1990 Bentley Eight

1990 Bentley Eight

Ron Webster overcame adversity to win an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce that became a 35-year career, then after retirement he achieved an equally unlikely dream – his own Bentley, despite being unable to hold a driving licence.




A working life at Crewe, but no driving licence? One man didn’t let details stand in the way!

When I went to take my driving test I knew I’d fail because of my eyesight, and I did,’ says Ron Webster. So why is he now standing next to a 1990 Bentley Eight? ‘I was born with very poor eyesight, and as a youngster I couldn't see below my waist,’ he says. ‘As I got older my eyesight improved slightly but I still couldn't see the blackboard at school. I went through mainstream education with no help or assistance, and at 12 or 13 the optician told my mother I’d never work with detail, and would probably be a labourer or menial worker. But I never gave in, and in 1977 I got an apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce. I was ecstatic, and my mother was so proud of me. I had to buy a moped to ride the 10 miles to work. So I filled in the paperwork for a provisional licence and rode with L plates for two years, which was allowed in those days.’

1990 Bentley Eight

But after this period Ron had to present himself for a test, which he had no chance of passing, and he was forced to hand back his provisional licence. ‘When my licence was taken away, a number of my apprentice friends offered to take my test for me, but I declined as I didn't want to get them into trouble. I went to the top eye specialist in the country who said there was nothing they could do. I was 19 and I wasn’t allowed to drive – not even a milk float. I then had to get lifts or cycle 20 miles to and from work.

1990 Bentley Eight

One night we were coming home from night school, and we had a serious car crash. My friend was driving and was blinded by an oncoming car’s headlamps. He swerved, clipped a kerb and overturned the car. We didn't have to wear seatbelts in those days and I went through the windscreen. ‘We both ended up in hospital but luckily we were alright. My mother couldn't believe that I’d survived riding motor bikes for two years without a scratch and then within a few months of losing my provisional licence I was in a car crash. I finished my apprenticeship a year later and moved to Crewe.’

1990 Bentley Eight - front

After this major step, Ron began to do rather more than the menial jobs his childhood optician had predicted. ‘During my apprenticeship I worked in various departments to gain the skills required. This was in the days of the Silver Shadow, Silver Wraith and Camargue. I worked on many famous people’s cars – Princess Margaret, Barry Sheen, Rod Taylor, to name a few. And I worked with some great craftsmen. When I came out of my apprenticeship, I was put on the car assembly line working the interior trim, fitting front screens, seats – all of the things you see or touch in a car.

1990 Bentley Eight - interior

‘I worked on rectification for a good few years, and I also became what was termed a commando – we would fill in anywhere within our trade for illness cover etc. I then got involved with the Corniche and limousine builds. I was part of a team that brought these vehicles to Crewe from Mulliner Park Ward (MPW). The first day I went to MPW was the day they handed out redundancy letters at the Crewe factory, so we didn't know if we had jobs to come home too.

“I did all the dismantling while he fixed the wiring faults. It was just like old times, except we were doing it on my driveway rather than in Crewe ”

‘I worked in the team on the Corniche and limousine lines at Crewe, building the Sultan of Brunei’s first 21 limos. The cars we built had black interiors and black paint for his ambassadors to ferry people around. I see some of them for sale every now and then.’

1990 Bentley Eight

Ron stayed on the tools for 13 years then in 1993 an opportunity in engineering opened up. It was only for six weeks, to assist the zone engineer in problem-solving issues on the build line. He had a very good product knowledge and had dealt with a lot of these issues already. When the six weeks was up, Ron’s manager told him he wanted Ron to stay on. So it was back to college for Ron, to get an ONC which he needed to secure a position in engineering.

1990 Bentley Eight

‘I later went on to achieve my HNC and I took the Bentley Corniche Turbo down the production lines as my first new model introduction from an engineering perspective,’ says Ron. ‘I’d worked on launch cars and show cars before but only as a coachbuilder, although I had been responsible for some vehicles and sometimes had to take the car keys home with me so no one could get into the cars. That probably wouldn’t happen today.’

In 1998 Ron enrolled at Staffordshire University and began an engineering degree, landing the role of Senior Engineer half-way through, a position he retained. Quite a career for someone who couldn’t see the blackboard at school. But in 2012, after a health scare, Ron retired and moved to North Wales at the age of 52. And in 2020, having spent a lifetime of not being able to drive a motorised vehicle on the roads, he asked his partner, Katherine, whether she’d fancy driving a Bentley, if he bought one.

1990 Bentley Eight - engine V8 6.75 litre

‘As you’d expect, she said yes, so I started looking for a suitable car, and not long afterwards I found this Bentley Eight. I bought it for £12,000 from company in Glasgow, having seen it advertised online. It looked pretty good in the pictures and the seller offered to fly me up to Scotland to have a look at it, so I thought they must be a good company. I paid a deposit, but when the car turned up it wasn’t as nice as I thought it was going to be It had some electrical problems so an old colleague of mine, Dave Lee, came down and I did all the dismantling while he fixed the wiring faults. It was just like old times, except we were doing it on my driveway rather than in Crewe. ‘Dave also sent me a replacement ECU for the alarm, as that wasn’t working either. And we had the seats out because the seat ECU battery leaked and wrecked the electronics. I sent it to Bowling-Ryan (Rolls-Royce & Bentley specialist in Manchester – Ed) and they repaired it for me.

