Rare Rides: A 1988 Bentley Eight, the Ace of Base

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Recently we featured a flagship Bentley in the Azure convertible, which was among the most expensive production cars money could buy. Today we have a look at the cheapest Bentley available – the Eight. Let’s check out the Bentley for poor people.

A simple look at the headline photo will have most readers considering the very similar Turbo R. That’s logical, as it’s the best known variation of Bentley’s singular sedan offering for the Eighties and most of the Nineties. Time for some model history.

The first “modern” square body Bentley debuted in 1980, with the Mulsanne. The range expanded in 1982 with the Mulsanne Turbo, and in 1984 Bentley reached below the basic Mulsanne with the Eight. By 1988 the base Mulsanne became the Mulsanne S, and the Mulsanne Turbo switched identities and was renamed Turbo R. In the Nineties there was a bit more model shuffling: The Eight went away, Mulsanne S became the Brooklands, and played entry-level for Turbo R. In 1997, the Turbo R became the Turbo RT with some further revisions, and the Brooklands faded away in favor of the all-new Arnage (overdue after some 17 years). The final Turbo RTs rolled out of the factory in 1998, as Bentley by Vickers became Bentley by Volkswagen. Let’s head back to Eight.

As an entry-level model, Bentley made some effort to distinguish the Eight from its more expensive brother. Primary among the changes were a mesh grille in place of the slats worn by the Mulsanne, as well as a lower level of power equipment. More of a corner carver than other offerings, the Eight also had a firmer suspension. Upon introduction, the Eight had a cloth interior, steel wheels, and a carburetor. That kept the price under £50,000 in the UK, which was important to portray its affordability to customers. Through 1985 there were no anti-lock brakes, and memory seats didn’t appear until 1987. Automatic ride leveling was added as a standard feature in 1990.

Throughout its run, the Eight used the most basic engine Bentley had available: the 6.75-liter Rolls-Royce V8. Most examples were equipped with a three-speed automatic, but at the last moment in 1992 the box was upgraded to a four-speed GM 4L80-E.

Finished with their entry-level pandering, 1993 saw Bentley’s sedan offerings pared down to the Brooklands and Turbo R. Though the Eight remained production for nine years, just 1,736 examples were hand-built at the Crewe factory. Today’s Rare Ride is sporty in red over grey hides, with contrast red piping. In excellent condition and with 68,000 miles, it asks $18,600.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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5 of 20 comments
  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Apr 01, 2020

    Really curious who the intended audience was, even in 1988, for a giant Bentley with wheel covers, manual climate sliders, and no overdrive. A mid-trim Ford Taurus with a couple option packages was better-equipped than this.

    • See 2 previous
    • Lie2me Lie2me on Apr 01, 2020

      @EGSE Lol, what did you just say? Coffee before typing :)

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Apr 07, 2020

    I would love the Turbo R from this era, at least until I really had to do care and feeding of it. The paint/interior combo here is truly awful in my eyes.

  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.
  • TheEndlessEnigma A '95 in Iowa, I'm thinking significant frame and underbody rust issues.