Classic Cars: 1960 Bentley S-Series

The 1960 Bentley, S-Series or otherwise, was a complete surprise. Classic cars were not on the agenda when Pam and I headed over to her son’s house. Rather, the plan was for her and Zach to get some mother-son time, a bit of long overdue interaction with other family members, and most importantly meet her newest grandson. She’s got seven of those now, without a single granddaughter in the bunch, spread out through three descendant families in three different states. Could be a message in there somewhere.

Not until we were getting ready to leave did Zach (Pam’s son) mention that “Dave is here, out in the shop.” Dave Jordan, Zach’s uncle in law on his father’s side, had driven his RV bus out from Texas, towing his latest hobby project, which turned out to be the Bentley. Pam and Dave hadn’t seen each other for more than twenty years; their reunion was warm and cordial and good for the heart. First time I’d met the man, and I was impressed.

I was also impressed with his project. I’ve never owned a Rolls Royce or a Bentley or any other British luxury vehicle, but Bentleys are cool. Okay, they shout “Money!” but they’re still cool. The gleaming black and silver gem was up on the rack in Zach’s shop, though the engine, radiator, and hood (bonnet in Merry Old England, eh?) were missing. The engine had some problems, so had been removed to have the necessary work done. It didn’t take long to ask Dave for permission to write about his newest baby, he gave the okay, and here we go. While circling the car with my camera in hand, taking pictures from as many angles as possible, I remarked, “That’s one beautiful machine!” No false flattery, either; it really is.

Dave Jordan’s 1960 Bentley S-Series, momentarily without its radiator, engine, and hood (bonnet).

Beautiful bumper, too, right? Looks like it could, you know, bump stuff and the stuff would know it got bumped. The heck with today’s deliberately crushable front ends; this front end will crush whatever it hits–which seems a whole lot safer than the other format.

Dave pointed out a few little extra touches you don’t find in your average, say, Ford or Chevrolet. Items that came with the car, right from the factory: A “torch” (flashlight) with a fairly lengthy cord that could plug into the cigarette lighter, and a modest set of tools. The only tools we see included on most American cars are what? Yep, jack handle and/or lug wrench, and that’s about it. But the practical feature that beats everything else hands down is the setup for storage of the spare tire. The 1960 Bentley’s trunk is a double decker–cargo storage in the top section, with a “lower floor” compartment specifically for the tire that leaves it about as accessible as you can get.

The 1960 Bentley’s double decker trunk provides the most accessible spare tire storage imaginable.

History of the Bentley (Bentley Motors Ltd.)? Maybe we shouldn’t even mention that. After all, Bentley is an icon, with most cars being hand built–get that, hand built!–in Crewe, England. We might not want to tell our readers that after being once acquired by Rolls Royce, later nationalized, owned by Vickers, and in 1998 acquired as a subsidiary of…Volkswagen?!

Sorry, folks. It’s no joke. Volkswagen it is, although operated separately. At least it wasn’t owned by VW in 1960 when Jordan’s jewel was crafted. No, at that point it was owned by the British engineering conglomerate, Vickers. Whew! Dodged a bullet, right there! That would be terrible, being a British luxury car and having to report to the folks who make…the Beetle.

Bentley logo.

Roughly thirty years ago, when I was starting to make waves in the multilievel marketing industry with a distributorship that promised to generate some serious income, I started dreaming about a “big money car” and settled on the Bentley. Rolls Royce was too much like…wearing a Rolex watch or something. But the Bentley, at least in its sales literature, looked pretty spiffy. The distributorship never did produce that kind of cash to burn, but for a while a brand new Bentley looked pretty good. A bit of extra motivation and all that. Now I’d rather acquire an early Chevy or GMC four wheel drive Suburban with barn doors, but hey, we all have our insane moments. (Well, most of us do. There are some stable people out there. Or so they say.)

But picking up an older Bentley, a classic like this 1960 S-Series, never crossed my mind. An early Thunderbird for the wife who helped me build the business, that was in the dream-cards, you betcha. But an early Bentley? Nope. Now Dave Jordan has tempted me, because that 1960 of his really is a bee-yoo-ti-ful hunk of iron. Not that the temptation is overwhelming, but it’s really easy to understand why he loves that car.

