That Guy

    I tried to put in a last-moment bid, but someone else had already gone higher so it didn’t go through. The final price is a bit higher than I would have gone without seeing the car or having a PPI. There are some details visible in the photos that give me pause. So maybe I missed a good deal, and maybe I dodged a bullet.

    2
  17. Pat Gill

    They are not hard to maintain, now we have the internet, nothing too complicated either provided you take time to read up about whatever the problem is before you get spannering, apart from the obvious rust areas around the rear arches you should check the lower rear spring cups in the rear wishbones, they are well known to rust badly, they will pass anything except a fuel station!

    3
  18. Paul LeClair

    I own a 1990 Bentley Turbo R. 29,000 miles, black on black, mint condition cosmetically outside and inside. I would not own it if I had to pay to have it repaired and serviced by a shop.

    The service manuals are available online for free. I do all my own work. The only thing I have had to pay someone to do was evacuating the remaining R12 and pressurizing the new R 134 to get the air conditioning working.

    Various electrical niggles, all of which I have been able to sort out by myself, with the aid of the online manuals and wiring diagrams. Complicated car in the sense most circuits run through relays, but not that complicated.

    Suspension is like a Citroen, with hydraulics and gas springs, self leveling, etc. I just ordered new gas springs (spheres) for the rear suspension from the UK for about $170 including shipping, and will install them myself.

    Last summer we did a few thousand miles in a few week trip around western Canada. This summer will be several thousand miles across Canada to the east coast. No mechanical issues last summer, do not expect any mechanical issues this year. A long driving day is no issue, the car is supremely comfortable. Fuel mileage is not as bad as folks are guessing, especially on the highway with that huge V8 loafing along barely above idle at highway speeds.

    I am using heavy duty diesel oil in the massive gasoline turbocharged motor, and the engine holds something like 10 liters.

    Parts prices are for the most part reasonable, and readily available down to the smallest trim clip. I usually buy from the UK and have shipped, arrives within a week or less.

    If you can do your own work, buy the best example you can find even if it has issues like non functional air conditioning, beautiful driving and touring car, and it actually handles quite well for what it is. We are really enjoying ours.

    7
  19. Bob Member

    Jamie, you be very happy you could not buy this ugly beast. I truly don’t believe you are a self centered snob and that is not the image you would want to portray.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Bob, I appreciate the comment — I look at the older image Bentley cultivated of being a sportier, less flashy alternative to a Rolls Royce. Comes with being old. Since the two companies were broken off with different owners, it seems Bentley is the flashier car now (I don’t typically like them now). Again, the right choice now is not to buy *anything*…watch for some of my cars that will be listed here for sale. :-)

      • bog

        Jamie – I looked it over too. Lovely (and pretty massive). Old enough to have “cut my teeth” on James Bond driving a blower Bentley & am an all around car guy. This one’s amazing, and I’m sorry you couldn’t get it. I’ve also read the write-up on the ’88 version for sale near me. They want nearly 15K, and it’s got more miles… I’ll keep what I’ve got for now as well.

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