Bargain Barges

There have been plenty of cars that’ve unexpectedly become worth a small fortune over the years, and speculating about what the next solid investment vehicle (that’s actually a vehicle) might be can yield some unexpected results. This car though, this car... isn’t one of those. But it is jolly-well cheap for what it is.

Once the preserve of aristocrats, respected world leaders and the Sultan of Brunei, around the turn of this century Bentley bigwigs decided that their vehicles were taking too much market share from stablemate Rolls Royce, prompting the decision to introduce a mass-produced, rather than coach-built, model to their range. 

In 2003 that model arrived in the form of the Continental GT, with its disappointingly plastic grille and bargain-basement price tag of around a mere £110,000, making it the most accessible Bentley in the marque’s history. Add to that a top speed of 208mph according to a road test carried out by a very prominent British magazine, the departure from that 6.75 litre V8 that originally powered Noah’s Ark in favour of Volkswagen’s barmy W12 engine (essentially two VR6 motors in one) with a couple of turbos bolted on for good measure, and a clock on the dashboard courtesy of Breitling and you had a recipe for converting the G in gansta-rapper from Mercedes’ G-Wagen to Bentley’s GT. Why put your name down for an old-fashioned looking Arnage Red Label when you could get this newly-designed Bentley model for sixty G’s less, after all?

The spec on these cars is expectedly huge, with seats that’ll massage you and I’m absolutely convinced that the heated seats go up to six, which isn’t quite a This is Spinal Tap homage, but it still begs the question; why not just make 5, warmer? (See Gallery issue 48, December 2008). It’s got a staggering 550 to 600 horsepower depending on the version, has aged incredibly gracefully and you can now pick one up for just fifteen grand. Fifteen grand! In all honesty, I thought they were probably a half decent buy at £40k a couple of years ago. With depreciation as epic as the rate at which it’ll consume petrol, what have you got to lose? Far less than anyone selling a one-owner example, that’s for sure.

If one wishes to waft effortlessly across Europe in a heartbeat and isn’t afraid to plunge a few quid into fixing things when one’s vehicle becomes a bit squiffy, now’s your chance. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t reckon that a Continental GT is going to make a good investment (although a similarly-priced Arnage might well do, especially the rarer BMW-engined version and one) but if you’re willing to take a punt on a luxury car for the price of a modern hatchback the Continental GT could be worth investigating. Very, very carefully. 

Steering clear of anything on Autotrader that looks ‘murdered-out’ in black on black on black with drug-dealer black window tints, or anything with a dubious duotone vinyl wrap that could’ve once been owned by a division one footballer - just in case the rear seats have seen things that only two people have ever seen and might not wish to see again - there seem to be some honest-looking bargains to be had. As you might expect, there are a few with intergalactic mileages being advertised, but that’s probably a testament to Volkswag... I mean Bentley’s excellent engineering prowess, so with that in mind maybe go for one with under 100k on it in the hope that it goes for another 100,000 miles without too much bother. At the time of writing, there were 54 Continental GTs and Flying Spurs for sale on Autotrader for under £20,000 and I’ll be genuinely surprised if they get much cheaper - at this price you might as well run them into the ground or break them for spares when something fails in a spectacularly expensive fashion. Even if you aren’t looking for a potentially risky grand-tourer at a great price, it’s worth perusing them on Autotrader  purely to amuse yourself by admiring the vast array of hilariously crap number plates attached to some of them (D11YMO and M1 KFC are two of my favourites).

With fixed-price servicing plans available from dealers in the UK, notably one that’ll provide one major and one minor service for £1,620 (also payable in monthly instalments of £90), munching up miles in one of these British-ish bruisers might not be as financially painful as you’d expect. Of course, if it does all go pear-shaped you’ll probably be able to claw back all of the money you’ve shovelled in over time by parting it out, if you can be bothered. 

Buy one, cross your fingers, enjoy a warm massage and some ice-cold AC, ignore the frequency with which you have to fill it up and run it into the ground, I say. Tell everyone you’ll be replacing it with an electric car in 2040 when it finally reaches its end of life anyway so it might as well continue being driven until then, and keep an eye out for environmental activists waiting to hurl balloons filled with red paint at you.

Sure, there are plenty of excellent used cars out there in the sub-£20k bracket, but none of them with the slightly watered-down prestige of Crewe’s second finest brand. Having extolled the virtues of meagre-priced modern Bentley though, personally I rate the kingfisher blue 1992 Bentley Turbo R (pictured) that’s on Autotrader at just £8,500 as an excellent way to see absolutely zero financial return on investment. But it does look a million dollars... Oof.

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As featured in issue 169 of Gallery magazine published 1st December 2019. www.gallery.je
Words and images written, shot and edited by Russ Atkinson (not to be reproduced without permission).
Bargain Barges
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