Yep. That’s what a car SHOULD look like!

Even without the radiator (and grille, of course), engine, and bonnet, the lines of the 1960 Bentley are awesome.

Now, that’s a bumper.

Those leather seats don’t look bad at all for being 57 years old.

Interesting instrumentation.

There were questions I should have thought to ask Dave about his car, but they never crossed my mind until later. Not what he paid for it, as (a) that’s none of my business and (b) he likely wouldn’t want that published (unless he got a real steal of a deal). But things like the exact model in the S-Series, the size of the engine, etc. As it is, we’ll have to go with what we’ve got.

18 thoughts on “Classic Cars: 1960 Bentley S-Series

  1. We can drool over the lines of a car, and still not get one. That is a really pretty car. I have been wanting a pick-up and I am balking about paying the price for one. They are really expensive. And I am really cheap, I guess. I am the one that has not made payments on a vehicle in over 30 years, ya know.
    Van is running good, but I have always hated driving a van. I just thought I would get out of it, now that I can. They are kind of practical, will hold the whole family and haul a lot of cargo.

  2. Absolutely, Becky; I like the lines of this Bentley about as well as any vehicle I’ve ever seen. And no, I’m not going to go out and buy one, either. Living remote as I do, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense–a Bentley is hardly a Land Rover! 😀

    It’s been a while since I made car payments, too, but not 30 years. Bought the Subaru Outback (that went to Zach a while back) in September of 2001 and made payments until…it was late 2002 or early 2003 when we paid it off. I would seriously like vans if they weren’t all snubnosed with the engine sitting halfway back under the passenger cab. Prefer those engines out there where they’re easy to get at–and for that matter, used to love my 1952 Chevy with its straight 6 engine, which left LOTS of room under the hood. You could get to everything, pretty much, without breaking a sweat.

    Pickups are expensive, yes; they don’t depreciate nearly as fast as most cars do. Except for the classic collectible cars, of course, AFTER they’ve been “identified” as being classics. The 1956 Chevy Vicky (first wife) and I had was traded in on a new 1966 Chevy pickup for exactly $60 in trade-in; nobody then had any idea the ten year old beater (it needed some serious TLC) would someday be worth a bunch.

  3. Becky, I had a 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan and is is a wonderful vehicle, sitting 7 adults comfortably, and serving to do college moving trips for both my youngest daughters with no problem. I acually bought a roof rack bag for extra luggage transport and never needed to use it. It was also great to drive. And, my dear Ghost, it has the motor in the front, as should be. But it does have electronics that were messing up and forced to get another car.
    As for a Bentley or other expensive car, a friend and former teacher had a classic Lamborghini, and he rarely drove it because it was a pain to get parts. Older cars have that problem.
    Now, we have a 4X4 Toyota Rav4, and it seems pretty good though I haven’t driven it yet… Maybe when I visit the salt flats and there is no danger of people or trees running in front of the car! LOL
    Manny

  4. Awesome comment, Manny. The salt flats sound like an excellent venue for keeping those pesky people and trees away!

    I’d forgotten about the Grand Caravan design. My sister owned the Plymouth version at one time and did well with it, but the only vans I’ve ever driving (and I’ve never owned one) were full sized snub nosed versions.

    Speaking of Bentley parts, Zach told me this evening (I was at his place while he swapped out radios in my truck) that Dave’s Bentley engine is undergoing a complete overhaul–and that ONE Bentley piston costs $900 (NINE HUNDRED) dollars. Yeeowch!

    The radio swap: My favorite truck, the 1996 GMC Sierra, wore out the radio about a year ago. I’d had it replaced with a modern Alpine unit that was an Inventor’s Dream–that is, it motivates the owner to invent new cuss words every day. Sound was not even CLOSE to the OEM (original equipment) Delco–despite being hooked to the very same speakers–and the controls were a user’s digital nightmare compared to the simplicity of the Delco setup. Dealerships won’t even talk to a customer about replacing a 21 year old radio as GM no longer makes them, so Zach got me off the dime by researching refurbished units on his Smartphone. When I Googled a bit later, it didn’t take long to find one that was refurbished in “a certified Delco facility.” WOW, is it nice to have the truck’s original sound back. It’ll make the Utah runs much more pleasant, especially for Pam, who has the touchy, sensitive ear of a true audiophile.

