Lot 355 - 1954 Bristol 405 Saloon - Restoration Project
|Engine Number||Engine/gearbox not included|
|Odometer reading||96,186 miles|
|Result||Sold - £4,480|
The Bristol brand may be described as many things, obscure and elitist, elusive but persistent, small but still strangely powerful but the self-proclaimed last wholly-British automobile manufacturer shares little aspects in terms of genesis and growth with other car producers.
Bristol automobiles are the result of a 1945 post war joint venture between the Bristol Aeroplane Company (BAC) and AFN Ltd., makers of Frazer Nash cars. The end of WWII brought a shortage in aircraft and ammunition demands, forcing lots of factories to shut down or convert their assembly lines in order to cater to new needs. Having been dazed by bombings and unscheduled postponing of pre-war projects, many car producers were slow at making a complete comeback, unwittingly opening niches in the industry.
Although preparations had been made for the beginning of development and production of Bristol branded models, 1947 marked the appearance of the first Bristol automobile, the Bristol 400, a peremptory display of BMW craftsmanship. Mimicking the earlier BMW 327, the car was a blend of three different BMW models, with the engine and front suspension taken from the 328 model and rear suspension from the 326. The British manufacturer continued to find inspiration in BMW models until 1961, when the BMW 6-cylinder engines were replaced by the larger Chrysler V8.
In 1949, the 400 was joined by the 401. Bodied by Touring, it was aerodynamically sleeker, accelerated better, and had higher top speed. It was then joined by the drophead 402, of which just 24 examples were ever built. The 403 followed in 1953, which featured improved brakes, gearbox, dampers, heater, and engine (a detuned racing motor, in fact). Bristol would use this same engine in the 450, entered at Le Mans in 1953; it broke its experimental crankshaft, but despite being less than aerodynamically ideal proved a full five seconds a lap quicker than the competition. Along with the 403 was the 404, on a shorter wheelbase, with more powerful engine and styling reminiscent of the 450. The 404 introduced a concealed front wing-mounted spare wheel and battery. It was built to extremely exacting standards, and the price reflected it; this, plus newly-introduced 'punative taxation', meant only 40 were produced.
The 405, which entered production in 1954, was much more successful, not least for being Bristol's only four-door model. It remained in production until 1958, with 297 saloons and 43 drophead coupés produced in all.
Time aided Bristol in adopting a style of its own, with trademarked uniquely hand-made aircraft inspired body works and a surprisingly long life. Bought by former racing driver Tony Crook in 1973, the Bristol company became co-owned by Toby Silverton in 1997 who became the sole owner of the company in 2001. The latest Bristol designs, such as the Fighter, are much more sportier than the previous, flaunting jet fighter inspired bodies.
Bristol is the only car brand that promotes itself through direct contact with its clients. Its cars are still handmade, taking up to four more times longer than it takes regular producers to complete one. Having stayed loyal to a treasured set of values, amongst which we can name tradition and true-quality, Bristol managed to avoid any means of advertising
A recent skirmish with the administrators put Bristol Cars back into the headlines although since then, Kamkorp Autokraft, part of the Frazer-Nash group, has announced that it has acquired the assets and goodwill. This acquisition will re-establish the connection between Bristol Cars and Frazer-Nash which dates back to Frazer-Nash's close involvement in the foundation of Bristol Cars 65 years ago.
With a new breath of fresh air whistling down the hallowed corridors of the Kensington showrooms, it seems appropriate that the company's heritage be restored as well. The following three examples come from the most dedicated and knowledgeable sources available; Brian May has been restoring and collecting these iconic motorcars for over 45 years and what he doesn't know, probably isn't worth knowing. With advice and spares widely available, these extremely well-engineered motorcars are a joy and the opportunity to restore one to one's own specification, a rare treat.
The first 405 on offer is a 1954 model. It has remained in the custody of the vendor for approximately ten years and has been stored under cover during that time. It is currently finished in blue with a blue leather interior and contrasting red piping. The condition of the leather is good and, it is thought, would come back up with just a good feed and polish. The car itself is largely complete although it is sold without an engine or gearbox. Spares are available and, in fact, the vendor has generously offered to supply all missing parts (except engine and gearbox), free of charge, to the new owner.
Sold as restoration project.
Addendum; This lot now comes with a fully re-built engine and gearbox as well as a remote gearshift overdrive.
Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Accordingly, buyers are on notice that each vehicle is offered ‘as is/as seen’ subject to the Terms and Conditions for the auction. Buyers are advised to inspect the vehicle in person or use a professional to carry out this service. Historics will not entertain disputes over descriptions.