1968 Jaguar 420G vs. 1961 Lincoln Continental, 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, 1991 Lamborghini LM002

1968 Jaguar 420G vs. 1961 Lincoln Continental, 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, 1991 Lamborghini LM002

These five classic heavyweights show that good things can come in multi-tonne packages, too. Words Ross Alkureishi. Photography Charlie Magee.


Best buys for luxury, power and presence in 2022

Finding virtue in excess, from saloons to a super-SUV


Size Matters Assessing the merits of supersized classics as the Jaguar 420G, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, Lamborghini LM002 and Bentley Arnage showcase their diverse luxuries PLUS – Bentley engineer Mike Dunn on making them handle


1968 Jaguar 420G vs. 1961 Lincoln Continental, 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, 1991 Lamborghini LM002, 2000 Bentley Arnage Red Label


Some believe sports cars to be the be-all and end-all of our world. Nimble lightweight steeds, Group B homologation specials and their sporting ilk dominate headlines and features both in print and online. And yet one person’s heaven is another person’s hell.

Look closer at the above and you see cramped cabins, spine-shatteringly firm suspension, hyperactive steering, and overtly intrusive mechanical noise. And as for road presence… Today, we eschew our normal bent for such classics as we go large. Extra large. In front of me sit Jaguar’s 420G, Lincoln’s fourth-gen Continental, Mercedes’ W116 450SE, Lamborghini’s LM002 and Bentley’s Arnage Red Label – each behemoth a literal heavyweight of the classic car world. This vast sea of metal is a truly awe-inspiring sight and one that promises an overload of style, luxury, power, solidity and true road presence. Join us as we test this super-sized quintet and offer buying advice to help you go big, or go home. 


Jaguar 420G, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, Lamborghini LM002 and Bentley Arnage


1968 Jaguar 420G

Coventry had gone big before, the MkIX being no tiddler, but the Jaguar Mk10 of 1961 obliterated the mould. At 16ft 10in long and 6’4” wide – the UK’s widest car until the XJ220 arrived 30 years later– it could swallow not only a bank manager and his golf clubs, but also the best part of any Society he happened to swing with.


1968 Jaguar 420G

Great things were expected of the Mk10, both at home and in the all-important export markets. Highly specced with all-round independent suspension, four-wheel assisted disc brakes, power-assisted steering, twin 10-gallon fuel tanks, and with 265bhp on tap from the 3.8-litre XK engine, there was more than enough oomph to shift its considerable two-tonne bulk. In manual form it would crack 0-60mph in an impressive 9.1sec and even the automatic variant could manage 10.8sec, both on their way to a 120mph top speed. It was how they did it that was notable, though.


Jaguar 420G, Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116, Lamborghini LM002 and Bentley Arnage

The example I’m piloting is a later 420G. Released in 1966 it has the later, torquier 4.2-litre version of the XK engine that powered the Mk10 from 1964, and is essentially identical save a few subtle styling changes such as the grille centre rib, front wing indicators and the chrome side-strip.

For a car with an intimidatingly sized exterior, the cabin is surprisingly intimate – like Dr Who’s Tardis in reverse – because a luxuriously bolstered, but very upright leather seat holds you close and tight to both the low roofline and controls.

Gun the throttle and, unlike in its voluble sporting guises, the XK unit is serenity itself as it thrusts you forward. The wood-endowed cabin is well insulated; only lowering the window allows the twin exhaust pipe purr to encroach. The Borg-Warner model 8 shifts cogs with a mere modicum of mechanical notice, leaving the driver to sit back, relax and revel in a surplus of mid-range punch that allows you to barrel past other road users imperiously. All-wheel disc brakes too are surprisingly adept at hauling the big cat in.

A finger is all that’s required to manipulate the Marles Variomatic power-assisted steering and it has a surprisingly tight turning circle. The suspension (Mk2 front/E-type rear) and a strong unitary body endows the big beast with more manoeuvrability than you have any right to expect, but it’s foremost a superlatively comfortable and cosseting car, one for the highways and motorways of this world.

Explains Gaynor Cauter, editor of Jaguar Driver magazine, ‘These are rare cars, formerly unloved, but now more sought-after – although their size deters some buyers. Mechanically they’re straightforward – the suspension, XK engine and running gear are common to other Jaguars, but wiring, panels, glass and trim are unique to this car. Some is available but pricey, whereas a wiring loom would have to be made to order for at least £500.’