  5. Manny, My husband was in love with his vans. We have had a dozen or more over the years. We have had mini vans, full sized and right now, I have amid-sized Astro. I like this one better than most of them. I really liked the Aerostar, because it was a standard and was fun to drive. That is the only one we have had that was a standard. I prefer a standard. They all have the motor between the seats and it was always in the way. They all were 7-8 passenger and they still had room for luggage.
    I also have had a 78 Impala 9 passenger station wagon I liked. You load it up and you didn’t even have room for a purse. It was great for when there were 5 of us and I needed to go to the grocery. Open the back seat up and the foot well kept the bags contained nicely. When we weren’t hauling groceries, it worked well to keep the 16 year old away from the 4 and 6 year olds. That was a priceless gift, because he picked on them, especially when they would want to play with him.
    I no longer need to worry about what he wants, now I can get something that I want. That is what is so hard, trying to figure out what I want. I think I want a truck, but I am balky about wanting to make payments.

  6. Becky, I’m sure the answer will come to you. 🙂 We miss our grand caravan, but the new car is better for city driving (and parking!). Since you live in the wild outdoors though, you need a vehicle that is easy to maintain, easy to repair, and easy to use for transporting heavy stuff from one place to another. the Pickup truck sounds good for that.
    Take care and good luck with your pickup truck search!
    Manny

  7. Becky and Manny: You weren’t addressing me this time, but your remarks nonetheless made me realize I’ve come full circle. Fifty-eight year ago, when I first got my driver’s license at the age of fifteen, the only vehicle I could drive anywhere–with specific permission, of course–was my Dad’s ranch pickup, a red 1955 Ford short box pickup. A year later Dad got me a car of my own, possibly motivated by the desire to end the need for sharing his pickup; I never thought about that until this very moment. Over the ensuing decades, I had a whole lot of different cars and a few trucks, with cars accounting for most of the mileage by a huge margin–until just a couple of years ago here at the Border Fort, when we gave the Subaru Outback to Pam’s son and I knew my primary transportation henceforth would always be a pickup truck.

    “Always,” that is, unless civilization crashes and it’s back to the horse and buggy….

  8. Yes Manny and Fred, all those are true, except for one thing. The Astro is built on a truck bed, is not fancy and is easy to maintain. The suspension on it is built up and essentially a 1/2 ton and it will haul just about anything I need to haul. It also runs exceptionally well and I think I have decided to keep it for a while unless something outstanding comes along. I think I will just save my money for when I need it. I do not need a truck, when I have an enclosed truck.
    I am going to work on fixing the few problems it has, like the broken door handles and the broken seat. I am looking for a seat to replace the passenger front, because the back broke on it. I think I can find a seat in good shape for about $50. I have the door handles ordered already and they were only $25. The paint on the hood is faded to nothing and I will paint it with a flat black primer and then spray it with a gloss navy and it will last several more years. I have done that before and if you do it right, it works well.
    Then the whole thing will be in good shape. I was looking last night and the only trucks I found that I thought I could afford had more miles on them than the van and got lousy gas mileage. I get about 22 mpg. I can take seats out and add them according to the cargo I am carrying. I think that will work well for me.

  9. Sounds wonderful, Becky! I guess you found out the grass on the other side of the fence is not at all greener! 😀 If the Astro is perfect for you, why change it?
    Fred, my godfather had an old short bed Ford Pickup Trruck too, blue, I think, and it was awesome though he rarely let me or his kids drive it… 😉 It was great for hauling vegetables and coconuts and mangoes to the market, with us boys in the back, bouncing away! 🙂 Great memories. But as a family man in modern times I was not able to justify getting a pickup truck of my own, since my friends would always help out. 🙂 And it did keep me from hauling refrigerators and other huge stuff around from my friends! LOL.
    Manny

  10. Becky: Excellent points you’ve made. Hands down the most versatile vehicle I’ve ever owned, period…was supposed to be a simple little car, a gray 1984 Chevy Citation I bought “thoroughly used” from a young Chinese American couple in early 1998. Pam was living semi-separately in a South Dakota high rise for the elderly and disabled at the time and didn’t need wheels, but I surely did; a contender for World’s Nastiest Finance Company was working hard to repossess my 1991 Cougar–a fine road machine, but I was two payments behind–and the Citation’s owners were facing tuition costs for their next terms in grad school.

