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Bentley - 50 Years of the Marque


Car of the Month - January 2006
Bentley T1, 1976, #SBH25404

Bentley T1

When in autumn 1965 the Bentley T and its sister model the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow were launched the company informed that it had taken some ten years to design and produce the new model. With a combined steel body and chassis the new models heralded the end of an era. All previous Bentley and Rolls-Royce motor cars had separate chassis frames (it wasn't the final point though because for many years to come the 'big' Phantom V, and later still the Phantom VI, were made complying with the old principle). Truly revolutionary engineering was reflected in highly advanced components. Self-levelling independent suspension powered by a high-pressure hydraulic system was remarkable. Disc brakes all round were powered by the hydraulic system, too. The lever on the steering did operate a gear-selector switch which triggered an electric gear-change mechanism. Obviously the engineers had emphasized on tiny jobs as thoroughly as they did on main essentials.

The engine though was a unit that was already familiar to most of the mechanics within the worldwide dealer-network. This was the big V8 that had been introduced with the Bentley S2/Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II. But quite a few modifications had been carried out. On the Bentley S2 the sparking plugs were located beneath the exhaust manifolds and thus they were almost inaccessible (the front wheel and a cover plate from the inner wing had to be taken off) whereas on the new Bentley T the sparking plugs were accessible from the top, i.e. after opening the bonnet. A tappet cover closing the central aperture of the block of the V8-engine had been modified to carry the two pumps for the high-pressure hydraulic system (these pumps were operated by the camshaft in the centre of the Vee). There didn't remain any doubt that although maintenance was easier now hidden beneath the bonnet was a power-plant of great complexity.

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Customers were queuing and that was considered by the manufacturer as being the best indication to have acted perfectly well by switch-over from the time-honoured old method of making a motor car to offering a highly sophisticated one. During the following years over 2000 changes were made to the car, e.g. the rather old-fashioned 4-speed automatic gearbox was substituted by a modern 3-speed unit. Sales figures settled at a healthy level, indeed several years showed records. It must be said though that this was true for the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow I only whereas the Bentley T1 remained at the level of a Sleeping Beauty.

Bentley T1 EngineNot much activity from the company to boost sales of that model, hence predictibly not too many were registered. The model showed but another designation and a different radiator. Over the years the interest to separate the Bentley T1 with an identity of its own vanished more and more. The model shown here is proof of that because a quick glance under the bonnet shows valve covers embossed with “Rolls-Royce - and a glance at the speedometer shows the Rolls-Royce logo of entwined “RR” instead of the “Bentley-B”.


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