Rescued From The Barn: 1953 Bentley R Type

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The before and after pictures are hard to believe for this car! I realize things can look better in pictures than in person, but someone sure did a nice cleanup job on this 1953 Bentley! It is located in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania at a dealer, and can be found for sale here on eBay, where bidding as I write is just below $10,000. The reserve has not yet been met. Be sure to have a look at it now that it’s all cleaned up!

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This is the after shot! The first picture and the below pictures were taken in 2015 by the seller. The car was sharing a barn with a lot of pigeons. Apparently one of the favorite places for the pigeons to roost was directly above the car. Those funny lumps you can see on the roof…well…when food comes in it has to come out as well.

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Here are some closeups of the results. Amazingly, the car was last licensed for the road in only 2006–must be some seriously active pigeons! I’m glad I wasn’t the one cleaning this car up!

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While the paint has certainly deteriorated around the edges, and to get it right you’ll probably have to commission at least a partial repaint, I couldn’t find any rust through, just surface rust. It must have been high quality paint to survive that avian onslaught! I’m glad the beautiful styling and color scheme were preserved, and this is one car that I like the wide whitewalls on.

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Naturally, as with any Bentley of this era, the interior is one of the highlights. While the original leather has been replaced with vinyl, it looks like a quality job that I could live with for a long time before eventually replacing it with hide. Interior wood looks pretty good and everything seems to be complete. The seller reports long term ownership by an enthusiast before their passing in 2014. The car was cleaned up and surprisingly starts and runs well, and has even been driven a short distance by the seller.

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Having a rolling restoration is much easier on both the pocketbook and the mind. It’s hard to remain enthusiastic about a car that’s been off the road for a very long time (ask me how I know this!) and with this car, you could drive it the whole time you were improving it, and not be embarrassed at all. Sounds like a plan to me!

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Comments

  1. terry

    Amazing!

  2. Ben T. Spanner

    A fungus in pigeon crap other avian waste, and bat guano can give you histoplasmosis. ( A disease you do not want) Cleaning a car out of doors is probably not a problem, but from cleaning a barn or loft etc., can be dangerous. Drag the car out and hose it off. Wear at least a dust mask inside the building.

    I did body work on a 1953 Bentley in the 1960’s The gauge of the metal and the weight of the panels were both heavy. If I recall correctly, there wasn’t much room in the driver’s compartment. Room in the back was a priority.

    • brakeservo

      There’s enough leg room for a seven foot tall driver – all you have to do is slide the seat back, but then you don’t leave much/if any room for a rear seat passenger. These were designed as owner driver cars, not chauffeur driven cars. I have had well over 200 examples pass though my hands over the past 30 years, but not this one.

  3. erikj

    Good find,rescued before it got to bad. It dosent take long for bad storage to eat up a car. Glad it was found and sold at a good time.

  4. Dolphin Member

    Too bad it’s not an R Type Continental coupe. Those are million dollar cars. These Std. saloons are worth less than $10K…..so far.

    Ben T. is right. Anyone cleaning a car like this needs to wear a HASMAT suit, and do the cleaning where people aren’t, and aren’t likely to spend time. If they didn’t wear one, well it’s too late to close the barn door now.

    Better still, fix doors and windows and cover up entry holes to keep the flying critters out in the first place.

    • brakeservo

      Do you want a ‘barn find’ Continental R Coupe?? Gullwing has one and they’re only asking $1.3 Million! A standard Bentley 4-door like this gives you 90% or more of the driving experience for a mere fraction of the cost!

    • Dennis

      To Dolphin, I’m sorry, I’m not picking on you, but kind of funny, It’s HAZMAT ! Stay safe !

      • Dolphin Member

        Tanks forr tha korekshun Dennis. I haet it win I don’ut spel wirds rite.

