Rolls-Royce contemplated a unibody design as early as 1957 in an effort to modernize the company’s product line, but the existing factory-bodied Silver Cloud was more economical to build and was selling in large numbers, so the Shadow wasn’t launched until late 1965. The model, along with its Bentley T1 twin, was the first Rolls-Royce to employ a unibody design.
The Bentley T1 was a drastic change from the S3 that preceded it. It was smaller, square, and unprepossessing. In all, just over 1,800 units were produced, including 9 long-wheelbase models, 115 coupes (of which 1 was from Pininfarina), and 41 convertibles. The remainder were standard steel saloons.
The T1 was lighter, faster, and better handling than preceding Bentleys, but the car didn’t possess the same cachet of the early models. Starting out with the 200-hp, 6,230-cc V-8 from the Silver Cloud III, the engine was expanded to 6,750 cc in 1970. GM’s Turbo Hydramatic 350, 3-speed automatic transmission was standard, except for the overseas models that got the Turbo Hydramatic 400. Power windows and four-wheel disc brakes were standard, and the rear suspension was self-leveling, based on the Citroen DS-19 hydraulic/hydrogen sphere system.
As one might expect, the finish on the new cars was exemplary, with Connolly leather interior, lambs-wool carpet, and walnut dash and door trims, with full instrumentation. Mileage was in the “if you have to ask” category, at about 10-12 mpg.
In 1977, Bentley introduced the T2 (and the twin Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II), which was essentially a T1 with rack-and-pinion steering, minor bumper differences, and a slightly firmer front suspension. The car cost nearly $85,000 new and remained in production until 1980, at which point is was replaced by the Bentley Mulsanne.
As good as the T-Types were, production numbers were relatively high for the Crewe company (nearly 2,400 in all). Furthermore, as the cars transitioned from being the height of modern luxury to yesterday’s news, values plummeted and maintenance was often deferred. Repair costs of forsaken T1s soon surpassed their retail value, and many of the first series cars suffered. T1s can still be found for relatively little money, but popular wisdom advises that “the wrong car can be a bad deal free.” Understand Bentley T-Type repair costs before pursuing ownership, and then find the best example possibile.
Areas of particular expensive concern include the complex brake system, the complicated Citroen-designed rear suspension, and rust in general. Right-hand-drive cars often came to the U.S. after failing an MOT, and should be approached with caution. Instead, consider only vehicles with complete maintenance and ownership documents, preferably from the original owner.