1981 BENTLEY Corniche Convertible For Sale by Auction (2023)



The Corniche was a development of the two-door Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow built by Mulliner Park Ward from the mid-sixties. It was relaunched as the Corniche in 1971 in both Saloon and Convertible form and was available with either Rolls-Royce or Bentley badging. Whilst the hard-top ceased production in 1981, the drop-top continued to be built until 1984, when the Bentley variant assumed the name Continental.

Being based on the Silver Shadow (aka Bentley T1) meant that it was fast, very civilised (thanks to the hydraulic self-levelling system from Citroen) and could be maintained at relatively little cost. And while the Corniche drives very similarly to the Silver Shadow, it has a stronger and stiffer bodyshell than that of the four-door car, to the benefit of both ride and handling. Such handling would be useful if taken along the winding coastal roads of the French Riviera which gave the car its glamorous name.

Propulsion comes from the standard Rolls-Royce 6.75-litre V8, which delivers its 237bhp through a 3-speed automatic transmission.

In 1977 a slight styling update followed the introduction of the Silver Shadow II and Bentley T2. The chief visual clue being the change from chrome-plated steel bumpers to alloy and rubber.

Although all-but-identical to the Rolls-Royce save for the front grille and badges, the Bentley Corniche was produced in far fewer numbers. Whereas 1,090 saloons and 3,239 convertibles left the factory bearing the Spirit of Ecstasy, only 63 and 77 respectively bore the Flying B.

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The Vehicle

This Bentley T2-era Corniche Convertible was built in December 1981 and first supplied by Jack Barclay in February 1982.

Sadly, and in hindsight unwisely, the vendor sent some of the car’s provenance to a would-be buyer in the Netherlands and it has never been returned. Anecdotally therefore, it is understood that the car was first registered in the name of Robert Maxwell’s company, and that an extra cigar lighter and ashtray was installed in the rear for his benefit.

What we can prove is that the first owner split their time between the London area and Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Judging by the service record, they owned the car for at least 10 years, well into the 1990s.

The second owner - understood to be from Spain - also kept the car on the continent, in the south of France. Again, this is a verbal account due to the loss of the provenance.

The current owner - the car’s third - bought the car in June 1999 from P&A Wood Rolls-Royce and Bentley Heritage Dealers of Great Dunmow in Essex. They may have recollection of the previous owners, depending on what records they keep.

He hasn’t used the car a huge amount, just for leisure purposes and to date it has covered just under 37,000 miles, which for a 41 year old car is very low mileage - despite the jaunts around Europe.

(Video) Frank Sinatra's 1984 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible for sale with Silverstone Auctions

Although the owner is very fond of this majestic vehicle, a move of house has resulted in a loss of storage space for the car. Unfortunate for him, lucky for someone else… you maybe?

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On the Outside

The exterior bodywork of the Corniche is finished in Georgian Silver. The paint and bodywork is in a very good condition for the age of the car, with just the odd stone chip, a scrape up the driver’s door edge and a dent to the front chin spoiler. Panel gaps and shut lines appear straight and even, and the chrome bright work presents in a great condition.

Previously vinyl-covered, the folding roof was retrimmed in 2019. It now presents in a fabulous condition, with the fabric stretching nice and tightly across the frame when deployed and folding away neatly under a fitted tonneau. The tonneau cover itself is in reasonable condition but has a few nicks in the piping around the rear. The rear window is a vinyl flexglas screen but is largely clear and free from creases, although over-vigorous cleaning appears to have caused some light scratching.

The only other minor modification that the current owner has made is the addition of the nearside door mirror.

The Corniche sits on its original 15-inch steel wheels, with chromed Bentley “dog dish” hubcaps and embellishers, which are in good order with just a few small dents. The tyres appear to be a mix of Goodyear Eagles and Avon Turbosteels with a white stripe applied to the sidewalls.

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On the Inside

The interior is upholstered in a dark blue, with a combination of leather upholstery, matching vinyl and a classic book-matched wood veneer across the dashboard fascia and on the door tops. With the roof down, the dark blue and varnished wood complement the silver exterior very nicely.