    When I acquired the Citation, it pulled sideways HARD (out of alignment) and had rags for tires, and other challenges developed later, but that car never failed to do what I asked of it. Pam was back under the same roof with me by mid-August of that year, and in July of 1999 we moved to an off grid acreage in Montana. It was a hatchback and hauled items you’d have THOUGHT would need a pickup truck: A full sized couch one time, sizeable river rocks to pack around the casing for two hand dug wells, you name it. Having something on a real truck frame like your Astro would have been nice!

    It wore completely out at around 140,000 miles. Traded it in on a Finance-It-Here 1968 4 door Impala, then a year after that traded the Impala in on the Subaru Outback.
    —————————-
    Manny: The demands on any man with an available pickup truck (friends needing to move stuff) is no joke; I’ve seen that in action–not my truck, but when I was living in San Diego and needed to move and a “friend of a friend” showed up with a truck. Where we choose to live these days, be it in Arizona or Montana, a LOT of people in the area drive pickups. Plus, I’m about half hermit by nature and don’t rack up much of a list of friends anyway, so….:)

    Occupied my memory on the way to town today and “discovered” I’ve (to date) owned a total of 11 pickups at one time or another, eight of them being made by General Motors (either Chevy or GMC), one International, and two Fords. The IHC and both Fords were “elderly” when purchased, the best of those being a 4WD Ford an ex and I bought in 1990. First road trip we took, that one blew an engine entirely en route. Replaced the engine, a few years later replaced the wife, and she kept the truck!

  11. Fred, the really funny thing is; the van has 250,000 miles on it and today it broke. The fuel pump went out as I went around a corner and it died as it was entering the McDonalds parking lot. It was stuck there until the tow truck got there and brought it home. David will see about getting the fuel pump for it Mon. He has to work tomorrow and he will see about getting the gas tank dropped and get it changed Mon or Tues. Only the second time it has broken in the three years I have had it, and both common maintenance things.
    Meanwhile Katy is looking for a ride to school until it gets fixed. I just about went and bought a small car this afternoon to get by until then. She needs a car anyway and I saw one for $1000 on Craigslist. It is a 2003 with a good running but looks crappy ad. I am tired of running the whole family around because no one has a car, except David’s girl and she uses it to get to work. I take him when she has to be at work hours before him. He found another ride for tomorrow.

  12. “Funny” not as in “Ha! Ha!” obviously. It was a few months ago when the same thing happened to our white 2002 pickup–and of course it had to happen while the other truck was in the shop. Nearly died in the one way corridor across the San Pedro River bridge on 92, which would have been ugly. Fortunately made it to the wide spot not far from several businesses, but yeah. When a fuel pump goes, you know it!

  13. I can’t say those old Bentley lines appeal to my sense of aesthetic. Mind you, I can stare at those pictures without feeling nauseated, which is more than I can say for so many vehicles on the road today, the new ones as well as the majority born during the ‘Soulless 90s’. I’m sure if I saw the Bentley up close I could appreciate the attention to detail and quality. I love that it came with a flashlight and set of tools, and the spare tire compartment is genius in its simplicity.

    I don’t know anything about British cars, but there’s one that caught my eye when I found a matchbox die-cast model: an MG 1100, apparently one of several cars from the British Motor Company’s ADO16 family. I suspect that “Series No. 64” refers to the model year and not the 1/64 scale size, but I’m not sure.

  14. I’m certainly no expert on British cars, either, Leonid. And of course each of us has his (or her) own sense of what is aesthetically pleasing or not. I wasn’t familiar with the MG 1100 and had to go look it up on Google Images. No MG does it for me, but I have to say the 1100 looks more practical (by far) than the little sporty coupes. (A sports car fan I’ve NEVER been, always looking for hauling capacity. Don’t mind looking at some of the early Mustangs and T-birds but would never want to own one.)