Body condition is paramount. ‘Just a bare-metal respray would set you back at least £20k and a full rebuild… well, a reasonable job on a Series 1 E-type will set you back around £50k and a 420G is double the size – start counting!’

Ultimately, the Mk10/420G didn’t achieve the global sales Jaguar hoped for, its six-cylinder power plant being two cylinders short to raise more than a murmur from American buyers, while in the UK its sheer size proved the barrier. Today, however it’s quite an intriguing prospect – so long as you have the space.

‘It’s a comfortable, cosseting car, one for the highways and motorways of this world’

The bluff front end is intimidation itself, but the sleek rear lends the 420G a sportier, low-slung look Cabin is a lot tighter than the exterior dimensions would have you assume 4.2 XK unit is familiar, yet has an entirely different character in this application.

Owning a Jaguar 420G

Bernhardt Garbe has long been an admirer of the 420G, ‘I love how stylish it is even 50 years after it was built and the way it burbles away through its twin exhausts. The super-comfortable ride and luxurious cockpit are what makes it fabulous – passengers always comment on the wonderful smell of wood and leather.

‘I was working on another restoration, but when I saw this car advertised in June of this year I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass by and paid close to £20k for it. I initially changed all fluids and filters (at a cost of £125) as a precaution and I’ve recently sourced a complete set of consumable brake parts and a new automatic gearbox anticreep switch (for around £180) from Jag Spares International without difficulty; new tyres came from Longstone Tyres, which was great, giving advice, choices and super-fast delivery, at a cost of £370 per corner.’

TECHNICAL DATA FILE 1968 Jaguar 420G

  • Engine 4235cc straight-six, dohc, three SU HD8 carburettors
  • Max Power 245bhp @ 5500rpm;
  • Max Torque 283lb ft @ 3750rpm
  • Transmission Three-speed Borg Warner Model 8 automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Marles Variomatic power-assisted worm and nut
  • Suspension Front: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: independent, lower links, fixed-length driveshafts, radius arms, twin coil spring/dampers
  • Brakes Servo discs
  • Weight 1667kg (3668lb)
  • Performance
  • 0-60mph: 10.8sec
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • Fuel consumption 15mpg
  • Cost new £1930
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £6750-£20,000

1961 Lincoln Continental

Anything Blighty could do do, the US could do bigger. We’ll take the Jaguar’s circa 16ft length and extend that to say, 18ft, and pop another 4in on the width for good measure. There’s no doubt that this Lincoln Continental is one epic mother of a car but by the early Sixties, North American motor manufacturers had been producing land yachts for decades – in fact, period Chrysler and Cadillac offerings were bigger still.


1961 Lincoln Continental

Today, the gargantuan proportions of its sheet metal invoke a feeling of reverence in the casual viewer. This was Lincoln’s fourth attempt on the Continental front, and quite unlike anything before; out went the fins and other OTT styling broohaha of the late Fifties, and in came Elwood Engel’s elegantly minimalist lines.

It’s a study in simplicity, with the long slab flanks mirrored front and rear (push-me/pull-you style) with just the slightest kick up on the top line aft of the C-pillar. Even the chrome – and there’s a hell of a lot of it – is used with good taste, and once again similar in design, front and rear. The designer’s use of fore-aft symmetry shouldn’t work, but it’s mightily pleasing.

Popping open the vast doors reveals this car’s special-order interior; buyers could choose broadcloth, vinyl, leather with nylon inserts or full leather, or as here, bespoke West of Scotland tan cashmere. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the car’s Honey Beige paintwork and whitewall tyres. Slide across the vast bench seat and the large steering wheel extends out to sit pretty much in your lap. This car has power everything – bench seat, windows, door locks, steering, brakes… you name it. To say it’s an cinch to drive is an understatement. Just like the Jag, its steering can be operated via a pinkie-flick, and the gargantuan 7.0-litre V8 is utterly smooth in delivering its wares. Its 300bhp sounds undercooked considering the near-2300kg it has to propel, but 465lb ft of torque is more than ample. Even under a heavy throttle, the engine provides little more aural titillation than an understated rumble; it’s like a malevolent thunderstorm threatening in the distance, yet the scenery flashing past at a decent old rate proves it’s anything but.

