Will the Bentley Continental GT Become a Classic?

Table of Contents

It’s 2003, and the automotive world is abuzz. Enter the first generation of the Bentley Continental GT, a car that redefined opulence on wheels. 

Fast forward to today, these grand tourers are slipping into affordability. But does a sought-after brand name alone spell ‘future classic’?

In this edition of ‘Bold Bets’, we’re diving deep into the heart of this question. Is the first-generation Bentley Continental GT destined for classic car fame? 

We’re not just talking about a plush ride or a prestigious badge. We’re talking about a car turning heads today as it did two decades ago. A potential classic? Maybe. A bold bet? Definitely.

Let’s unpack this luxury enigma. From its aristocratic roots to its current standing in the used car market, we’re peeling back the layers.

Historical Context

“A Leap from Heritage to Modern Marvel”

Genesis of the Model

The Continental GT was a car that didn’t just roll off the production line but glided into history. Here was Bentley, a name synonymous with automotive aristocracy, taking a bold leap. 

It was a statement. A blend of century-old craftsmanship with a new vision for the modern elite. 

The Continental GT was a fusion of tradition and innovation, a nod to Bentley’s storied past, and a wink to the future.

Market Reception

When the curtain lifted back in 2003, the world didn’t just notice; it applauded.

Sales figures were a testament, and the Continental GT was defining the luxury coupe segment. 

Bentley had hit a sweet spot, merging performance with luxury in a package that was both exuberant and elegant. 

Critics penned praises for its lavish interior, roaring W12 engine, and for its ability to be both a comfortable cruiser and a spirited performer.

The Bentley Continental GT, in its nascent years, captivated the market as a symbol of both tradition and modernity. It stood out for its performance, its distinctive charm, and for combining classic Bentley elegance with a fresh, contemporary appeal. 

This blend of qualities has initiated a discourse in the automotive world, sparking the question of whether such a modern marvel could eventually be revered as a timeless classic.

Design and Performance

“An Artful Fusion of Elegance and Power”

Aesthetic Appeal

The Continental GT is a masterpiece of design, blending modernity with classic Bentley cues. As a grand touring car, it showcases a striking two-door coupé or convertible body style. 

This vehicle marked a significant moment for Bentley, being the first new model post-Volkswagen AG acquisition, and the first to use mass production techniques. 

Yet, it retained the essence of luxury and exclusivity, influenced by the earlier, ultra-exclusive Bentley Continental R, and the concept Java which hinted at a more accessible Bentley while maintaining brand integrity.

The Continental GT’s aesthetic is characterized by its elegant, flowing lines and poised stance, a visual representation of both luxury and performance. 

Early models offered a range of customization options, including six body colors and eight hide colors, reflecting the bespoke nature of Bentley vehicles. 

The interior was equally lavish, with options like diamond quilted hide and a dashboard clock made by Swiss luxury watchmaker Breitling, adding to its grandeur.

Engineering Marvels

Under the hood, the Continental GT of this era is a powerhouse, equipped with a 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine. 

This engineering marvel delivers a robust 552 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and a torque of 479 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm. 

However, It’s not just about raw power; the car is engineered for performance with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and a 6-speed automatic transmission, ensuring a smooth yet dynamic driving experience.

The performance numbers speak for themselves: the Continental GT accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in a mere 4.8 seconds, reaching a top speed of about 198 mph. 

These figures underscore Bentley’s commitment to delivering a car that combines the comfort and luxury of a grand tourer with the exhilarating performance of a sports car.

Comparisons

In its class, the Bentley Continental GT stood out for its unique combination of luxury and performance. 

Compared to contemporaries like the Jaguar XKR and Ferrari 575 Maranello, the Continental GT offered a distinct proposition. 

It was a Bentley – a brand that signifies a blend of refinement, heritage, and performance. 

This distinction helped it carve out a unique niche in the luxury car market, appealing to those who sought the thrill of a sports car without compromising on elegance and comfort.