  5. brakeservo

    In reading the eBay posting, it’s a real shame that they simply put a battery and fuel in it and started it! A real good way to break the rings! They should have oiled the cylinders at the very least and let them soak for a few days, then hand cranked the motor before hitting the starter. Oh well – if it’s like most old Bentleys, it’s either suffered broken rings or is going to. The cost to PROPERLY repair the engine will be about $35,000, knock off about $5 grand if you choose to pull the engine and reinstall it yourself. I know most people can’t imagine how a simple six-cylinder like this can be so expensive to repair, and it is possible to cut corners and cheap out for a quick re-sale, but you’ll only eventually have to due it properly again anyway, so it makes no sense not to do it right the first time. Brakes will also need a complete overhaul – I can do a complete rebuild on these brakes for under $1,000 in parts and about 40 hours labor. The automatic transmission can be rebuilt with mostly GM Hydramatic parts as various Oldsmobile, Pontiacs, Cadillacs and I think even some Hudson and Lincoln models used a very similar Hydramatic so that will be the least of one’s expense in bringing this back. The cheap vinyl and carpet are a real shame – they will never ever look right and lead me to wonder what other corners have been cut on this car over the years, things you can’t see simply by looking. Finally, I suspect it’s been rear-ended at one time as it’s got the wrong rear bumper – it’s a left hand drive car but is fitted with the bumper from a right hand drive example, understandable as replacement left hand drive bumpers are and probably were unobtainable. And what’s with the old Brit plate on what must have been a USA or at least European delivery car??

  6. Coventrycat

    I wish I looked that good after being hosed down. That vinyl interior looks fine – and I doubt anybody would needlessly spend thousands of dollars on a perfectly serviceable interior when there’s going to be other big, breakable things to throw your money at.

    • brakeservo

      If you just want a driver, that plastic is fine but if you ever expect to sell the car to someone who wants it “right” they’ll have to deduct the cost of a new interior – at least $15,000 by the way. I find it hard to imagine anyone would prefer the smell of vinyl to the essence of fine Connolly leather, but to each his own! To me, that was part of the overall experience!

  7. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    This is a find.

    The one thing I remember about these is that Bentley, in order to sell a right hand drive car to the US as they were not set up for a LHD, was to offer a right hand shifter.

    Give that a thought…….move the shifter between the RH driver’s seat and the driver’s door, not the center tranny tunnel.

    Connolly, no longer makes leather, been out of business 5-7 years. $15K will get the seats, door panels, headlining, carpets and new door and window/windshield surround rubber along with trunk trimming, and you’ll still have a couple of $K leftover. Go to a good upholsterer, not Bentley, they like many are sourcing the same aftermarket sources you are.

    • brakeservo

      I don’t think that Bentley ever intended to sell RHD cars in USA, at least after WWII. (Bentley had never built a LHD car prior to the war, so those few cars sold here in the 1930s had to be RHD). I think the right hand shifter is merely a reflection that most people are right handed, even in England, hence the right hand shifter on RHD cars. Remember back in the 1920’s when Rolls first introduced the 20 hp model, the earliest cars had a center shift and they were criticized for being “cheap and vulgar, much like an Austin” and never produced another RHD car with a center shift except on special order

  8. Allen Member

    This car is way beyond my pay-grade. I can rebuild a LOT of MG B-series engines for $35,000. Having said that, I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a set of pictures as much as these. How many BF-type sellers do what this guy has done? Document the car as found, funk, dust, bat-crap, and all. Then clean it up so superbly and photograph it in great detail. The pictures tell a great story already. If I were in the market, I’d sure give this guy some attention. Yes, I’d proceed VERY cautiously, but I would proceed.

    FWIW…

  9. Bruce Best

    I wonder about the $35,000 price for an engine rebuild. That seems very very high. These cars in many ways are very basic, simple and straight forward. Yes the have their quirks but once you get to understand what the engineering is about they are very easy and very inexpensive to keep up. At that price they must be sourcing all the parts from Rolls Royce. There are equally good sources for most of the parts you need. The quality of parts is much better now days than when these were built.

    I have never owned on but I have had friends that have had similar models and they are fun to ride in and to drive. What is most telling is the quality of materials and the craftsmanship of the construction. Kind of like the ultimate in quality Chevrolet Nova but better looking and a bit better handling.

    I have ridden in an automatic model and they are just fine but I have helped rebuild a manual transmission model and that is where you really see the difference. The Width / thickness of the gears is almost double what you would see in most other cars from any other source. So under stressed and so durable. That car had over 250,000 miles on it and had the original paint over the Nuts on the transmission case. We pulled it apart and miked everything, cleaned it and there were a couple of syncros that were slightly worn but the rest was within factory tolerances. A joy to work on. Taken care of it will certainly outlast the next owner and if passed down maybe his children as well. Hard to put a price on that.

