After six months, I finally came to the revelation my mechanic, the Car Wizard, had known the moment the car had arrived: My 2004 Bentley Continental GT was a hopelessly lost cause. For those who think I should have expected this when buying the cheapest Continental GT available sight-unseen — I actually thought I was being smart for a change.
When I found this Bentley at a dealer-only auction house in the Chicago area, it was listed with a "Buy It Now" price of only $29,000. I was looking at several other GTs at the same time, and this one was by far the cheapest. I ran the Carfax, I glanced over the squeaky-clean report, and I called the seller. While the auction house did describe some cosmetic issues, the car’s low mileage made it available for a mechanical inspection after the sale — or so I thought. The seller was quick to negotiate down to $27,700 — and when I mentioned I was going to have it inspected before finalizing the purchase, he eagerly agreed. With a few clicks on the computer, I committed to buying the car, and ordered the post-sale inspection.
What the seller probably knew, since he was so eager to agree to the terms, was that Bentleys and other exotics were ineligible for post-sale inspections with this wholesale network. I had used this service countless times before, and I didn’t remember this little detail plainly written in the fine print of the terms of sale. Even though the seller made this option available with his ad, the auction company could not provide any post-sale inspection or third-party protection — and since I was too stupid to read the fine print, I had to buy the car as-is. Unlike normal non-dealer transactions, I couldn’t just walk away, as I would be banned from this nationwide dealer auction network — and probably sued into purchasing the car anyway. So I crossed my fingers and hoped for a miracle.
Unfortunately, the car arrived barely running, and it was obvious from the beginning that my mechanic wanted nothing to do with it. In addition to the poorly running engine, there was a terrible vibration under acceleration, the air suspension controls didn’t respond, the instrument cluster LCD display was on the fritz, the air conditioning didn’t work and the windows were stuck down. The Car Wizard fixed the windows with a new switch panel, just so it could sit outside without getting destroyed. After a few months, he finally began investigating the issues, and found a massive vacuum leak deep inside the engine bay. He wasted an entire day fixing that problem, which caused the Bentley to run even worse, and filled his shop with smoke billowing from the exhaust.
We initially thought one of the turbos was bad on this massive 552-horsepower 12-cylinder engine — but before diving into the repair, The Car Wizard wanted to do a compression test. It took almost a month before he dragged himself back to the car — and unfortunately, the results weren’t good. The Wizard suspected the engine needed a valve job, which he had zero desire to do himself. If I wanted to move forward from this point, I needed to source a new motor. I was pretty dejected when I discovered the cheapest ones available were around $10,000.
I still may not have given up at this point if I had not discovered the real history of my Bentley months earlier. As it turns out, it had spent over a decade in Russia, where its odometer had been rolled back twice — and it had been seized by the government at least once. So my supposedly-47,000-mile Bentley actually had something like 147,000 miles on it — and while I found the story amusing at the time, I knew my Bentley’s value plummeted the moment I posted that information. Even if it were running perfectly, I would be lucky to sell it for what I paid, so spending another $10,000 on a motor was moronic. If the job ever got finished, I would have easily spent $15,000 to $20,000 in parts and repairs. When I came to the realization that lighting $20,000 on fire was smarter than continuing this lost cause — and when I told The Wizard I was giving up — he became downright giddy. He was so eager to see the car go, he actually forgave the current sizable bill that had already racked up with the repairs so far.
Now comes the real challenge of selling this nightmare, and I’m hoping my salvation will come in the salvage auction pools — where there seems to be an endless amount of people willing to overspend on lost-cause projects. I expect to take a really large financial hit from dumping it this way — but it should still cost way less than actually fixing it. For those who are disappointed by this seemingly rational decision, don’t worry! I’m returning true-to-form with my latest purchase unveil this Friday. Stay tuned… Find a used 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.