Market Trends

“A Financial U-Turn: From Luxury to Affordability”

Current Market Value

The original Bentley Continental GT, once a symbol of unreachable luxury, has now ventured into the realm of affordability. 

With used prices for the first-generation model recently dipping as low as £10,000 (around $20,000+ in the US due to additional rarity), the once-exclusive grand tourer is now within reach of a broader audience. 

There are perfectly acceptable examples for around £15,000 in the UK, and $30,000 in the US, but there’s a huge range of cars available in varying conditions for varying budgets.

Admittedly, this pricing trend has dropped even further than I thought possible, indicative of the model’s journey from a luxury purchase to a potential classic car bargain.

But is this the bottom of the price curve? It’s a compelling question. The market is likely witnessing the final descent of depreciation for these vehicles. 

As higher mileage and lower quality examples gradually exit the market due to rising maintenance costs, the remaining well-maintained models could stabilize in value or even appreciate over the next five to 10 years

This trend mirrors the lifecycle of many luxury cars which transition into classics.

Investment Perspective

In the classic car market, there’s a familiar pattern: models initially depreciate, reach a pricing nadir, and then begin to appreciate as they become rare and more sought after. 

This trend has been seen in numerous luxury car models that later gained classic status. 

The critical factor in this transition is often a combination of rarity, historical significance, and a dedicated enthusiast community.

For the Bentley Continental GT, several factors could influence its potential as a classic car investment. 

Its unique position as a blend of modern technology and traditional luxury, its significance in Bentley’s history, and its evolving rarity as older models are retired, all play a part. 

The model’s transition to classic status may be further catalyzed by nostalgia and a growing appreciation for its design and engineering in years to come.

The Bentley Continental GT’s current market trend suggests a potential pivot point. For investors and enthusiasts, the key will be identifying well-maintained examples that could hold or increase in value. 

As with any classic car investment, the decision should be driven by a mix of passion and pragmatism.

Expert Opinions on the Bentley Continental GT

Experts in the field of classic cars have noted the Continental GT’s inherent reliability and durability, especially the robust 6.0-litre W12 engine renowned for its performance and longevity.

This sentiment is echoed by Classic Trader and Prestige & Performance Car, both noting the car’s appeal due to its combination of luxury and performance.

Classic Trader highlights the continuous development of the model over the years, with improvements in refinement and capability, particularly in later models. 

However, they also point out that well-maintained early cars can be great bargains. The article emphasizes the importance of regular maintenance, especially oil services, to ensure smooth operation and extend the life of crucial components like turbochargers.

Prestige & Performance Car discusses the evolution of the GT, including significant updates like the 2008 minor facelift, the introduction of the GT Speed with its 602bhp engine, and the even more powerful GT Supersports from 2009. 

These versions especially showcase the model’s advancement in terms of power and performance.

A key takeaway from these experts is the importance of a well-documented service history and regular use. Cars that have been used and serviced regularly tend to have fewer issues compared to those that have seen less use.

They also advise caution with cars showing very low mileage, as they might require more extensive servicing to address issues due to inactivity.

Experts also touch upon the Continental GT’s potential growth as a classic car. Its combination of modern technology, traditional luxury, and significance in Bentley’s history positions it well for appreciation in the classic car market. 

The model’s transition to classic status may be further supported by nostalgia and growing appreciation for its design and engineering over the years.

Ownership Experience

Maintenance and Upkeep 

Owning a first-generation Bentley Continental GT is about balancing luxury with practicality. These grand tourers, with their robust 6.0-litre engines, demand attention to maintenance for optimal performance. 

Regular use and meticulous servicing are key. Owners should be prepared for potentially high costs in maintaining the vehicle’s sophisticated systems, like the engine, transmission, and electronics. 

The car’s luxury components, like the lavish interior, also require careful upkeep. A Continental GT is a rewarding drive, but its maintenance reflects its high-end status.