1990 Bentley Eight - trunk

‘A lot of the people I used to work with now run their own businesses and so we took the Bentley up to one of them on the outskirts of Crewe, to have the air conditioning compressor replaced. We also visited a paint shop run by another ex-colleague and had a chat about the bodywork. He’s happy to do it but we’ve been using it so much I haven’t had time to get it done. The woodwork has some lacquer work that needs doing but again, I haven’t got around to sorting that out yet either.

‘But I knew the Eight would want some work doing when I bought it, and with my knowledge and experience of these vehicles, and all the people I’ve worked with, I can usually get most problems solved. Although once when we got back from holiday we got in the car and it sounded to me as though the alternator bearing had gone, so I took it off and replaced it, but the noise was still there. It turned out that the steering rack was leaking fluid into the rubber boots, and the PAS reservoir was empty. What kind of use have Ron and Katherine had from the Bentley?

1990 Bentley Eight - alloy wheel

Any longer trips to experience the Eight as a touring car? ‘We’ve done several “Bentley Tours,” as we call them,’ says Ron. ‘We’ve been to the south of England, and Kent. We do a lot of miles in it. And we always let people sit in it if they want to. If there’s a car show on while we’re on a tour, we always go along. Katherine loves driving it. She’s a proper Bentley driver too – not afraid to put her foot down. ‘I’ve gone all round the car taking off some of the original polythene protection that was still on the trim from when we built the cars. It had only done 48,000 miles when we got it, that’s up to 54,000 now.’ Ron has mixed views on his old employer’s current products. ‘The new Rolls-Royces don’t have the pedigree of the old cars, but the new Bentley Continental range looks really stylish – they’ve done a good job on the 63X. The Bentayga is like an Audi Q7 reskin though.

‘I think I was there for the best times. The factory at Crewe is totally different now, not the same place at all. The skills are not the same as they were. When we used to fit the door pads, you’d rest them on your knee and the whole car would rock as you muscled them into place. Your knees would click when you stood up. In those days it was all done by hand. When I started at Rolls-Royce and Bentley in 1977 the average house price was £13,650 and a four-door Bentley T2 was £22,800, so relatively speaking the cars are cheaper now!’

1990 Bentley Eight - interior rear seats

It seems somehow wrong that after a lifelong association with Crewe products, Ron had never driven one, and thankfully that unhappy situation has now been righted. ‘I actually had a drive of my Bentley on a huge private car park with permission from the owners, and my partner Katherine as co-pilot at the end of last year. It was brilliant. After 45 years of being involved with these cars I finally drove one!’


  • LENGTH: 5,310 mm (17ft 5in)
  • WIDTH: 1,890 mm (6ft 2in)
  • WEIGHT: 2,320.2 kg (5,115 lb)
  • ENGINE: 6.75-litre OHV V8
  • MAX POWER: 240bhp @ 4000rpm
  • MAX TORQUE: 300lb-ft @ 2000rpm
  • TRANSMISSION: three-speed auto
  • 0-60MPH: 10.4secs
  • TOP SPEED: 126mph
  • COST NEW: £72,000

Narrow gorge looks a bit tight for the Eight, but we'll give it a go!

Full set of tools and jacking equipment, plus the original bottles of hydraulic fluid — now topped up with fresh fluid

With trim in place, the boot is as smart and capacious as you'd expect.

Stiffer front springs and firmer damping means an Eight corners better than the older Mulsanne Triple red coachline is very sporty Narrow-band whitewalls on Turbo R wheels — a later fitment.

impressive engine bay is dominated by inlet manifold and fuel distributor.

Parchment hide with Spruce Green piping.

Rear doors contain two speakers for impressive all-round sound No rear companion mirrors on the Eight, but still a reading light.

Mesh grille, stainless steel surround and no headlamp wipers mark out an Eight.

Driver's office is traditional and un-cluttered, with a large, slim wheel. Straight-grained walnut rather than ornate burr was another Bentley Eight feature.

Automatic split-level climate control; temporary switch for fog lamps has now gone!

Crisp rear styling is one of the SZ generation's best features.


The Eight (1984-1992) was what Bentley somewhat hilariously claimed as an entry-level model. Bearing in mind that one like Ron’s was more than £70,000 when new in 1990, and that the Brooklands was only around £5000 more, this seems like an odd market niche, especially as other top-of-the-line executive saloons were around the £30,000 mark. A mesh grille distinguished the Eight visually, and the lack of a turbo made a big difference from the driver’s seat – seats which on early cars had cloth trim, although leather became standard in 1987. Originally intended as a UK market only model, interest was high enough for Bentley to offer the Eight in Europe and North America too.

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