Thoughts and advice on the care and feeding of fine automobiles from Machine Aficionado and bestselling author John Elder Robison, owner of JE Robison Service in Springfield, Massachusetts

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Bentley Continental GTC at Robison Service

Over the years, Robison Service has acquired a reputation for knowing convertible tops on Rolls Royce and Bentley cars.  As a result, we see cars with all manner of problems.  Intellectually challenging as that may be, it sometimes makes me long for the days when service was simple and the only convertible top problems we saw were from something obvious, like vandalism.

This week we saw out first failure of a new Continental GTC top mechanism.  This car came in with an opening problem, and damage to the outer fabric.  The owner thought he needed a new outer skin and some straps he’d seen broken.  He’d done some research online and found people talking about strap breakage, and the holes in his outer skin made that part of the problem self-evident.

However, as is often the case, we found more to the story.  When we cycled the top we saw the rear edge of the top (which folds up) was scraping the edge of the swing-up boot.  This had been going on long enough to scuff the paint from the boot and cut the fabric bead of the top right through to the metal.  In addition, the top was folding wrong, and there were several patched holes to the left of the rear window. 

“The dealer I bought it from must have done that,” the owner explained.  He told me he’d assumed the car would need a top, and he’d budgeted $3-4,000 to make the change. 

When we looked closer, we saw that one of the inner securing straps was broken, and the cables and headliner were beginning to unravel on the left side.  It was cleat that something had gone wrong on the left side of the top.  It looks like the straps (which keep the top in place as it folds) had ripped away from the top, which left the top bunch up and tangle in the bows.  We’ve seen that happen on Azure cars, and it often leads to big trouble there, as the tangled fabric causes the bows to bend, and the now-misaligned top will never work smoothly no matter how you adjust it.

Indeed, when we made some measurements, we found the two rear bows were slightly out of alignment or bent.  The way Bentley engineers designed this system it does not take much misalignment to cause a collision between top and boot, with the virtual assurance of additional trouble.

Looking at the workshop manual, it appears the only reliable way to fix this problem is to install a new top assembly, at a cost of $14,500 plus installation.  Looking online, I see there are aftermarket suppliers offering the Haartz top skins alone for $2,800.  However, a skin alone won’t fix this situation.  And once you get into replacing the pad, liner, and inner bow pieces the costs quickly approach that of a complete assembly.

The owner of this car looked at three other similar Bentleys in Florida, and saw the same damage on each.   That makes me wonder if this is a designed-in problem that will plague every Bentley convertible, or if these are just four unlucky people.

So here’s my question:  How many Bentley GTC owners have experienced convertible top trouble?  What was done to fix it, and how long has the repair lasted?  

* 2018 update:  Since this article was published I have seen dozens of cars with damage in the same place, confirming the this of this story.  The top problems seem to persist through the 2015 cars, maybe newer.  A number of people have tried putting on new top canvas with bad result (the new canvas is soon punctured) and the only cure seems to be the new top assembly which as of this writing is about $22k parts and labor.

John Elder Robison

About John:
John Robison is the founder of J E Robison Service Co of Springfield, MA. His company specializes in the repair and restoration of Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars.  John is also known as an author and advocate for people with autism and neurological differences.  His books include Look Me in the Eye, Be Different, and Raising Cubby. John has also written numerous articles on Rolls Royce service and repair, and he’s a frequent contributor to the RROC technical forums. He’s always available to advise owners about the care and feeding of their fine motorcars.  413-785-1665


Bentley Owner said...

I have a 2007 GTC and have experienced the same problem whereby I had 3 little pinholes develop in the same area as in the photos you posted. Over the past several months, these have become substantially larger in size which I assume is due to continued interaction with some misaligned roof mechanism parts every time I raise or lower the top.

I found your post as I too was curious to know if perhaps this was a documented design flaw. My Bentley dealer was unaware of similar situations but obviously from your comments - they do exist.

Has anybody contacted Bentley Motors to find out if they are prepared to do anything. Obviously I don't wish to spend the money repairing the top if it is just going to happen again.

Henry Jordan said...

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Henry Jordan

Hydraulic Seals

Price Action Guru said...

I own a 2007 GTC and everyone whom I have met who has a GTC has had the same exact problem.

Do you have a fix for this?

If so, I will gladly bring my car to you to fix it.

???? said...

I had a late 2007 Bentley GTC and was called back to the dealership for a re call on the convertible top I remember their was a problem with the sensing motor or proximity sensor and they repaired it...I believe that the factory is aware of the problem. My car was under warranty at the time.I had NO problems with my top.

