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Originally an air plane manufacturer, Bristol announced its 401 model in 1949 which was only the second model built by the fledgling car builder whose elegant 1946 400 model looked much like the pre-war BMW on which it was based. The 401 had a strong alloy body but extravagant alloy panels, wrapped around small diameter tubes which were graded in thickness according to function, heavier on top of the wings for instance where mechanics would lean during servicing. Under the skin was a separate chassis derived from the first Bristol, which continues in its essentials to this day. The engine a throaty straight six was appropriated from BMW after the war in reparations and was an engineering gem. Almost 100mph from a 2 litre engine pulling a luxurious full four seater – Jaguar and Bentley needed double the capacity to do the same job. Speed was not what this car was about. Fine handling and an aerodynamic body shape with its teardrop tail and smooth contours was honed on Bristol’s two mile Filton runway and was truly aerodynamic for its time. In tests carried out at the MIRAS wind tunnel 20 years after the 401 ‘s demise only four modern cars were found to be more aerodynamic providing excellent fuel economy up to 25 miles to every gallon. In 1961 the 407 with its Canadian built Chrysler 5.2 litre engine was the first V8 Bristol instantly capitulating the big four seater into the 130mph class. In 1966 the 410 followed with similar styling and a large V8 power unit , this style continued until the early 1990’s.Bristol are still in production today producing a handful of luxury vehicles a year. Several have been through our works for mechanical overhaul and coachwork restoration. The 400 is a superb car combining aero design with German engineering whilst maintaining English hand built luxury.

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