Bentley T Type: The Very First One

Images: Bentley Motors

After decades of being off the road and in storage, the very first Bentley T-Series is being brought back to life after the start of a complete wheels-up restoration. The 6¼-litre pushrod V8 has been started for the first time in at least 15 years, and the engine and gearbox have proven to be in good condition despite their extended rest.

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The most important number on a car, the VIN number, which identifies that this is the first ever Bentley T-Series made

After a restoration project—slated to take at least 18 months—that will return the car to outstanding condition, it will be added to Bentley’s expanding Heritage Collection of road-going cars that together describe all 103 years of Bentley’s history.

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Whilst restoring, the practice is to retain as much of the original panels as possible

The oldest T-Series completed manufacture on 28 September 1965. Owned by Bentley Motors and destined for trials work around the world, the T-Series was finished in Shell Grey exterior paint and complemented with a Blue Leather interior.

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The restoration work is being done by Bentley Motors themselves

The T-Series was originally announced and displayed for the first time at the Paris Motor Show on 5 October 1965 and was significantly different from its predecessor, the S-Type. Notably, the T-Series was the first Bentley to use a unitary construction method, using a monocoque in place of the separate chassis and body technique of every Bentley before it. As we also know, it was essentially a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.

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A beautiful mix of patina and freshly done chrome

The 225 bhp, 6¼-litre V8 was originally designed and introduced in 1959 in the Bentley S2 (as well as the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II). At the time, the engine achieved the highest specific output by weight of any production car in the world of 2.7 lb/hp (1.2 kg/hp). The engine was considered over-engineered at the time, but its inherent strength, reliability, and development potential led to it becoming Bentley’s mainstay engine for the next 50 years.

By the time the engine was retired in 2019, it was delivering more than double the amount of power and three times the original torque whilst producing 99% fewer emissions.

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That looks like a really daunting task

In 1958, work began on designing the first monocoque Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Both were known for coachbuilt bodies underpinned by a separate chassis but customer expectations and requirements were changing at a time when the coachbuilding trade was also declining. Customers wanted their Rolls-Royces and Bentleys to be externally smaller but maintain the space, luxury and comfort that they had come to expect.

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Enough to frighten away most first-time restorers

By 1962, John Blatchley—famous for styling the R-Type Continental—had completed a new exterior design for a steel and aluminium monocoque body. The design improved on the passenger space of the preceding S3, but with the overall car now seven inches shorter, five inches lower and three-and-a-half inches narrower. Overall cabin space was increased and a bigger boot provided more capacity for luggage.

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Doors and their innards call for much work too

The Silver Shadow/T-Series had an advanced chassis with independent suspension on all four wheels, with automatic height control according to loading. Pressure for the self-levelling suspension came from the triplicate hydraulic braking system which had disc brakes on all four wheels (this was under a Citroën license granted
for free, as stated by a "plaque" on the firewall of the first series). The suspension comprised of double wishbones and coil springs at the front and semi-trailing arms at the rear.

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Note the use of gloves whilst working on the engine

1,868 examples of the first-generation T-Series were produced, with a pre-tax list price of £5,425 and the majority consisting of standard four-door saloons. A two-door version was created in 1966, and a year later a convertible version was launched; although production numbers remained a very exclusive figure of 41 cars. A second-generation car, known as the T2, was launched in 1977 and stayed in production until 1980.

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The ubiquitous V8

In October 2016, a group of apprentices started the rejuvenation process for T-Series VIN 001. Starting with the removal of trim and the reconditioning of the Body-in-White, the T-Series started its journey to return to active duty. After initial preparations, the work was put on hold whilst the introduction of the current product range and future electrification activities became more of a priority. But with renewed attention on developing the Heritage Collection, the car is now on course to making its return.

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With comprehensive documentation


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