    • brakeservo

      I think at today’s labor rates, $35,000 is a pretty conservative estimate for a complete engine rebuild. Keep in mind, you’re also going to be paying for the mechanic’s learning curve (most of the old-timers who rebuilt these things 30, 40 and 50 years ago are gone), the mechanic will be dealing with over 60 years worth of rust and corrosion on fittings, nuts and bolts he very well not have properly fitting tools for, thread patters that require specialized taps and dies (British Association, British Standard, Whitworth and British Pipe). A nut that might have come off in 3 seconds 50 years ago might now require 45 minutes of labor – and you’ll be paying at least $100/hour for that labor. The crankshaft has to be TAKEN APART! When was the last time you saw a crank that you dismantled to clean the sludge traps in the oil galleries, or had counter-weights attached by bolts?? If you don’t clean the sludge traps, you’ve condemned the lower end bearings to quick failure. The crankshaft vibration damper requires complete overhaul by someone with the tools and knowledge to do it right, once you’ve located all the specialized friction materials, and hardware to do it. The cylinders will require sleeving back to standard size if you don’t want to break rings again in the future as the original design with short-length hard chrome liners is what causes the rings and/or pistons to break and fail in the first place. Yes, you can simply bore to an oversize and fit appropriate pistons, but if the short length liners remain, you will break rings and pistons again. It was a major design flaw that today would get a manufacturer into a number of big lawsuits, but the world was a different place 65 years ago. The block has no freeze plugs, the cooling jackets are accessed by iron plates attached my small screws, nearly all of which will have siezed and corroded yet you need to remove all these plates for several reasons. First – you will spend hours and hours manually and physically removing decades of rust, scale and corrosion from the water jackets – simply ‘hot-tanking’ the block won’t do it. Second, removal is the only way to properly inspect the plates themselves as many will have corroded and eventually become porous and leak coolant! The time to replace them with good solid metal is now, not after you’ve rebuilt the engine, installed it and driven several thousand miles and now find that you’ve got to pull the engine out because an in accessible plate is weeping through the metal itself – and experience tells us the more inaccessible the part, the more likely it is to fail. The exhaust manifolds will crack when you remove them, they’re available but costly. The broken exhaust manifold studs will be a major time consumer, but gee, a specialized puller will be required just to remove the head – if if it’s never been off since sometime in the 1970s it may take a week of very patient labor to get the head off the block without breaking it. To go this far and not rebuild the oil and water pumps, starter and generator is absolute foolishness, just like it’s folly to not replace the radiator core while it’s out – and one can spend an entire week just removing and reinstalling a radiator on a neglected car with rusty and corroded fasteners – when you remove the radiator, all the bolts holding the front end of the fenders, side panels, grill and front apron also come out – and getting everything lined up and adjusted so that the gaps look good is a terrible exercise in frustration – like I say, plan on a week – working on it every evening after work until you get it looking satisfactory – at that point will will really regret you didn’t do the radiator when the car was apart for the motor work. It goes on and on like this. So, you really think you can do the job right for under $35,000??? Well, consider this is the same engine in the $1 or $2 Million Bentley R-Type Continental Coupe and no one would bat an eye at spending $35,000 at a motor rebuild in a $2 Million dollar car but the reality is your $40,000 four-door Bentley has the same motor, same problems and same $35,000 cost to rebuild as its $2 Million dollar two-door sister

      • CATHOUSE

        It sounds like you have been down this road once or twice. Thank you for sharing what is involved with this project. Fortunately for me I have never had to travel this road, and at this point in my life I highly doubt that I will ever see this road. That is fine by me, it is beyond my budget anyway.

      • That Guy

        Detailed first-hand knowledge like yours is invaluable. Not being well-versed in RR/Bentley cars I would also have assumed “hey, it’s a 1950’s six-cylinder; how hard can it be?” Thanks for sharing your experience.

  10. Rob'sGT

    The car in this photo sat in a barn in Lexington, GA along Hwy 78 for quite some time but is no longer there. I believe it to be a Bentley, about the same vintage. One of those “I’m going to stop and ask if it’s for sale” cars, but never did.

    • Rob'sGT

      Photo didn’t load. Trying again.

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