Despite being power-assisted, the drum brakes are of their age and a degree of pre-planning your stops is required. Here on track, I’m more than happy with this car’s dimensions but another factor that would require forethought in the real world would be your route; motorway cruising would be one thing, but navigating the likes of North London suburbia could cause a few headaches and width-related sharp intakes of breath.

It is however, the Continental’s ride that impresses most – it’s superlative. The big car seemingly floats over the tarmac. The steering is over-assisted – no bad thing – but combines here with cross-ply tyres to ensure that you’re always slow and precise in your inputs. It’s a restful experience and I find that, without conscious effort, and like some louche Sixties lounge lizard, I’ve quickly adopted a left-elbow-on-the-window-sill-and-right-armacross- the-seat-top driving position.

‘Expect to pay between £7.5k and £50k for a fourth generation Lincoln sedan,’ says Katerina Montagova of Surrey-based specialist Class Classic Cars. ‘Convertibles are more desirable and can, and do, fetch as much as 250 per cent more than their tin-top counterparts but are a lot more costly to restore.’

Black on black is the always-preferred colour choice, primarily because of the association with The Matrix movie, TV’s Entourage and of course, the JFK link. Special-order cars with documented history will always command a premium.

‘Rust is the Continental’s biggest vice,’ Katerina says. ‘Inspect chassis rails, floors, door centre posts, the firewall and the boot-lid. Mechanicals are generally cheap and parts are widespread, because the engines were used in a variety of models. A full restoration on one of these cars is going to be north of £60k.’

This highly original example is from 1961, the model’s most desirable production year, and is currently for sale for £39,995 at Class Classic Cars (classclassiccars.com), though those who fancy taking a chance can find them significantly cheaper Stateside.

The later MkV Lincoln Continental is definitively of its time, being a tad garish and more at home in the hands of a pimp in a Seventies cop drama, while the earlier iterations hark back to a more ostentatious time. The Fourth generation remains a sweet spot in terms of restrained styling and ethos – less is definitely more.

‘Without conscious effort I’ve quickly adopted a left-elbow-on-the-window-sill-and-right- arm-across-the-seat-top driving position’

7.0 V8 is phenomenally understressed, but offers oceans of torque to the three-speed auto gearbox. Not unlike opening double doors into the entrance hall of a vast mansion.


Owning a Lincoln Continental

Hilton Persaud says of his fourth-gen Continental, ‘It simply wafts along, and its road presence is sublime. I sourced it in Virginia, USA, in June 2020 and had it transported at a cost of $975 (£720) to Florida for shipping to the UK. That cost $1150 (£850), based on a share of a 40ft container. I also paid 5% of the original $40k (circa £30k) purchase price and transportation costs in UK import duty; there was no VAT payable however because the car is more than 30 years old.

‘Research warns of electrical gremlins such as window switches and the like, but it’s been supremely reliable since it arrived. The driving characteristics could be significantly improved if I fitted radial tyres but I’m a stickler for originality, so cross-plies are the order of the day.

‘There are several specialists in the United States – including Lincoln Land in Florida – that can obtain anything for these cars and will ship worldwide with no issue.’

1961 Lincoln Continental

  • Engine 7045cc V8, ohv, Carter ABD twin-choke carburettor
  • Max Power 300bhp @ 4100rpm
  • Max Torque 465lb ft @ 2100rpm
  • Transmission Three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Power-assisted worm and roller
  • Suspension Front: independent by wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers. Rear: live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic dampers
  • Brakes Drums all round, servo-assisted
  • Weight 2293kg
  • Performance
  • 0-60mph: 10.4sec
  • Top speed: 120mph
  • Fuel consumption 12mpg
  • Cost new $6292
  • CC Price Guide £9000-£19,000

1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116

While Great British residents continued to believe that the pinnacle of the motor car still had a Spirit of Ecstasy on its bonnet, during the Seventies much of the rest of the world had already moved on – and the object of its collective desire now wore a three-pointed star. Released in September 1972, the new Mercedes-Benz W116 Sonderklasse proved to be a masterclass in modern vehicle building. Its advanced engineering provided new heights in handling, comfort and refinement, while crumple zones and a reinforced passenger cell – with a stiffened roof structure, chunky screen pillars and reinforced doors – combined to protect inhabitants like no car before.


