Why Do I Want To Buy Sir Elton John’s Bentley Continental R?

Rocket Matt Top

I have purchased more cars in my head than you have ever seen in your life. This is possibly a slight exaggeration, but it’s true that my mind contains an unmatched capacity to imagine owning cars I should probably not own. A black hole of thought whose event horizon is littered with Sterlings and Meharis and Kia-badged Festivas. It is a sickness. Today’s bad idea: Sir Elton John’s Bentley.

Continentalreltonjohnrearthreequarters
Photo via Car & Classic

Why do I want to down this? What is wrong with me?

Let’s get through the basics: This is a 1992 Bentley Continental R. The post-war history of Bentley isn’t pretty, becoming mostly a brand barely distinguishable from its sister company Rolls-Royce. The first car to change this pattern was the Bentley Continental R, which harkened back to an era when Bentleys were Bentleys and the brand stood on its own. It was also the first Bentley in decades to have its own unique body.

Continentalreltonjohntransmissiontunnel
Photo via Car & Classic

At launch, the Continental R featured a turbocharged 325-horsepower 6.75-liter V8 mated to a GM 4L80-E automatic four-speed. These are not world-beating specs now, but this was a big deal in the early ’90s. Almost any German equivalent from the era is probably a smarter choice and likely a cheaper one, though Classics World says it’s not the worst idea:

It would be ridiculous to consider that ownership of a Bentley Continental R could be a budget DIY project. That said, you should not be put off by the fear that parts are difficult to find, and expensive when sourced.

These sell for not-unreasonable prices and I definitely considered buying a black one listed on Craigslist in Charlottesville, Virginia for what seemed like six years at a curiously cheap $11,500. I should probably want a W140-derived C140 CL500, but what’s the fun in that?

Continentalreltonjohnengine
Photo via Car & Classic

Now compound this weird desire by the fact that Sir Elton John’s former Bentley Continental R is now for sale at auction. This has made me the madman across the water, because I can see myself buying and importing this car.

A little history:

Bought new in August 1992 by Sir Elton John, via his management company William A Bong Limited, and he kept it for four years until November 1996 when the previous owner bought the car, keeping it until now.

Do I want paperwork that says “WILLIAM A BONG LMTD” on it? Yes, yes I do.

There’s more:

…[T]his particular car is even more special thanks to its first owner being car mad music icon Sir Elton John, who took the bespoke nature of the Continental to a new level with the custom hi-fi install featuring 14 speakers (that we have found) and multiple amps all hidden or installed to look like factory fitment.

Hidden speakers! I’m in.

Continentalreltonjohnspeakersdoorpanel
Photo via Car & Classic

This will probably go for way more than the approximately $25k of the current bid. Princess Diana’s Escort just sold for $850,000, so somewhere between $25k and $850,000. Thankfully, this puts it out of my price range.

Why do I want this car? Is it the chance to dress up like glam-era Sir Elton and roll into Radwood like the gender-bending King of England? Is it because my middle name was derived from an Elton John song (I’ll let you figure that one out)? What is wrong with me? [Editor’s Note: Matthew Rocketman Hardigree? – JT]

Please explain to me why this is a terrible idea.

Top image via Cars & Classic, inset Elton John “Greatest Hits”

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56 Responses

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  1. If you already haven’t sussed out why this is a Bad Idea, there’s no hope for you. On top of the financial drainage of giving it regular service — and replacing parts regularly — this is a thirty year-old car, has probably not been driven much, and will therefore almost certainly need a LOT of attention before you take it for its first spin.

    Of course it is also likely to be an Investment. In time, you might sell it — especially at BaT — for more than you had in it. Plus, you would forever be known as one who owned Elton John’s Bentley.

    So maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all!

  2. Matthew “Tiny Dancer” Hardigree…..Though Rocketman works. Though Matt’s song is probably ” Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Kiki Dee.

  3. In a Rolls Royce, you are driven. You drive a Bentley. I’d rather a Mulsanne Turbo R, it was more performance-oriented. There’s an ’89 for sale in St. Thomas, ON for $16K Canadian.

