Bentley is restoring its first T-Series, representing a model that kept the automaker alive for about 15 years. The project is expected to be completed in 2023, at which point the first T-Series will join Bentley's heritage collection, the automaker said in a press release.
Launched in 1965, the T-Series was the first Bentley with a unibody design rather than body-on-frame construction. And where previously Bentley customers would source coachbuilt bodywork, every car left the factory with identical sheetmetal.
Bentley was owned by Rolls-Royce at the time, and the T-Series sedan was essentially a badge-engineered version of Rolls' Silver Shadow. The two cars looked virtually identical except for brand-specific grilles and hood ornaments.
First Bentley T-Series
The two models also shared hydraulic self-leveling suspension licensed from Citroën, and a 225-hp 6.25-liter V-8 that had launched in 1959 in the Bentley S2. At the time, it had the highest specific output of any production engine, at 2.7 pounds per hp, according to Bentley.
The pushrod engine pushed the T-Series from 0-62 mph in 10.9 seconds, and on to a top speed of 115 mph. Iterations of this engine, with more displacement, electronic fuel injection, and turbocharging, continued in production until 2020.
A total of 1,868 examples of the first-generation T-Series were built, most being sedans. A coupe was introduced in 1966, followed by a convertible a year later, but combined production of those two body styles totaled just 41 cars. A second-generation version, called the T2, launched in 1977 and stayed in production until 1980.
First Bentley T-Series
The car currently undergoing restoration was built on Sept. 28, 1965. Finished in Shell Grey with a blue leather interior, it was displayed at the 1965 Paris motor show and kept by Bentley for trials work.
The restoration started in October 2016, when a group of Bentley apprentices began removing trim and reconditioning the body. Restoration work was put on hold while Bentley focused on introducing a slate of new models, but started up again recently. The engine was started for the first time in 15 years, and both it and the transmission (a General Motors-designed Hydramatic unit) were found to be in good condition, according to Bentley.
When the restoration is completed, the first T-Series will join Bentley's heritage collection, providing a more complete picture of the automaker's long history.