    Never really thought about the ’90’s being “soulless” in design. Liked the ’91 Mercury Cougar I owned briefly and love the ’96 GMC Sierra pickup truck that is my daily driver today. The GMC isn’t exactly a “car,” of course.

    Bottom line, one thing where you and I are in total agreement: Today’s car designs don’t cut it.

  15. I think I know what Leonid means by ‘soulless’. They are all the same, no character to them. I can’t tell the difference between one car and the other anymore. My sons were always amazed that mom could tell the different cars apart. The ’60s and ’70s were each their own design. Then during the ’80s, they all started to look alike. I could no longer tell the difference between the Cougars and the Bonneville. I miss the days when I could tell them apart.
    I did find a 2005 pickup on Craigslist that I was really tempted on. It has a camper shell on it and looks really good and clean. Less than half the miles on it as my van. Only $7300. I am still waiting on that check I mentioned though, and do not have enough. I did start getting the widows pension finally and got a couple months back pay, but not that much. I am big on working with what I have. Then I do not need to make payments.
    I also am worried about making a “panic” decision, based on not having a working vehicle. I have gone too much time with no vehicle to be happy without one and I do live kinda far out of town. But do I really ‘need’ a 2nd vehicle? No, but my daughter needs to get one. I am tired of running her around or listening to her complain because she is bored when she is here.

  16. Yes, panic decisions can turn out unpredictable, for sure. My acquisition of the 1984 Citation in early 1998 was absolutely a panic decision as I had something like 14 hours left to turn in the Cougar (voluntary repo agreement) and had nothing else to drive–plus, lived wa-ay out in the country at the time with no neighbors in sight.

    The distinction between “need” and “want” when it comes to a 2nd vehicle…that’s tricky, too. Living in town, for me anyway, it falls in the “want” category, at least if some sort of public transportation is locally available. Living way out puts a different shine on it. Even in recent years, there have been multiple times when one vehicle or another needed to be left at the repair shop overnight or longer. Not having vehicle #2 available to cover the gap would be…well, a minor irritation in most cases, but of fairly drastic concern in a few.

    On the ranch when I was growing up, Dad (Mom never drove) only had the one pickup truck, but he did have a 2 1/2 ton stock truck that could pinch hit if necessary. Fortunately, once he got that 1955 Ford, it never seemed to break down, just kept going and going. (Prior to that I was too young for such things to really register, though I can dimly recall predecessors to the Ford that included a yellow Harley motorcycle, a red Diamond Reo truck of some sort, and an early Mercury station wagon.)

    The “daughter issue” does sound like a need!

    I do agree completely about the “cookie cutter” vehicles that are difficult to identify because they look so much alike. It obviously stems from the good old greed based fear of the bottom line, follow the leader, copy whoever’s selling the most units and try to pretend you’re not. Frankly, I have the same difficulty with most of today’s country singers (country being about all I listen to, when I do listen). There are two conjoined problem streams with those: Sounding alike, and the abandonment of the old school radio system where the DJ would TELL you who was singing a given song, and sooner or later you’d lock in that singer’s voice. Maybe we could get the car companies to adopt something like that–have a neon sign flashing, saying something like, “I’m a Ford, — it, not a Toyota!”

    In the mid-1950’s, a Ford Crown Victoria was (among my peers, anyway) deemed a more admirable machine than was the Chevy Bel Air. History flipped that, and a cherry 1956 Chevy goes for a whole lot more money than a 1956 Ford. But no such distinction could have been made if those two looked alike.

  17. What a beautiful car! My dream car has always been a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Not sure of the year, but the model in my head was built in the 1950’s. As such, you can understand my appreciation of this beautiful Bentley.

    I agree – that’s some kinda car!

  18. There you go, Sha; a Silver Cloud from the fifties sounds like an awesome dream car to me. Not that I’d ever spend the money to buy one even if I could, preferring to live in four wheel drive country and also preferring not to make myself a target by driving something like that, but still.

    It’s good to see you agreeing with me about the Bentley. 😀

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