1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SE W116

One sits imperiously in front of me, exuding Teutonic indifference and seemingly unperturbed by its rivals. Its square-edged, three-box styling is the antithesis to the Jaguar’s, but lends it an unchallenged visual solidity. It’s simple, elegant and uncompromising – or in other words, German – and is the most sober looking of our five.

The driver’s door closes with a quality timbre, leaving me ensconced in a surprisingly chic cabin. Teutonic interiors, usually a study in black, can often exude a nihilistic air, but plaid cloth and MB-Tex plastic combines with thick-pile carpets and highly-polished Zebrano wood trim to add an unexpected, yet distinctive dash of character. Here, the engineering-first ethos oozes out.

If the Jaguar and Mercedes are separated only by a generation, then the difference in driving feels anything but. The W116’s cabin is ultra soundproofed, leaving you thoroughly cocooned from outside matters, and the gap feels at least several decades. In fact, even today it’s thoroughly modern in character.

The Bosch fuel-injected V8 is quiet in operation, but heavy throttle pressure results in a muted growl and scrupulously smooth and satisfying power delivery. It’s purposeful, and without a hint of poor control thanks to a sophisticated anti-squat rear suspension set up. The bonnet badge is transformed into a gun-sight, the driver lining up his next target before utilising the intermediate kick-down to storm past. Yet it’ll also trickle along at low in-town speeds.

ABS braking arrived in 1978, endowing the driver with confidence-inspiring stopping-while-turning power. While it’s definitely no apex-devourer, it’ll acquit itself well out in B-road world; handling remains neutral, and there’s plenty of adhesion available, but it’s best enjoyed by the driver sitting back and revelling in the overwhelming sense of road-going superiority.

‘Expect to pay around £5000 for a car that’d scrape an MoT through to £25k for the best 450SE,’ says Jonathan Aucott, proprietor of Tamworth-based specialist Avantgarde Classics (avantegardeclassics. co.uk). ‘For the SEL 6.9, prices are pretty much double that, although a top-notch rhd example could be as much as £70k.’

He states that an unrestored example with a good continuous history is always preferable to one that’s been restored by an average restoration outfit. ‘Mercedes-Benz of that era are superb and in terms of build quality, perhaps the best ever. Walk away from any car with rust; there’s no point embarking on a restoration, because the cost is prohibitive. They have complex structures and once rot gets into the floors and inner structure then they’re ready for the scrap yard – even a light body restoration can cost £15k.

‘If a car has sat unused but is rust-free, then it can be recommissioned for a few thousand pounds – all new fluids, bits and bobs, fuel tanks, etc – and will make for a good example. There aren’t many good ones out there, so be patient and wait for the right car.’

For the brave among you, Dutch dealer Joop Stolze (stolzeclassiccars.nl) currently has a dusty 1977 example for sale at just €5950, described as ‘needing some attention but complete’. Anglia Car Auctions recently sold a three-owner from new, 50,641- mile example for £18,090, which was ‘unused and dry-stored for many years’ and had enjoyed ‘light re-commissioning work’.

There’s no doubt that the W116 S-Class took Mercedes-Benz output to new heights and cemented its place at the top of the engineering tree. While the 6.9 SEL remains, and always will remain, the model poster boy, the less complex 450SE is undoubtedly easier to live with. Finding a good one will be your biggest challenge.

‘While it’s definitely no apexdevourer, it will acquit itself well out in B-road world’

4.5-litre V8 is smooth, if a touch too muted Contrasting interior textures and patterns combine to ward off interior mundanity. A 450SE costs roughly three times less than the coveted 6.9 SEL, making it a hugely compelling ownership prospect.

Owning a Mercedes-Benz W116 450SE

Gavin Nettmann paid £10k for this 450SE back in 2011. ‘Since then I’ve gone all out and completed a bare-metal, windows-out restoration; the entire suspension, braking and fuel systems have been rebuilt. I’ve spent north of £50k and it’s still a work in progress. ‘Rust is the biggest weak point, followed by ageing of consumables such as rubber suspension components. Most parts though are available through the local M-B dealership via the Classic Centre in Germany, albeit at a premium.

