I love a nice Bristol

Charles Morgan

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So, following on from my Burgundy trip when I was given the opportunity to drive my mate's 1956 Bristol 405 Drophead Coupe (below)

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he added me to all his car insurance, and as he is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, we thought a nice gentle trip out to the countryside in his Bristol 411 Series 3 with a few extras would be nice.

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When launched the car had a 5.9 litre Chrysler V8 with 3 speed Torqueflight transmission. However, as Bristol successfully started turbocharging V8s in the early 80s (just after Bentley launched the Mulsanne Turbo), Richard asked the factory to fit a turbocharger to the 411, necessitating a lot of work adding a turbo bulge and plumbing it in. The effect though is remarkable. Starting up you get that gorgeous lumpy V8 sound, and pulling away the torque is superb.

Driving is quite an experience - the car is narrow, you sit on a sofa of a seat, with the aero dash in front of you. Looking out over a sinuous long front bonnet it generates the most tremendous sense of occasion. Comparing the performance to my 86 Bentley Turbo R, the ride is smooth, it soaks up the bumps, power delivery is more refined and more linear, not quite the massive wave of torque the Bentley would deliver, but altogether very satisfying. The gears change quite imperceptibly, but the third gear is altogether too low geared, so at 80 mph you are pulling over 3000 revs, which combined with a noisy diff made for a noisy cruise (don't ask about the fuel economy!).

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The car is very aerodynamic - wind noise is barely noticeable at a fast cruise, a reminder that even as far back as the late 40s these cars, built by an aircraft manufacturer originally, were styled in the windtunnel. The Bristol 401 designed in the late 40s had a cd of .39 - an astonishing figure that would put many 80s cars to shame. You can also tell the car was built using lots of parts from the BL part bin - Austin Maxi door handles in and out, rocker switches from a 60s James Bond Dr Evil control room, air con from a Hong Kong taxi - ugly but most effective.

Definitely a period piece, but an absolutely gorgeous one all the same. My liking for the Bristol motor car is starting to turn into a love. I shall give an account of this day out (you can make me out in blue in the passenger seat of the grey 405 drophead - second on the left at the traffic lights) to Frazer Nash at some future point, but these are gorgeous cars, whose looks are superb in the flesh. I even now love the 412! I have been allowed to join the Bristol Owners Club, and if anyone wishes to have a visual feast, their concours is at Greenwich Naval Hospital on the 21st August - let me know if you'd like to come along.

Bristol1.jpg
 

flango

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I've always had a soft spot for Bristol's :D Glorious car's thanks for Sharing Charles that looks one stunning car which I suspect drives as well as it looks.
 

renault12ts

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First two photos, a lovely pair of Bristols.:thumb:
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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The Bristols joke is listed as the oldest one in the Owners Club handbook...

A word about the handling and steering - most large cars of this period are a bit imprecise and the steering a bit woolly. Not this - it is extremely direct and responsive, a car that gives you a lot of pleasure to drive and responds well to all inputs. Very much a drivers car. Richard has taken it on track days, and it has kept its own end up against period Ferraris. Not a lot will beat a turbo V8 in a straight line, but the handling (soft tyres not withstanding) is pretty sharp.

I am beginning to understand how people get period cars, it had its idiosyncracies and faults, the washer wipers were an utter pain (they wouldn't switch off, and being used to the Merc control stalk on the right, I kept switching them on), but this is a liveable car.
 

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A fine write-up Charles , accompanied by some lovely photographs .

Setright , himself , would have smiled at that .
 

Harrythedog

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Beautiful motors. I remember when I was a kid about 37 years ago I saw a Bristol and the entire body was wrapped in what appeared to be a dark velvet material. Still wonder to this day what the history of that car was
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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A fine write-up Charles , accompanied by some lovely photographs .

Setright , himself , would have smiled at that .

500x_LJKS_1.jpg


He of course was president of the owners club, and a lifelong owner. I am busy saving up for his two books on Bristols. A great admirer of his, his writing was both technical and euphonious, and apart from Bristols, a great admirer of Honda and Lanchester.
 

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He of course was .........apart from Bristols, a great admirer of Honda and Lanchester.


Please don't forget Mercedes-Benz : the great man once wrote something like " there is more cleverness per cubic inch in a Mercedes-Benz than in any other make of car " , this , IIRC , in relation to the W126 ( when he reviewed it in CAR magazine ) .
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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That is a good mate of mine, with whom I had lunch today. I was taking the photo. :rolleyes:

Can I tell what is what yet?
 

trapperjohn

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Do I detect a double defection coming on Charles.
 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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No chance Mr TJ, not after having the 02 fettled and the W124 fitted out with a stonking hi-fi.

Need to find the right Bristol as well, worth taking ones time. While I can drive these two beauties, no point in having another.
 

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Setright writing in CAR magazine July 1975 on the then new Bristol 412 Zagato:

"The car can be tracked clinically through bends at very high speeds,and I got the impression that it could be flung through them if so desired. In a long bend that I use as a regular test, there are some ripples halfway through that sort the soggy and the supple and the stiff with cruel candour. A Volvo 144 was intimidating at 70mph, a Camaro felt as though it were on the rack at 90, and I have never dared take a motorcycle through at more than 95. The best I have ever managed was 120 in an Uracco, roll-rocking on its stiff torsion bars. The Bristol goes through at 110mph, and that is praise enough, is it not?"





 
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Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

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For those interested in looking at a nice Bristol or two, the Bristol Owners Club Concours is being held this Sunday 21st August in the grounds of the Naval Hospital at Greenwich. I shall be going with my father, who used to work as a school leaver for the Bristol Aircraft Company.
 

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