???? said...

I had a late 2007 Bentley GTC and was called back to the dealership for a re call on the convertible top I remember their was a problem with the sensing motor or proximity sensor and they repaired it...I believe that the factory is aware of the problem. My car was under warranty at the time.I had NO problems with my top.

hotrod2130 said...

I have a 08 GTC, with two brackets at base of the rear window right at the seal to the deck, both are cracked. Top seems to work ok most times with halting operation once in a while. Recycling the top seems to end the troubles. Has anyone had a similar issue ?

Bentley Owner said...

Further to my earlier post, earlier this week I saw another GTC with the identical pattern of holes as in my car but on the right side (mine are on the left). The person who showed it to me said he had seen four cars with the identical problem so these are obviously NOT isolated cases.Anybody else hear of other cases?
The fix definitely seems to be first replace the straps - but the question is - will the new ones also snap?

Universal Record Pool said...

I have the exact same problem with my 2007 GTC. It started with small pinholes on the drivers rear side which have gotten bigger over time. Bentley needs a recall about this problem.

Bob J said...

just told my 2009 GTC needs a whole new top, according to the Bentley dealer in FL. No cost estimate yet. suggestions?

Steven Rochlin said...

Where to begin? Well, the top is slow to close because, you guess it, she is starting to rub. No holes so far and hopes to solve this situation shortly. But as we know with a Bentley there are always more to the story. The New England service center mechanic told me that hot Florida weather will make the rear window come unglued. So moved from New England to Florida a few months ago and guess what is being fixed with the 2007 GTC today. If you guessed the rear window coming unglued from the convertible top's canvass then you'd be correct.

Someone truly needs to start a Class Action lawsuit.

Larry Michaels said...

I have a 2008 Bentley GTC and many issues with the roof. I just replaced the straps and now I have holes in both rear quarter panel of the roof. I see this is a common issue is Bentley doing anything about this? I live in S. Florida and do notice this on other Bentley. Can someone recommend a place to get these holes fixed or a replacement top. I also get a FAULT code at times but after a few times trying to move the roof up and down it resets.

Bob J said...

Contacted the Bentley manufacturers rep. Negotiated a reasonable sharing of expenses to replace the top on my 2009 GTC. That plus another complex part, also a a very fair price. Dealer also agreed to a reasonable discount on labor. Now I have a new top with a new warranty.

Rob Goldberg said...

Hey Bob. Could you please provide contact info for the Bentley manufacturer's rep that worked with you on your top issues? Thanks bud. If I am unable to straighten out MY top issues, I am thinking of using my gorgeous sky blue with yellow interior GTC as the most expensive planter ever created and having it hoisted to the rooftop terrace of my home in Miami Beach where it will overlook the matching blue of the Atlantic in perpetuity! :)

greg muzz said...

is anyone aware if there have been any class action lawsuits or other litigation about this? seems to me that bentley has significant liability due to their engineering flaws.

greg muzz said...

hello all. i have a 2010 and have paid 3 times to have the roof repaired by a bentley dealer. the roof still isn't right and they want me to now pay for a new roof. i believe this is a design / manufacturing flaw from bentley and working with an attorney to file a class action lawsuit. people who have paid money to fix bentley's mistakes should be compensated and people who have roofs that don't work should get roofs that work. if you would like to be part of this litigation please let me know.

Astrid Alessi said...

I have a 2011 Bentley Continental GTC-S that just developed two little holes in the exact spot as your photo. I am very upset to find that this is a common and unresolved problem. My car only has 20,000 miles and is in otherwise mint condition.

Gert B. Frobe said...

Yes, another mad Bentley owner in Florida! My top got stuck in the halfway position on my 07 GTC. Upon shutting the car off, the roof fault continued to buzz. Slowly the top folded down all by itself. I then had to use the manual crank to get it down all the way. Took it to the dealer in Orlando, where they quickly told me the tops are a chronic problem. $750 later, I left with a new servo. On the drive home, I could hear a lot of wind. During the repair, all the up and down made the rear window seal break and my glass fell down. The dealer denied it was them. GMAFB! I had the glass re-glued elsewhere and next time I went to use the top it got stuck again. Upon calling the Orlando dealer, I was told I need a new top, “the factory recommends replacement after ten years”, $21,929! Upon reading ALL your blogs, this entire Bentley convertible top issue is such a bag of BS, you can smell it through your iPad. Bentley knows they suck, the dealers know they suck, and now we all know they suck. The question is, are we just a bunch of rich cry babies, or are we going to do something about it?

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