‘I love its abilities in today’s traffic; there’s just the right blend of old school versus modern driving ease. Over a decade I’ve spent the same amount as if I had bought a new S-Class. They were never cheap cars to own and run, irrespective of age. I suspect it’s possible to run a W116 for less, but to put it in Oscar Wilde’s words, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”’

1979 Mercedes-Benz W116 450SE

  • Engine 4520cc V8, sohc-per-bank, Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection
  • Max Power 225bhp @ 5000rpm
  • Max Torque 278lb ft @ 3000rpm
  • Transmission Three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Re-circulating ball and nut, power-assisted
  • Suspension Front: double wishbone, coil springs, telescopic dampers, antiroll bar. Rear: independent, trailing arms, swing axle, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Discs all round, anti-lock device
  • Weight 1730kg (3847lb)
  • Performance
  • 0-60mph: 8.5sec
  • Top speed: 131mph
  • Fuel consumption 15mpg
  • Cost new £17,035.20
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £4000-£14,000

1991 Lamborghini LM002

It’s a natural progression for any supercar manufacturer: sensuous V12 GTs, groundbreaking super sports cars, junior V8 siblings, to eh, the development of a super SUV. In today’s world, as Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Porsche (and Lamborghini, once again) et al all scramble to secure the SUV buck, such a route seems logical, but back in the Eighties it was utterly bonkers. Lamborghini had begun exploring the idea in 1977. But it wouldn’t be until 1985, via the rear-Chrysler-V8-engined Cheetah and LM001 prototypes, that the luxo-military Lamborghini LM002 finally saw the light of day, packing a $120,000 (£72,000) price tag and a Countach V12 in its snout.


1991 Lamborghini LM002

It’s a bloody intimidating sight, the LM002. Bodywork sits on a steel tubular frame and is a combination of glass reinforced plastics (wings, boot and roof), alloy (doors) and steel (the rest). It’s all angular protrusions and sharp edges – like a modernist’s automotive dream. Prince Charles would likely call it a ‘monstrous carbuncle’, and in this example’s gold hue I can’t help thinking, if Roger Moore’s safari suit in Octopussy were a car… but there’s no doubting its simply colossal road presence.

Climb aboard – it has just shy of a foot of ground clearance – and insert yourself into the Recaro CSE fully electric seat. After a bit of fiddling, the driving position remains Eighties semi-supercar silly – the transmission tunnel dominates, marginalising the driver on the extreme left of the cabin, while the footwell is tight in extremis and the steering wheel so close to the fascia that knuckles regularly bang on it – but it’s luxuriously appointed in leather, wool carpets and optional extra carbonfibre panelling.

Spark up the V12, here in fuel-injected Diablo form – earlier examples had a detuned six-carburettor Countach Quattrovalvole unit – and it gruffly comes to life. Invoke the spirit of Hercules as you engage the meaty clutch, select the beefy ZF gearbox’s dogleg first gear and we’re off. It’s immediately mad. Hilarious. Ludicrous. Aurally it’s less extrovert than in other Lamborghinis; onlookers receive the best sound. However, unlike in the hyper-insulated cabins of our other gathered cars, there’s a constant and vivid soundtrack. The V12 elicits a deep, throaty yowl as you work through the cogs to unleash the satisfyingly continuous surge of power on your way to 60mph in 7.7sec. All in a machine weighing 2700kg. Brakes cope, just – it has 12in x 3in drums at the rear!

The power-assisted steering is welcome, though displays a somewhat schizophrenic character – one-minute hyper active, the next seemingly Ritalin-infused – but while the Lambo’s road manners are more than acceptable, I can’t but long to leave the tarmac and start working this bad boy properly hard off-road. Either that or ram the other cars, Mad Max-style.

While Range Rovers were still messing around with live axles, the LM002 had all-independent suspension, with double wishbones and coil springs. Combine that with a two-speed transfer box for a ten-speed transmission and Kevlar-reinforced Pirelli Scorpion tyres and it’s hugely capable. Out on her Maj’s highways I’d barely be scratching the surface of its considerable talents; still, you’d never tire of that V12 under full load and the look of sheer terror in the reflected eyes of drivers as you bear down from behind.

‘For a while people didn’t know what to do with them, and they were viewed as a product of their time and a darling of dunebouncing Arabs, but tech-wise they’re quite a thing and that’s now changed,’ says marque expert Iain Tyrrell (iaintyrrell.co.uk). ‘Engines require cylinder leakdown and compression tests, because with significantly more weight to lug around they have to work far harder.

