When I suggested that my latest suicidal purchase spent a decade in Russia, I was mostly joking. The Carfax on my 2004 Bentley Continental GT showed it was exported to Finland in 2007, and somehow made its way back into the United States within the last year. I purchased it at a dealer auction in Chicago for $27,700, making it the cheapest running Bentley Continental GT in the USA with a clean title. Since the seller had a heavy Russian accent, and since Finland shares a border with Russia, I made an uneducated guess about my car’s previous life — which, amazingly, turned out to be 100 percent true. See the 2004 Bentley Continental models for sale near you
After my post introducing this heavily depreciated Bentley, viewers from Finland and Russia offered their services to help dig up any history on the car. Both countries make registration records easily accessible to the public. With the VIN number, they were able to fill in the entire decade that was blank in the Carfax — and it wasn’t pretty.
The car was indeed imported to Finland to save on the expensive taxes and registration fees you’d pay if you imported it directly to Russia. Exporting luxury cars from the USA to Russia was a common occurrence 10 years ago, when record-high oil prices sent the Russian economy booming. Unfortunately, the many owners of my Bentley apparently fell on tough times. There were six owners reported during its time in Russia, and the Bentley was "confiscated" multiple times by the government. This was likely due to nonpayment of debt — but it’s easy to use your imagination to come up with other possible scenarios.
Even worse, my car has had the odometer rolled back at least twice. My Bentley currently shows only 47,000 original miles — just low enough to be attractive but also not raise any red flags with Carfax. Shortly before this GT was imported back to the USA, it was reported as having 120,000 kilometers, which is roughly 74,000 miles. A few years earlier, the car was reported as having 185,000 kilometers, or 115,000 miles.
I am told odometer statements are a recent addition to Russian vehicle records, as clocking clusters is a widespread problem there. I imagine it’s not too difficult to hack into the Volkswagen-based computer and reset the odometer — and apparently this is something many Russians do right before they sell their vehicle. So I will never really know how many miles my Bentley has actually traveled — but clearly it’s a lot.
Of course, Russia is known for its poorly maintained roads and crazy drivers — but, thankfully, my Bentley doesn’t seem to have been in any major accident. The front bumper was replaced at some point with a European-style bumper that doesn’t have any side markers, but otherwise all the panels seem straight and original. I’m also shocked by the lack of interior wear, given the harsh life this car was certainly subjected to.
As far as the repairs, there’s been some progress and encouraging news. My mechanic, The Car Wizard, was able to solve all my electrical issues by replacing the main switch panel on the driver’s door. A $200 rebuilt unit solved my dead trunk and fuel-door release, as well as my intermittent window control. The wizard also found a less extreme way to repair my vacuum lines — which is causing the 550-horsepower W12 to run like garbage. Instead of dropping the entire front subframe with the drivetrain, the wizard plans to remove the steering rack and reach around the bell-housing to replace all the brittle plastic vacuum lines with stronger generic brake lines.
The most obvious change I’ve made to the car was adding 19-inch wheels from a Continental GT with the optional luxury-oriented Mulliner package. This Bentley arrived with missing wheel caps, which would have cost $600 to replace. Since the wheels needed refinishing and, strangely, had snow tires on them, it made a lot more sense to buy this very attractive set of wheels for only $1,500 — especially since they came with nearly new tires.
While my car now has a very strange history that would send 99 percent of Bentley buyers running away in terror, it’s not all bad news. The Car Wizard should have this car up and running sooner and for less money than expected — but I’ve done this enough times to know those are famous last words. Wish me luck! Find a 2004 Bentley Continental for sale
Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.