∙Bentley Mulsanne for restoration or spares ∙Kept off road for many years ∙Complete but in need of restoration ∙Starts and runs
Believe it or not, it’s now over 40 years since the Bentley Mulsanne made its debut, essentially a sporting derivative of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, with a turbocharged version of the Spirit’s 6.75-litre V8 engine.
Named after the famous Le Mans two-mile long straight in which Bentley’s history is steeped, the new square-edged Bentley was the true luxury sports saloon of the 1980s and early 1990s, although it’s square-edged styling does place it firmly in its era. Compared to performance four-seaters of recent times, it’s something of an anachronism, albeit a charming one.
This car is an early example, and one of a rare breed. It’s one of less than 500 Mk 1 Mulsannes made and is therefore a very rare car, but is also one that will need a full restoration if it’s ever to see the road again.
The car has been off the road for over a decade and is in poor condition, albeit not beyond salvation. Its future will either be as a complete restoration which will give its next owner a nice early example of an exceptionally rare car, or as a parts donor to keep other Mulsannes on the road. That’s for the new owner to decide, but it’s all there and is surprisingly solid where it matters.
We’ll start with the recent history. This was one of 11 cars bought by the current owner from a deceased estate. He bought it as part of a pack of cars because of others he wanted for his own collection, and while he’d love to restore the Bentley he has several other projects on the go including the cars he kept from the probate sale, so has decided to let the Bentley go.
It does come with quite a bit of history from earlier in its life including the original bill of sale from Weybridge Automobiles in 1987, detailing it as a Mulsanne in Acrylic Georgian Silver with Mushroom piped Slate leather, originally registered as JSA 252.
Along with a current V5, the Bentley comes with a substantial file of bills from its early life detailing a fairly meticulous service history (and equivalent expenditure) up to aroud 125,000 miles. After that, it’s history gets a bit sketchy, and from 2009 onwards it has been parked up with no MoT.
Earlier in its life it was well maintained, with bills approaching £2,500 up until 2003. After that it became part of a private collection with a view to a restoration that never happened before the owner passed away.
Make no mistake, this car is a restoration project. While it is mostly solid and from what we could see of the underside is structurally decent, the external bodywork is in a bad way. There is extensive corrosion to both rear wheel arches and bubbling at the bottom of both wings. Closer up there’s also some rust inside the door shuts, the boot, front valance and various areas around the car, while there are also dents to both rear wings, some peeling paint on the roof and the rest of the paint is flat and deteriorated. It would ideally require a full respray.
It also has one damaged headlight and bumper corner, along with some minor damage to the associated wing, while the boot currently does not close properly. Whoever takes it on has either a big project on their hands or a very good source of spares for an equally early Mulsanne.
On the plus side, the alloy wheels are restorable, all of the chrome trim is present and correct (though the nearside trim finisher has become detached) and the boot floor needs a welded repair.
It’s a major restoration project if that’s the direction you choose for it – or a very good source of original spares and largely decent panels.
The Stone and Mushroom leather is in good condition despite the lack of use in recent times, while the carpets, door cards and headlining are also in relatively decent order, needing nothing other than a thorough clean to bring them back to life.
The wood veneers, by contrast, are in a bad way, with all four door inserts cracked and damaged and the dash veneer starting to crack in various places along with the wood trim on the centre console and around the gear selector.
There are also a few bits of missing trim. The nearside door ashtray and centre console ashtray have gone, as has some of the switchgear, but it’s mostly still there and replaceable should you wish to restore the car.
While the Bentley does fire up and run, it will need work. Immediately, you notice there’s a very distinct blow from the front of the exhaust, where it was carelessly moved previously and had the front pipe damaged by a lifting mechanism.
The engine itself appears reasonably healthy, with good oil pressure and decent compression, while it also appears to idle smoothly and on all eight cylinders. That said, the noise from the exhaust leak makes it hard to be sure.
There’s also an issue with the transmission in that the car is stuck in reverse, which the owner believes to be a fault within the selector mechanism. So it will need to be trailered away and we were unable to evaluate its forward functions. It’s a runner and the 6.75-litre V8 seems quite healthy, but comes with no guarantee.
There are two ways to look at this car. The first is as a restoration project and in that regard it’s a good one. The provenance is there, the body is largely solid if a bit frilly round the edges and the leather seats are in decent order. As a starting point, it’s good one – but as an investment it probably isn’t as you’d need to spend a lot of money on it to bring it up to scratch. If you want a fundamentally sound Bentley to tart up though, it has the basics.
The second option is to view it as a breaker and a great source of spares, as there are a lot of extremely valuable parts there and the car is pretty much complete. It would be a shame for such a rare vehicle to end up that way, but would also play a part in keeping others in good fettle. And for that reason alone, it has some decent value attached.
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