It’s worth doing because a full rebuild will cost between £30k and £40k. Listen for clunks from the gearbox or differentials, because issues can be expensive to put right – you’re looking at £10k-£12k for a full driveline overhaul. Bodywork stands up pretty well; they have a very substantial chassis frame and glassfibre panels.’

There’s currently a £150k private example in Monaco, while RM Sotheby’s sold a lovely resprayed example for €393,125 in June 2021. Lamborghini constructed just 301 examples with a high percentage going to the Middle East – a controlling stake in OPEC being no bad thing, given the prodigious rate at which it guzzled fuel. Buyers could customise them to their hearts delight: 50-calibre machine gun on the rear deck, sir? No problem. Armour plating? Of course. Today, the LM002 remains a delightfully ridiculous reminder of when the company went mad, bad and seriously off-piste. And like all the best Lamborghinis it’s OTT to a tee.

‘You’d never tire of the V12 and the look of terror in the reflected eyes of drivers as you bear down from behind’

Aurelian Wall-style transmission tunnel makes the LM002 perfect for social distancing Thirsty V12 and 2.7-tonne mass conspire for single-figure MPG.

Owning a Lamborghini LM002

‘We paid £57k for it, back in 2007’ says Lamborghini LM002 owner Jane Weitzmann. ‘At the time we spent around £3000 on bits and pieces, and haven’t had any issues with it at all since. I love its presence – it just looks so solid and impressive.

‘The windscreen wipers have been the biggest headache because the spindles are really delicate and the mechanical parts are encased in bodywork, so they’re pretty much impossible to access and work on.

‘Parts are generally available and Lamborghini Birmingham, which looks after it, has been very good. The tyres are the biggest issue – they’re specific to the vehicle and only made in batches every now and again. I was initially quoted £3k per corner, if they could be sourced, but my dealership found that Lamborghini itself had stock. They were six years old but had been stored correctly – when the girl said, “£9000 for five”, I bit her hand off. She looked at me like I was mad!’

1991 Lamborghini LM002

  • Engine 5167cc V12, dohc-per-bank, Lamborghini LIE fuel injection
  • Max Power 450bhp @ 6800rpm;
  • Max Torque 368lb ft @ 4500rpm
  • Transmission ZF five-speed manual, two-speed transfer box, part-time four-wheel drive
  • Steering Power-assisted re-circulating ball
  • Suspension Front and rear: independent, double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers
  • Brakes Ventilated discs front, drums rear
  • Weight 2699kg (5950lb)
  • Performance
  • 0-60mph: 7.7sec
  • Top speed: 118mph
  • Fuel consumption 8mpg
  • Cost new $120,000 (£72,000)
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £175k-£300k

Red Label versus Green Label sounds like an epic battle between alcoholic spirit producers, but is instead a by-product of the great BMW/VW Group face-off during the late Nineties. Developed in conjunction with the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, the Arnage had BMW’s 350bhp twin-turbo V8 under its bonnet. But after VW’s 1998 buyout of Bentley, and worried about continued engine supplies from its rival, engineers dusted off the ancient 6.75-litre V8 for one final curtain bow, the Bentley Arnage Red Label; and what a bow. After a considerable reworking, the V8 made a lofty 395bhp and, wait for it… 616lb ft of torque – oof.

The Green Label discreetly bowed out after just two years. Today, the Arnage remains an imposing and noble sight. Its lines are softer-edged than the previous generation, helping to mask the fact that it’s both longer (by 5in) and heftier (85kg) than the outgoing S Series cars. In terms of real estate, the landed gentry have long recognised that more is well, more; acreage and floor space equate to prestige, and that’s something both Rolls-Royces and Bentleys have always adhered to. It’s one seriously big boy.

As I approach, the only clue as to what’s under the bonnet is the discreet red background of the bonnet’s ‘B’ badge. Discretion isn’t what greets you inside though; it’s a satisfyingly ostentatious combination of burl walnut trim, cream and blue leather, chrome-rimmed dials and contrasting deep blue lambswool over-rugs and carpets that makes you immediately feel to the manor born.

At low speed it simply drifts along and the suspension is supremely accomplished in dealing with undulations in tarmac; it’s quite the restful driving experience, like the Jag, Lincoln and Merc. Floor the throttle though, and the car’s character changes beyond all recognition; think Johnny Rotten as Benjamin Button, growing old semi-gracefully but transformed in an instant back to his wildest of heydays. The turbocharged V8 simply boots you forward with one continuous, thumping kick up the backside – I find myself immediately grin-endowed, and thankful for plump seat cushioning.

