|After getting to know the car, giving it a new set of brake discs and calipers, and taking it to Spain for a 1000 mile drive to Barcelona and back with the Bentley Drivers' Club, I made a list of things to be done, beginning with bodywork. There were some signs of incipient corrosion on the nearside sill and offside lower front wing; the mirror covers were scratched; the radiator shell would benefit from a repaint and re-alignment; the roof panel had "bloomed" in places (only noticeable from above - but I am fussy); the driver's door had dropped about an eighth of an inch and needed new hinge pins.|
Meanwhile, Bentley Westcountry (in Exeter) had gone into administration, leaving my nearest franchised dealership some 120 miles away in Cheltenham. Cutting a long story short, a local paint shop repainted the radiator shell and mirror covers, then the Bentley went to Reynolds of Rushock (authorized Bentley repairers near Droitwich) where the remaining work was done. The front bumper was removed to enable corroded metal to be removed from the bottom of the offside wheel arch; a new section was made, plated in and refinished; the driver's door was removed and refitted with new hinge pins and bushes, and the whole body was polished after repainting and flatting as required. This rectified the blotchy appearance of the roof and much improved the overall appearance of the car.
The following pictures show what a proper finish should look like when flatting and polishing have been carried out to Bentley standards. (Best seen on full-sized images.)
On recommendation from local Bentley Drivers' Club members, I took the car to Paul Mascard of Specialist Cars Southwest at Buckfastleigh for an opinion about the front suspension struts. The "active ride" had become pretty much inactive - not unusual after 90-odd thousand miles over 15 years. I decided to have new springs, struts, top plates and a routine service while the car was there, which should set it up for the summer season. This has transformed the ride and handling: the front end no longer wallows over undulating roads and one can attack with a degree of confidence the ramps, lumps, bumps and other useless obstructions now beloved of highway authorities.
| The doors of a Continental-R are larger than those of a 4-door car. The second door latch, behind the door pocket, allows rear seat passengers to let themselves out. The switch in front of the grab handle is for the window lift; the one behind the front latch operates the central locking. Note that the waist rail is unpunctuated by locking pins and, on this car, its veneer is continuous (no banding).
All the trim is leather, naturally. The strip of carpet along the bottom reduces the incidence of unsightly marks from infelicitously-deployed shoes.
| The switch near the top of the seat squab unlocks the backrest which, when tilted forward, actuates a motor that moves the seat fully foward. When the rear passenger is seated, a rearward touch on the switch motors the seat back to its previous position.
The chromed handle at the base of the squab is a mechanical unlock in case the unlocking solenoid should "fail to proceed".
| Like the late Turbo RL (long wheelbase) cars, the Continental-R has a single, wide central armrest, which forms the hinged top of a cubby-box, accommodating a CD autochanger and Motorola telephone handset yet still leaves generous space for personal impedimenta.
Underfoot, sheepskin overmats protect the Wilton carpeting, provide additional soundproofing and cosset with sybaritic softness the delicate feet of a Bentley passenger.
| The "easy entry" switches are duplicated on the inner faces of the front seat squabs.
On the front face of the central armrest's pedestal are the four-way joysticks controlling movement of the door mirrors. Mirror positions are remembered for each of up to four different positions for the driver's seat. The passenger seat also has a four-position memory, but does not, of course, need to be linked to the door mirrors.
The arm of the passenger's seat belt presenter can be seen on the right of this photograph. This gadget is a good idea when it works, but is not entirely reliable. My passenger's presenter is OK (so far), but I have to reach behind me for my belt. Oh, the effort! [Still not fixed - but more below.]
|Seen from above, the mirror's joysticks are at the bottom of this picure. Seat movements are controlled by moving the pictographic switches, three for each seat. Each switch represents a part of the seat:- backrest, front of cushion, rear of cushion. The four numbered buttons are used to return the seat to a previously-set position; Setting up is achieved by pressing the "MEM" button, followed by one of the numbered ones.|
| Rear seat passengers have two cubby-boxes, one beneath the central armrest and a lockable one in front of it. They also have duplicate switches for central locking (not visible in this picture). A remote control in the box allows rear passengers to control the radio/tape/CD player.
Very little use appears to have been made of the rear seats of my Bentley.
| Driver's instrumentation includes such luxuries as oil temperature (perhaps useful in the tropics), a "min oil" mark on the fuel gauge (approximate engine oil level is indicated when the appropriate button, above the ventilation controls, is pressed) and an external temperature display.
The "REFUEL" button releases the fuel filler door only when the ignition is "Off".
Alas, the central, chromed horn button engraved "Town" and "Country" on its opposite sides is but a bygone memory. Instead, an airbag disfigures the steering-wheel boss and a two-position button determines whether a mellow electric horn or strident Fiamm air-horn is sounded in response to thumb pressure on its upper spokes.
|Another airbag has taken the place of the veneered glovebox lid of older Bentleys. The glovebox lid now drops onto the passenger's shins when the lockable chromed button below the facia air vent is pressed. Its descent was once governed by a tiny hydraulic shock absorber embedded inaccessibly between the side of the glovebox and the outer vertical edge of the top roll; alas, mine no longer governs anything much and it is so infernally difficult to get to that I shall probably live with the tedious necessity of briefing my passenger to ease the lid down manually. [More below ...]|
With little to do whilst the weather made motoring pointlessly harrowing, I spent the last week or so of December dealing with the nagging belt-presenter issue and investigating the glove-box lid mechanism. Both, in my view, need modification: the glovebox damper seems not to be up to the job and would benefit from a spring to counterbalance the heavy lid. This remains on my "to-do" list. The presenter gearbox can, however, be strengthened by the addition of a sheet-steel box, fitted over its top at the point where end-thrust from the worm tends to break the backplate.
Pix of a disassembled gearbox added here, Nov 2013.
|These two pix (back and front respectively) show what happens when end-thrust exceeds the strength of the backplate. The wings of the steel quadrant-plate (RH pic) do not provide enough strength to the backplate. The LH pic shows the circular boss that mounts the assembly to the BC pillar. I found that I needed to add a packing washer between this and the pillar (see below).|
|Here, the finished sheet steel reinforcing box is shown fitted to a new gearbox assembly, together with the cardboard pattern that I made up as a guide for cutting out and bending the sheet steel.|
|This view from the top shows my reinforcing box, fitted beneath the quadrant-plate. The thickness of steel sheet used just allows this; it also has to fit between the end of the backplate and the spring clip that secures the drive cable (see next pic).|
|This end view shows the cable-securing clip in front of the top of the reinforcing box where the latter has been bent over. The clip comes with the gearbox assembly.|
|I also found it necessary to add a packing washer between the gearbox assembly and the BC pillar (see first pic) because the thickness of my reinforcing box fouled the moulding at the front of the pillar, causing misalignment. The packing needs to be a little more than twice the thickness of the reinforcing box.|
February 2010 [link to presenter gearbox disassembly added Nov 2013]