Fulfillment of a Schoolboy’s Dream: a 1990 Bentley Turbo R
May 19, 2017
When Bill Jakeman was a schoolboy, the Blitz was raging in London.
Originally from the Windsor area, he was evacuated to a school in Wedmore, a small town near Bristol, for safety and recalled seeing a German Focke-Wulf 190 fighter strafing the street next to where he and a schoolmate were walking.
"We were taught to identify different aircraft in school," he said, "So I recognized it. A couple of Spitfires chased him away."
Since the savior Spitfires had Rolls Royce aircraft engines and Bentleys started using the 6.75 Litre Rolls Royce L engines in 1959, there might be a subliminal connection to Bill's appreciation of Bentleys.
"I loved them as a schoolboy," he said. "I finally bought one when I was an old man."
One reason Bill ascribes to his passion for Bentleys is their history. "I'm a history nut," he said. Walter Owen (W.O.) Bentley developed his first car in 1919 from experience building aircraft engines in World War I. Although already known as rugged racers when Captain Woolf Baranto took financial control in 1925, Bentleys became world-class competitors. The Bentley Boys, a cadre of wealthy and often ex-military men, drove them to many victories, including LeMans consecutive wins from 1927 to 1931. Trivia fans may remember that James Bond drove a 4 ½ Litre supercharged Bentley in the book Casino Royal, not an Astin Martin.
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These are the cars of a schoolboy's dreams.
About 18 months ago, a friend told him of finding an '80s Rolls Royce for sale online. It was listed as going up for auction with a ridiculous starting bid of only $5.00, obviously a come-on. They took a road trip to Santa Rosa to check it out.
"It was like that Rolls in the movie Caddy Shack," Bill remembered. "I suppose it was in reasonable shape, but needed a lot of money spent on it."
But the disappointing trip was cathartic.
"The wheels started turning," he said. "The Rolls Royce was too ostentatious, with that grille and all. I realized I'd rather have a Bentley. I decided I've got to get this done."
So Bill's car afficionado friend found a Bentley for sale in San Francisco and they made another road trip. It was a '90 Bentley Turbo R. While the "Turbo" is self-explanatory to many as turbo-charged, the "R" meant "Roadhandling." It came with "automatic ride control," with a retuned suspension that gave it exceptional handling for such a big car. Bill said, "It handles a bit rough when slow, but has a Detroit ride when you speed up."
Motor Trend magazine wrote that the Turbo R was "the first Bentley in decades deserving of the famous name." The Rolls Royce L engine unofficially put out 296 hp) with 486.8 ft-lb of torque. As for options, there were none. This hand-built beauty had everything possible standard. That included items like air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette, cruise control, power steering, brakes, windows and 6-way heated seats, which also had lumbar control.
For 1990, the car had about everything one could hope for and then some.
"I took the money with me in anticipation of it being good enough to buy," Bill said. "I was right. It was perfect. I bought it on the spot and my friend drove it home for me."
The car, with only 52,000 miles on the odometer ("Just broke in, by Bentley standards," Bill noted), was an exceptional car but did have a few issues. It was missing the owner's manual and the jack. His friend also noticed on the drive home that it needed a front end alignment. Bill found a correct owner's manual on eBay, but it cost him about $300. The previous owner called him to say he'd found the jack. However, he wanted to sell it to Bill.
"That was part of the car," Bill said. "I told him I wouldn't give him any money for it."
And he didn't. There are few shops that work on Bentleys, but Bill was fortunate to find a good one in Sacramento. Alex from British Motors did the front end alignment and, serendipitously, had a new jack for a reasonable price.
"I'd recommend him to anyone," Bill said. Best of all, he could also thumb his nose at the greedy previous owner. This Bentley is the first one Bill has ever owned and, as the English would say, he is quite chuffed to own it.
"I always considered the Bentley to be the ultimate driving machine and I was right," he said proudly. "It will do about 140 MPH, although I haven't done that."
He's put about 2,000 enjoyable miles on the car he calls The Beast since buying it. Sometimes boyhood dreams really do come true.
Ron Cherry's four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.