Despite a bodyshell claimed to be 65 percent stiffer than its predecessor’s, the sheer clout on offer can leave you a touch nervous approaching a corner at high speed; trust in the chassis though, and it powers through with a mere touch of roll – impressive, and its road manners a world away from the first of the new-gen performance Bentleys, the roll-on/roll-off Mulsanne Turbo.

‘A runner could be had for as little as £10k, but you can never spend the difference of buying a proper car in the first instance to make the runner into a decent one,’ explains Edinburgh-based specialist Derek C Mowat (derekcmowat.co.uk). ‘And do be prepared to spend money on upkeep.’ Green Label cars have bulletproof engines, but you’ll struggle to find one because they were only produced for a short time. The Red Label was the standard Arnage of the time, but engines can suffer cylinder head gasket issues.

‘Always look for a decent traceable history – a high number of owners is not necessarily a bad thing, because they are toys that nobody needs and do change hands for genuine reasons. Always have the underside inspected on a ramp, because they suffer from corrosion if used on winter roads. Rear sub-frame and the pipework that runs above are always of particular concern.’

There’s no real price difference between the labels and any dark exterior colour with any of the creams or beiges are desired most. Mowat currently has a post-facelift RL (lwb) example for sale for £49,950, while H&H recently sold a 2001, one private owner prefacelift car with 35,200 miles and 16 Bentley stamps for £21,833.

Bentley’s Rolls-Royce ties wouldn’t entirely disappear until the Continental GT. However if the Mulsanne Turbo and Turbo S heralded a new direction for the company, then it’s the outright performance available from their immediate successors, including the Arnage, that cemented it. That you can buy a very decent example of what was a £150k car new for less than a sixth of that demonstrates just what astoundingly good value they currently are.

The auto’box-endowed Jaguar, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley all go about their jobs elegantly. The wild thing in our outsized pack though, is the Lamborghini. Its manual dogleg gearbox and V12 combination provides a high-octane wrestle of a driving experience. If anything, it’s a visionary; misunderstood in period, it arrived three generations too soon.

For smooth cruising it’s the Jag or the luxuriously wafty Lincoln. If you’re more about devouring long continental journeys, and arriving fresh as a daisy, then Merc or Bentley. If however I were a celebrity (of the non-vacuous variety, preferably) with access to serious funds and I wanted to go genuinely big, then it’d have to be the entirely politically incorrect, gold Rambo Lambo for the win.

Battle-tested turbo V8 was unretired. The styling might have been rounded off, but the driving dynamics were sharper than ever before. Interior is easily the most luxurious here.

Owning a Bentley Arnage Red Label

Red Label owner Steven Chafer says, ‘Apart from a hydraulic oil leak, caused by a loose Jubilee clip, this Bentley has been 100 per cent reliable in the 12 months that I’ve owned it. I’ve also replaced the battery for £125 and the hydraulic strut on the handbrake release pedal for £75.’ How much did he pay for the car? ‘Just £22.5k from Derek C Mowat in Edinburgh – he has a justifiably wellearned reputation with these cars.

‘There’s nothing gaudy about an Arnage, it’s “Old Money” – pure unashamed luxury, with grace. The build quality has a special feel and joining the Drivers Club – a lovely fraternity – has been a real benefit. Cylinder head gaskets can fail, but upgraded items are available that promise a permanent fix if done right, although this particular car has been issue-free.’ Steven also says that parts availability is top-notch via independent specialists such as Flying Spares and IntroCar. ‘I’ve also had some pleasingly sensible conversations with Balmoral UK of Halesowen.’

