No, I’m Not Kidding: A Cheap 1989 Bentley Eight! And Also, A Pretty Cool Geo Storm

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Attention, Autopians: This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. I have found a Bentley, an honest-to-Crewe Bentley, in our price range. That’s right: a hand-built luxury British saloon (don’t you dare call it a sedan) for shitbox money.

And also a Geo Storm, and I always thought those were really cool.

So let’s get yesterday’s convertibles out of the way first:

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I honestly had no idea which way this one was going to go. But apparently someone out there agreed with you all, as the be-stickered, dog-friendly, Gambler-veteran Eclipse is already in a new driveway. As for the Mustang, the only thing I can say for certain is that nobody who wanted it intended to leave it stock.

But now, on to more pressing matters. Internet classifieds are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. And that’s what makes this job continually fun, especially when I stumble across the ultimate in British yard art. So without further ado, I present to you…

1989 Bentley Eight – $2,150 (seriously!)

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Engine/drivetrain: 6.75 litre V8, 3 speed automatic, RWD

Location: Olive Branch, TN

Odometer reading: 69,000 miles

Runs/drives? Sadly, no; has been sitting for five years

First, let’s define what we’re dealing with here, because the ad is rather short on details. This is a Bentley Eight, the “entry-level” Bentley (ugh, how common), not the Mulsanne or celebrated Turbo R. But it’s still hand-built, one of only around 1700 of its kind, built in the same factory in Crewe by the same blokes who built every Rolls-Royce and Bentley. It’s still special. The Eight uses a naturally-aspirated version of the Rolls-Royce 6.75 liter V8, and, believe it or not, the same GM Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission as your cousin Randy’s Chevelle.

The ad is lacking in photos as well as text, but seeing such a fine British motorcar in a yard in rural Tennessee is surreal enough in small doses. I do wish we got a look at the interior, however, as it’s the condition inside that will determine if it’s worth fixing up. The “oily bits” are much easier to deal with than the leather and wool.

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The seller has it listed as a “parts car,” but Bentleys are not the sort of motorcars from which one pulls parts. Due to the commonality with Rolls-Royce models of the time, most everything you need to bring this splendid lady back to life should be available… at a price.

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Now, let’s be honest: there is every chance that this car will never move under its own power again. There is also a chance that the only way to make it move is to replace that famous Rolls-Royce powerplant with an LS V8 or something. But there is also the chance that the seller (or whoever parked it) simply doesn’t speak British car, or Bosch fuel injection, and some simple ministrations under a more knowledgeable owner will have it humming in no time. There’s no way to know until you dig into it.

The trouble with finding a car like this for sale, for my purposes, is what do you pair it with? What’s worthy of comparison to a hand-built Bentley?

1991 Geo Storm GSi – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter DOHC inline 4, 3 speed automatic, FWD

Location: San Lorenzo, CA

Odometer reading: 88,000 miles

Runs/drives? Runs but not drivable; brakes are out

I will freely admit it: I love the Geo Storm. I had a chance to buy one, a GSi like this but with a manual, and passed it up in favor of a 4 door Ford Escort hatch. Not one of my prouder automotive moments.

The Storm, for those outside of the US, is also known as the Isuzu Piazza or Impulse, depending on where you are. The Impulse version was also sold here for a while, featuring a prominent “Handling by Lotus” badge. I don’t know for sure if Lotus did the suspension tuning on the Geo version, but I do know that these cars attacked freeway cloverleaf on-ramps like they were mad at them, and gobbled up twisty roads like Augustus Gloop in the chocolate factory.

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The only trouble is that, when this particular Storm was ordered new, some idiot checked the “Automatic” box on the options form. I can cope with automatics in some small cars, but dammit, a Geo Storm deserves better. Step one for this car should be to find a wrecked Storm, Impulse, I-Mark, or Chevy/Geo Spectrum with a manual and get to swapping.

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The rest of the car looks decent, if not pristine, and I suppose even if you had to drive it as an automatic for a while, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. These things are getting rare, and beggars can’t be choosers sometimes. At least it’s a nice low-mileage platform to start with. The seller does say that the brake master cylinder is shot, preventing the car from being driven at the moment, but a new master cylinder is included. You and a friend could have it stopping properly and roadworthy in a couple hours.

Well, there it is: Shitbox Showdown history. I doubt we’ll ever have a chance to feature another Bentley, but someday I will find a manual Storm for us to consider. In the meantime, do you choose the safe and easy path and fix up the Japanese sports coupe, or tackle a budget project of epic proportions and attempt to revive one of Britain’s finest motorcars?

QuizMaker

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72 Responses

  1. Obviously the correct answer of Bentley or Geo is “No.”

    But if I’m going to be wrong, I don’t want to be right. Bentley, LS swap, transmission swap, cry, suspension rebuild, interior scrape, cry, entire electrical system rebuild, and party.

  2. My heart says Bentley because there is nothing I love more than a big luxury car with a stout V8. However, my head is screaming at me to “Run away from a “cheap” British luxury car” and for the moment my head is winning.

    I have dumped more money than I care to think about into fixing up old Cadillacs and Lincolns in the past 25 years. The one lesson I have learned is to stay away from the projects that the price seems too good to be true because they are cheap for a reason and won’t stay cheap for long.

    But then my heart reminds me of the cheap ’78 Mark V that I bought for $250 during my senior year of high school in 2000 because the owner said the engine wouldn’t idle and he thought it needed rebuilt. All it took was cleaning and adjusting the carb and I drove it for 4 years before I sold it. Now I’m leaning towards the Bentley … but my brain is starting to yell at me to “Run Away” again.

    Anybody have a coin I can borrow to help me decide?

  3. Assuming a scenario where somebody offered to give me one of these cars, do the bare minimum of repairs for free and then leave me to sink or swim, I think I’d take the Bentley and just pry off as many of the insignias as possible, throw them in the glovebox and eat McDonald’s in it. Perhaps a few tasteful bumper stickers. Take away all identifiers and what you’re left with is something that looks vaguely familiar but also distinct, like that beat-to-hell convertible Columbo always drove with the top up.

  4. I chose the Storm because RADwood exists and that’s just my era of car interest.
    No to the Bentley because I never cared about chauffeur class cars. Though it would make an excellent, stand out UBER or Lyft (if it wasn’t for the age restrictions). Can you imagine your UBER driver dropping you off at work in that every morning? Coworkers would have so many questions.

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