Frequently Reported Problems

As with every car, the Continental GT has certain maintenance issues that are regularly reported by owners. 

Common concerns include the need for regular oil services to maintain the turbochargers, the expense and difficulty of accessing and replacing spark plugs, and occasional failures of coil packs. 

There are also reports of head gasket failures, necessitating expensive repairs. It’s crucial to inspect the radiator carefully, as its condition is key to preventing overheating issues. 

The car’s twin-turbocharged engine, while robust, requires diligent service history, especially given the complex nature of repairs and replacements.

Community and Support 

Owning a Bentley Continental GT also means becoming part of an exclusive community. There are numerous clubs and online forums dedicated to Bentley enthusiasts, offering a wealth of knowledge, support, and camaraderie. 

Notable clubs and online forums where owners and fans can interact, share experiences, and access a wealth of Bentley-specific knowledge include:

Bentley Owners Club of Great Britain: This club welcomes both Bentley owners and enthusiasts. It’s a platform where members can share their experiences, access Bentley articles, videos, and get club support​

Bentley Owners Club: This club offers a similar community experience, providing a place for Bentley owners and fans to connect and share their passion for the brand. They feature a variety of content, from detailed vehicle reviews to general discussions about Bentley vehicles​

Rolls-Royce and Bentley Forums: These forums are a great resource for technical discussions, part substitution advice, and general discussions about Rolls-Royce and Bentley models. It’s a place where owners can share photos, experiences, and find solutions to technical issues​

These communities are invaluable for sharing maintenance tips, sourcing parts, and discussing the nuances of Bentley ownership. 

Additionally, there are specialist mechanics and service centers experienced in handling these vehicles. 

This support network is essential for preserving the car’s condition and enhancing the ownership experience.

Challenges and Controversies

Common Criticisms 

While celebrated for its luxury and performance, the Continental GT faced criticisms primarily for its hefty weight and size, impacting its agility compared to more sports-oriented contemporaries. 

Also, the high cost of ownership, including maintenance and fuel consumption, was a point of contention for some. 

Its mass-production approach, a deviation from Bentley’s tradition of hand-built exclusivity, was also a subject of debate among purists.

Comparison with True Classics 

In comparison with undisputed classic cars, the Continental GT holds a unique position. True classics often boast historical significance, limited production numbers, and a certain level of craftsmanship that speaks to a bygone era of motoring. 

The Continental GT, while a modern luxury tourer with advanced technology, lacks the historical pedigree and rarity that often define a ‘classic’ in the traditional sense. 

However, its blend of modern luxury with performance might position it as a future classic in a new, evolving category.

Will the Continental GT Become a Classic?

The first generation Bentley Continental GT stands on the edge of becoming a modern classic, however, it will be a number of years before we see any real movement in value due to the vast number of cars still in the market.

Its luxurious appeal, performance capabilities, and evolving affordability play key roles in its classic car potential. 

Despite this, its mass production and departure from Bentley’s traditional hand-built approach might dilute its classic status among purists.

My Own View

Personally, I see the Continental GT as representing a new breed of potential classics. It blends modern technology with traditional luxury in a way that might redefine what we consider classic in the future. 

It’s certainly a bold bet, mainly thanks to its running costs and the sheer numbers still available. As a result, it’s not currently one to buy purely for investment purposes. 

But, if you’re after a luxury coupe that rivals some supercars for used Ford money, the Continental GT is a dream come true.

While it may not fit the traditional mold of a classic car, its unique position in automotive history could make it a good buy for those looking for a modern classic with a blend of performance and luxury.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Chinn writes about the intersecting worlds of classic cars, driving pleasure, and smart investment strategies. Starting his journey at 26, he’s proven that one doesn’t need to be wealthy to begin investing in classic cars.

Adam’s insights have been recognized on platforms such as MoneyInc, Swagger Magazine, and Top Speed.

Click here to learn more >>

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