2000 Bentley Arnage Red Label

  • Engine 6750cc V8, ohv, Garrett T4 turbocharger, Zytec ESFI
  • Max Power 395bhp @ 4200rpm
  • Max Torque 616lb ft @ 2150rpm
  • Transmission Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion, power-assisted
  • Suspension Front and rear: independent, double wishbones, anti-roll bar; automatic self-levelling
  • Brakes Vented discs all round, ABS
  • Weight 2520kg
  • Performance
  • 0-60mph: 6.0sec.
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Fuel consumption 14mpg
  • Cost new £150k
  • CC Price Guide £15k-£28k

The Big Test Think Big

Ahead lay sinuous switchback roads dressed with damp leaves. It should have been intimidating’

EDITOR PHIL BELL SAYS ‘My first drive in a Jaguar 420G was on a chilly autumn day, and ahead lay sinuous switchback roads dressed with damp leaves. It should have been intimidating – this was by far the largest car I had driven to date. ‘Yet as I strode across the wide sill and slid onto the vast driver’s chair I felt immediately reassured. A forest of trees and a herd of cows seemed to have sacrificed themselves to make me feel comfortable. More importantly, a small but talented team of engineers had put everything they knew into making this giant machine go, stop and change direction better than most contemporaries half its size. I was spellbound.’

PRODUCTION EDITOR JOE BREEZE SAYS ‘One of my most memorable shoots was a twin-test featuring an LM002. An utterly insane experience, especially for a “civvy”. A breakdown soon curtailed the fun; luckily the other car being tested was a Hummer H1, so at least we could tow it to safety! But imagine the scene when the recovery truck arrived and was a full foot narrower… ‘What it lacks in real-world practicality it makes up for with sense of occasion – no drive in a LM002 is forgettable, and this hobby is all about making memories. And I can’t think of a more experiential way to incinerate GBP than by flooring a bona-fide military vehicle with a supercar drivetrain.’

NEWS EDITOR SAM DAWSON SAYS ‘The Lincoln Continental never fails to fascinate and excite. Lose any preconceptions that American luxury cars are unsophisticated, wallowy barges laden down with flashy ornaments. This Continental is a beautiful, refined piece of American design that bears comparison both with traditional European luxury, and also technological pioneers like the Citroën DS. Especially if you buy the four-door convertible, which uses parts derived from aircraft landing gear to operate the roof. It’s the perfect accompaniment to other American modernist high-watermarks like Richard Neutra architecture and furniture by Charles and Ray Eames.’

That’s 10.5 tonnes of madcap metal for a heavy-weight quantity of pleasure – just be sure to measure your garage before buying

Thanks to: jordanscarstorage.com (01483 277775), Kevin and Dorcas Sherwood, Stuart Pickering, Bill McIntyre, Jaguar Drivers’ Club (jaguardriver.co.uk), Class Classic Cars (classclassiccars.com), W116.org, Lamborghini Club (lamborghiniclub.co.uk), Bentley Drivers Club (bdcl.org)

Article type:
Review
90
0
Phil McNamara Phil McNamara 1 month ago #

Full-size luxury classics have been the orphans of the classic car world, but their unique appeal is growing.

Stars of film, music and industry spend fast-paced lives racing between helipads, parties, appointments and romantic liaisons in a dizzying blur of wild V12 supercar fury, right? In the public imagination maybe. Reality for such exotic machinery is a life of air-conditioned storage, punctuated by rare trips out for a spot of posing. The greatest jeopardy is not somersaulting off the edge of a hillside road after an intoxicant-fuelled party, but having the wrong detailing products applied by the hired valeter. To arrive at those appointments fresh and ready to perform, life’s high achievers will waft in air-conditioned, air-suspended luxury.

Greeting one’s followers with eyes out on stalks and shirt plastered to your back with sweat doesn’t create the right impression. James Hunt ran a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, as did baseball star Reggie Jackson and the Kennedys favoured Lincoln’s fourth-generation Continentals in assorted forms.

Don McLean has had two Bentley Arnages. Eddie van Halen and Sylvester Stallone had Lamborghini LM002s, giving the outrageous-looking but civilised ‘Rambo Lambo’ its nickname, and the notorious Kray twin gangsters liked a Jaguar MkX for its ability to exude an air of successful businessman, laced with a hint of menace in case anyone disagreed.

Of course, all of that luxury can make such cars intimidating to own as they tumble down the secondhand market into the hands of owners on sub-superstar incomes, shedding value like autumn leaves. Until, that is, they start to be appreciated for their uniquely pampering classic appeal. That’s where we come in, armed with the right knowledge and the urge for a different kind of classic car experience. Lamborghini LM002 values underline how more buyers are thinking big, and the other real estate in our test is becoming more expensive, but they still represent appealing value compared to their lesser-sized contemporaries.

Time to indulge ourselves.

Such decadence comes at a price, one that’s worth paying.

Drives TODAY use cookie