Bristol Owners Concours Greenwich 21.8.11

Charles Morgan

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To Greenwich Naval Hospital for the Bristol Owners Concours. A lovely day, bright and sunny for the most part. Virtually every type of Bristol ever made, lots of comments from numerous tourists. I got into a long conversation with a Bristol 405 owner who is restoring it, who turned out to own two W124s and a BMW 2002 - a man of taste!

100s of photos, I shall upload a few of the special cars, but here is one to start for Mocas - a Series 6 411 just waiting for him...

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showing (through the window - poor reflections alas) the revised and rather smart interior (admirably sticking with elm rather than move to walnut)...

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trapperjohn

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Was there ever a connection between Jowett and Alvis Charles? Some of the "rear ends" of the Bristols look a little like Jowett Javelins.
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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The pre-war BMW connection came from Frazer-Nash, which had the right to import and produce BMWs under their own name in the 30s. When WW2 was ending, the Bristol Aircraft Company, realising aircraft production was going to fall, decided to build cars and took a stake in Frazer-Nash, whose sales director Hugh Aldington was by then a Major in the British army. Finding BMW's car factory in Russian hands, he took back the BMW technical staff and designs - the first car to be made by Bristol, the 400, was in essence a pre-war 327, with a 328 straight six two litre engine:

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Oh and the grille of the Bristol til the mid fifties:

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Harrythedog

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Have you found the one wrapped in velvet Charles, the one I saw in the 70's
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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Alas no. I suspect if it is still around, it would not be a car to risk taking out on potentially wet days.

The next models, the 401, 402 (the convertible version) and the 403, were styled with the famous Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, pioneers of the Superleggera method of construction used by Ferrari, Aston Martin and Bristol. The grille is still BMW derived, the engine slowly being worked on to produce more power, and using the Bristol Aircraft Company wind tunnels, the cars achieved a cd of .39 - an unheard of figure really until the 70s.

401

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The super rare 402, with aluminium Art Deco dash.

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403:

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The 403, with an output of 100hp from the straight six, still two litres, could reach a top speed of 104mph - astonishing for the time.
 

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100s of photos, I shall upload a few of the special cars, but here is one to start for Mocas - a Series 6 411 just waiting for him...

How kind. I trust you have left it parked somewhere obvious in the vicinity of Gloucester Road, with the keys tucked behind the sun visor...

showing (through the window - poor reflections alas) the revised and rather smart interior (admirably sticking with elm rather than move to walnut)...

And I hope the tweed jacket is in my size... :)

Superb photographs (keep 'em coming), and a delightful setting for the occasion. Excellent write-up, too. Many thanks.
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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Right, fortified by some pleasantly rebarbative Beaujolais with Breast of lamb Ste Menehould, on with the story. Alas Mocas, I have kept the 411 myself, and it will be hidden in my new hideaway somewhere not in London...

With the 404 Bristol abandoned the BMW kidney grille, using a nose that some say was modelled on an aircraft engine. With a cut down chassis this apparently is a bit of a handful, but a very distinctive and extremely rare car:

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The rear has a delicious pert fastback but no real boot, something odd for the very practical Bristols:

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The 404 morphed into the only 4 door Bristol made, the 405, known as the flying greenhouse by virtue of its huge glass area, and designed as a limo, hence the much larger rear door:

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My friend Richard was planning to attend in his 405 drophead, but circumstance intervened, but there was a great one with two of the fattest labs I have seen:

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Still using the 2 litre six, by this time producing 105bhp in the saloon and 125bhp in the drophead 405, and with overdrive, this car is (from experience) a joy to drive.

The 405 is the first Bristol to store the spare wheel in the wing, with the battery in the other. Improving boot space and also the ability to remove the spare without getting dirty, this feature continues to contemporary Bristols:

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RPP 762 - magnificent!
Nice, but for me KYU 794 or 88B.

Great photos Charles and I'm truly jealous as I could not attend what looks like a really super day. More photos pleease. :D
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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So to the last of the BMW 2 litre six engined Bristols, the 406. The body, through various iterations, was the base shape for the 406 - 411s in various series. This being a lot heavier than previous cars and establishing also the Sports coupe style, the engine was increased in capacity to 2.2 litres, generating enough extra torque to shift the extra weight, but not in a particularly fleet way. By now, the car was discs all round - another far-sighted Bristol early adoption.

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Meanwhile, Bristol 2 litre engines were produced for the AC Ace, the Cooper Bristol and the Arnolt Bristol - a US race car, also called the Bolide (small world heh?).

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The sadness is that the 406 engine has been used so often to replace engines in specials, as well as provide more power for pre-war BMWs, that large number of the cars have been scrapped or re-engined.
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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The original engine plan that Aldington had in mind was to use the BMW 6 for just one car, replacing it with a small BMW V8. By the mid fifties Bristol had largely wrung what was possible out of an engine based originally on the four cylinder Austin 7 engine. Bristol had some fanciful ideas of using a rotary engine (the aircraft heritage) but its torque put paid to that. The next engine development was accidental - looking for an automatic, they tried out the torqueflight 3 speed from Chrysler in Canada (as a Commonwealth country importing was easier). It was shipped with a small block Chrysler V8, which was torquey and provided muscle that the 6 couldn't. So the body of the 406 was then developed via several models, each using the Chrysler V8 and Torqueflight:

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By this time also, the company had separated from the Aircraft side and had been bought by Sir George White (grandson of the founder of the Bristol Aircraft Company) and Tony Crook, a racing driver. Lacking capital, the development of the cars became much more incremental, the company renowned for not changing things if not necessary.
 

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Was there ever a connection between Jowett and Alvis Charles? Some of the "rear ends" of the Bristols look a little like Jowett Javelins.

Perhaps not in design or manufacture, but they've certainly crossed paths with each other. The Javelin's designer, Gerald Palmer, recounted in this autobiography that Hubert Patthey, the Swiss agent for the car, also held concessions for Bristol, Alvis, AC and Nuffield (whose cars also benefitted from Palmer's sublime skill).
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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Come the 70s, the 411 series was getting long in the tooth. Still using the same chassis and engine, two models were launched at a time of oil crisis - the 603 and the 412. The 603, while boxy and ungainly carried on many Bristol traditions of interior space and all round visibility:

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The body still forms the basis of the Blenheim, a model Bristol were still making up to March this year.

The 412 was designed and made at first by Zagato of Italy (they had made several 406 dropheads of considerable rarity now). Boxy but to me quite wonderful in the flesh, this in turbo form became the Beaufighter. (by now, Bristol Cars had started using the names of the famous Bristol planes - Brigand, Britannia, Beaufighter and Blenheim).

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After a dreadful accident in his Bristol, Tony Crook had taken over the company entirely. The lack of capital became more and more pressing and Crook was renowned for not letting people buy his cars unless he approved of them.
 

Aeroman

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Various Blenheims


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Although I was unable to attend the event Charles, my Blenheim 3S (V8 BLM) was there as it is with Bristol on an SOR-basis. :(
 

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