The leather seats are incredibly accommodating (by which we mean huge) and appear in a very good condition, with no apparent tears or undue wear. Each front occupant has their own fold-down armrest on the inner side of the seat, matching an adjustable-height armrest in each door. The rear seats also look in good order with just a light scratch in the leather here and there.

The carpets look original and are also fairly clean and free of damage. The lining of the roof is very clean and intact but it does appear a little loose fitting at the sides above the headrests. It is possible that this is intentional to allow folding but it doesn’t look quite as it should.

The cabin is, as you might expect from Bentley, a very comfortable and luxurious place to be while you waft around the countryside. By way of musical entertainment there is a period Blaupunkt AM/FM radio fitted to the upper centre console and a retro Pioneer tape deck lower down below the vents.

However, there are a few niggles that could do with being fixed:

- Cruise control doesn’t seem to work

(Video) 1980 Rolls Royce Corniche Convertible

- Glove box sometimes jams

- Petrol cap dashboard remote release not working

- Front electric seats rather slow

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Under the well-insulated, front-hinged bonnet, the engine bay looks clean and tidy and well looked after without being overly prepared. The vendor reports that although it has been well maintained, no restoration work has been undertaken on the engine, as it simply hasn’t required any.

The undersides of the car haven’t been checked during an MOT for almost two years, so we would always recommend a proper inspection. Take a good look at the detailed photographs of the underneath of the car in the gallery and use the ‘Contact Seller’ option to ask any specific questions you may have.

In general, it looks much like many of the classic cars that we see, a little crusty in places and with a layer of road dirt sitting over older underseal. The tyre on the spare wheel looks in good order though, as does the majority of the twin exhaust system, so it has clearly had fairly recent attention down below.

The large boot is lined with dark blue carpeting, which is in a good clean condition. The floor section is a slightly different shade, having been replaced at the same time as the roof after water found its way in - resulting in a small area of corrosion in one corner of the floor underneath. There is no significant rust on any of the hinges or latches and the rubber seal appears intact.

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History Highlights

The Corniche’s last MOT expired in April 2022 and although it is exempt from testing as an historic vehicle, we always encourage owners of classics to get an independent assessment of roadworthiness each year.

The car comes with its owner’s handbooks and service log, which contains the following entries:

Apr 1982 - 5,444 - Garage Pagola, Lausanne

May 1982 - 8,673 - Jack Barclay, London

(Video) SOLD: 1983 Rolls Royce Corniche Convertible, 75k Miles.

Jan 1983 - 12,462 - Garage Pagola, Lausanne

Mar 1989 - 20,069 - a/a

Apr 1992 - 21,390 - a/a

Jul 1999 - 27,858 - P&A Wood, Great Dunmow

Sep 2000 - 29,844 - a/a

Jun 2005 - 30,994 - PM Motors

Jun 2007 - 32,120 - David Casey, Colchester

Jun 2009 - 34,513 - RG Classic Services, Witham

Jan 2017 - 35,931 - VC White Classics, Sudbury

The history file also includes the bill of sale from P&A Wood, numerous MOT reports as well as invoices for maintenance and parts, and also a formalised “workshop report” log of work done in current ownership.

This includes MadMan Trim of Colchester fitting a new hood in 2019, along with Harvey Wash RR-Bentley Specialist of Kelvedon rectifying a number of small mechanical issues in July and again September of that year to keep it in top condition.

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What We Think

There’s something about a Rolls-Royce engine that is unlike any other V8. This Bentley-badged example is no exception, it has a beautifully smooth character giving a quiet and sedate ride down the road.

Although in modern times, power delivery has been quantified in horse-power rather than simply declared “adequate” - the motor in this Corniche is more than adequate to respond to a well-planted right foot. It’s by no means a lightweight vehicle but it will gather up its crinoline skirts and somewhat surprisingly rocket you down the road.

(Video) 1973 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible - Ex-Maurice Gibb

With a production run of only 77, the Bentley Corniche Convertible is a rare beast, and it’s even less common to find one with so few owners and such low mileage. We think this lovely example will sell for between £70,000 and £80,000.

Whilst we know that rarity is no guarantee of desirability, such is the appeal of these effortless luxury drop-top cruisers that it wouldn’t surprise us if it carried on past the top end of our guide.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the vendor in Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom. To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.


Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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(Video) 1971 Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible Ex-Sir Bruce Forsyth


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