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  4. I was kind of hoping it was Matt “Roy Rogers is Riding Tonight” Hardigree. In any event, it is a wonderful looking car. I would have to mate an LS or LT to that 4L80E, however, just so, you know, it runs.

  5. David is determined to have a shitbox on every continent. Jason can legitimately say his Yugo is his most reliable car at the moment. Mercedes– okay, I’m not entirely sure the state of her fleet, but I feel like it should be worse than it is. You too could be making obviously bad decisions for our amusement, Matthew “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” Hardigree!

  6. Even though I know full well it’s a Bad Idea (TM) the want is strong. Some years back I was looking really hard at picking up a Bentley of that era in the $20k price range (note that a Continental R will never be found for $20k except a maybe a wrecked and burned out derelict at BHCC). Sadly, I realized that I could afford to buy an old Bentley but I couldn’t afford to own it.
    I wised up and bought a really nice Jag XJ6 for $5600 instead which offers most of the pleasure and believe it or not it’s been reliable and cheap to own. I don’t regret my decision.

  7. I lived in the Dordogne in the late 1990s, and locals still talked how Elton John used to swank around the narrow roads in his Bentley in the 1980s and early 90s and wonder why everyone knew where he had been… It was reportedly often seen parked at sites where, shall we say, some unconventional activities were reputed to take place.
    In the telling it was bright red and topless, but that could have been an exaggeration.
    I am sure all stains have been removed.

  8. “At launch, the Continental R featured a turbocharged 325-horsepower 6.75-liter V8 mated to a GM 4L80-E automatic four-speed. These are not world-beating specs now, but this was a big deal in the early ’90s.”

    Sounds ideal for an LS swap.

      1. I am late to the party but guessing levon as my mum wanted to name me that until my old man stepped in like a asshat and made me a junior. Don’t worry, I got the last laugh.

  9. I have the same problem with old Bentley’s/Rolls that I do with most of the cool Porsches- I could perhaps afford to buy one, but I could never afford to maintain one.

    A routine brake job on these runs something like $5K. Anything complicated is going to be silly, if not stupid expensive. The theme song for these is pretty much “Good bye yellow gold bricks …” if you want to keep it on the road.

    1. “A routine brake job on these runs something like $5K.”

      Brake jobs tend to be trivial work. Any reason not to DIY? Are the pads priced like they were made out of compressed eminent pelts?

      1. Apparently I have exaggerated the costs… for which I apologize.

        ” Depending upon the extent of the brake job, where you live, and where you take the car for servicing, you will pay between $600 (to cover just the cost of the brake pads without labor) and $3,800 for a complete brake job (which involves replacing pads and rotors on each wheel).”

  10. Elton John has owned a lot of cars. A Ferrari Daytona he once owned has shown up a number of times at UK auctions in the last few years. I don’t think they attract any premium over a car of the same type and condition that doesn’t bare his name or the name of his company.

  11. I’m finally tired of hearing the terms MATED and SOURCED. Like engine mated to transmission. Parts difficult to source.

    these terms seem like something that seemed clever and intelligent once, and now just sound like something between fakery and elitism. can we stop it?

    1. Me I’m kinda tired of the words “fakery” and “elitism”.

      Yeah if the occupants of the interior have just spent their evening in the back seat (in this case a mental picture which would make me want the car less) it would be nice to have the reachable door handles when they’re done. Since my parent’s Malibu had a latch on the rear of the front seat backs to flip them forward I’m sure the Bentley does also.

    2. Glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. As someone who occasionally writes, I understand that the right synonymic phrases can be challenging. Sometimes, you just have to go for something more pedestrian or visual in stead of wearing out an already threadbare idiomatic phrase.

      For example, bolted, linked, tied, joined, instead of mated. Or, I don’t know, obtain, locate, acquire, procure, attain, for source.

          1. Knackered is way better. But 10 to 11yo me read all of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great & Small, and a couple of them have scenes with the ‘knacker-man’ that really got to me then: that inner kid can only apply knackered to something with literal intestines trailing into the muck…

            I should work on that

            1. I read all those about that age, too!

              It’s common metaphor in British bike mags, and I’ve heard it from plenty of English friends as a general term for anything worn-out or not worth repair.

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