The T1 was launched in 1956 as a Bentley-badged version of the totally redesigned Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, the company’s first unitary-built model. Apart from a different style grille, the Bentley version is identified by a slightly lower bonnet line due to its curved radiator shell, together with model-specific items such as a restyled front bumper, branded wheel trims and badging. Other than these tell-tale differences, the Bentley T1’s overall specification is virtually identical to that of an equally aged Silver Shadow. Power comes from the L Series 6230cc V8 driving the rear wheels through a three-speed GM400 automatic gearbox, plus all-round power-assisted disc brakes, which bring this two-ton-plus gentleman’s carriage to an impressive standstill with very little effort.
One of this Bentley’s most innovative features is its Citroën-type hydraulic suspension system. This set-up is self-levelling at the rear and produces an extremely smooth ride. Repairs to this complex system can be costly, so it’s well worth spending a little time carefully double checking everything works as it should. A quick inspection of the suspension spheres and associated pipework in the engine bay and under the car didn’t reveal any suspicious fluid stains or leaks. However, proprietor Adrian said he would be very happy to put the car up on a lift to let a prospective customer thoroughly inspect the Bentley’s nether regions before signing on the dotted line.
The Bentley’s comfortable arm-chair-like seats are trimmed with a very regal-looking oxblood-coloured hide that contrasts nicely with the metallic sage green bodywork. The upholstery looks to be in very good condition, as are all the lambs’ wool footwell mats protecting the Wilton floor covering. An impressive history file comes with this Bentley and a sheaf of correspondence between the factory and the first owner tracks the request for extra dials, including a rev counter and clock. On the day I inspected the car, one of the sun visors was missing and it was explained that this was away being repaired and would be refitted before the car was sold. Other than the missing visor, the Bentley’s interior, including the inside of the carpeted boot, appeared to have been very cared for and was a credit to the car’s seven former owners.
ON THE ROAD
Although the Bentley’s big leather-clad driver’s seat looked inviting, it was a bit of a struggle to get comfortable as the electrically adjustable driver’s seat wasn’t operating as smoothly as it should. Once installed behind the large, thin-rimmed steering wheel it was a delight to see the rev counter indicating the ultra-smooth V8 was actually running after starting up as there was hardly any engine noise inside the car. All the electric windows operated correctly and an expensive aftermarket stereo was located in the centre console
Easing the Bentley’s column-mounted gear selector to ‘D’ resulted in a very slight shudder as the ‘box took up drive and a deft squeeze of the throttle had the Bentley smartly on its way. Once out on the open road it was noticeable how approaching traffic actually slowed to allow the big Bentley to take priority when negotiating a hazard. This fine example was an absolute delight to drive and once on the dual carriageway, a flick of the right foot had the Bentley quickly knocking on the door of the national speed limit in the a blink of an eye, while the powerful brakes slowed the car down just as quickly.
This is a very well cared for Bentley that’s had a lot of money lavished on it over the years. However, it’s not a concours example as a closer inspection of the rear off-side wheelarch revealed a small amount of bubbling under the paintwork. This will require attention sooner rather than later, as will a slightly scratched windscreen where a worn wiper has left its indelible mark. The rest of the bodywork looks to be in pretty good condition, although there’s evidence of past paint repairs, which isn’t surprising considering the age of the car and the fact that the odometer is now over halfway through its second complete revolution.
When it comes to buying a classic, first impressions really do count and this very tidy Bentley T1 appears to be an honest example of the breed. It drives well and is bound to make a grand entrance wherever it goes without looking too pretentious.
TOP SPEED: 118mph
0-60mph: 10.9 secs
GEARBOX: 3sp auto