Bristol Cars

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chris_w666

22,655 posts

135 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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I could see how they appeal. If I came into the kind of money that would allow supercar ownership, Bristol would be on my list of things to own. Yes I know they are not supercars before someone flames me. I hold these in the same little part of my dreams that contains spykers and jensen interceptors.

The individuality and the fact people wouldn't hate you appeal greatly. Also only true petrolheads would ask questions about it, where I can imagine owning a ferrari or a lambo you get questions from ordinary folk and that just wouldn't do.

Whitney-Paine

568 posts

131 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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Blimey Bugatti from the 90's, Bristol and Tony Crook all in one thread.

Some info for you:
1) My favourite Jeremy Clarkson review was of the Bristol Blenheim and it is here. Pasted as URl does not work. It is from the Times:


"Bristol Blenheim 3G
If I'd built this car myself, it wouldn't have been much worse
Jeremy Clarkson

Oh gosh, is it Sunday? What, already? Er, crikey. Bit embarrassing actually because I haven’t actually driven anything this week. Well, nothing you’d want to read about.

I had a brief go in the new Toyota Land Cruiser but I could never fill a whole column with that. I couldn’t even fill a sentence. It just needs one word: “Mumsy.”

Then there was the new Renault Mégane, which has just been voted European car of the year. This is the most prestigious award in all of motoring. Were the fifty or so judges plied with so much free champagne that they became incapable of making a rational decision? Their choices over the years have been either bewildering, obtuse or bonkers. There was the Renault 9, for instance, and the Rover SD1, which was notable only for going like cricket — it stopped every time it looked like rain. And exactly how much Châteauneuf-du-Pape had they consumed when they voted in the Talbot Horizon or the Talbot Alpine or the Citroën XM? With the Mégane, though, they have surpassed themselves. Making this the car of the year rather than, say, the Mazda 6, is like saying no to Saving Private Ryan and awarding the Oscar to Police Academy 7. Actually, that’s quite a good metaphor. The Mazda is like Saving Private Ryan: important and a major departure for its creator. And the Renault Mégane is like Police Academy 7: colourful and a bit daft.

Deciding whether you want one depends entirely on whether you like its enormous rear end. If you do, go ahead. If you don’t, buy a Ford Focus or a VW Golf, or anything really, except last year’s car of the year, the Peugeot 307. And there we are, you see. Already I’m out of things to say.

So let’s move on, shall we, to a car that I have not driven this week or indeed ever: the Bristol Blenheim 3G.

I tried to drive it. I asked the man who brought it over if I could have the keys but he was most insistent: “You can only look at it.” Well, I could have done that using an internet. “I don’t care. That’s what my boss says.” Ah, his boss: the legendary Tony Crook.

He was the man who rescued Bristol’s car division when the government merged the aeroplane business into the British Aircraft Corporation. And he was the man who throughout the 1950s used to tour the motor show stands of his competitors — Fraser Nash and Rolls-Royce — dressed as an Arab.

“Oh, it was great fun. I used to order five or six Rolls-Royces at a time and once I tried to buy all the cars from the Fraser Nash stand.

I insisted they sold all of them to me that day. And I had a suitcase full of money to prove I meant business. It wasn’t really money. It was a few fivers with lots of lavatory paper underneath but it had them fooled.”

Of course, Rolls was used to him because in the 1940s he used to pay tramps to sit on its stand at the London motor show. Why? “Well, just to annoy them really.”

He’s a wonderful, wonderful man and I love him dearly but he’s from a bygone age, really, and that’s fitting because so are his cars. I drove one only once, back in the early 1990s, and can remember to this day Crook’s face when I pointed to the window winders and said: “It doesn’t have electric windows.”

“My dear chap,” he said, looking like I’d just stuck a needle in his eye, “why should it? People have arms.”

He hasn’t changed. I quizzed him last week about his new car — the Fighter — which is due to be launched next year, asking if it has a monocoque construction or perhaps something even more modern. “Why should it?” he asked again. “Our engineers had a look at that but there didn’t seem any point so it still has a separate chassis. Jolly good it is, too.”

That’s the response you get to pretty well any technical question. When I asked about the differences between the Blenheim S and the normal car, he said: “Oh, the S is a sporty job, different camshaft and tighter. That sort of thing.” And the Blenheim 3G? “Yes, that runs on gas.”

Does it work? Well, I don’t know because Crook’s enormous minder had the keys in his pocket and wouldn’t hand them over. But he did let me climb inside and I could not believe the scene that awaited me.

This car looked like it had been made by me. And I simply cannot think of a worse thing to say. It was awful. Beyond awful. The handle, for instance, which you pull to open the glove box was not a handle at all. It appeared to be a 3in length of flex from a 1940s telephone receiver which had been crudely screwed to the wood by someone with the carpentry skills of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The screws weren’t level. They weren’t the same. And their heads were exposed, burred and scarred. Like they would be if they’d been put there by a poet.

So you see, I’ve found more to say about the handle on the Bristol’s glove box than I found to say about the whole Toyota Land Cruiser. And I haven’t even got to the switches yet.

The switches were astonishing. Not only did they appear to have been lifted from my grandfather’s mahogany gramophone, which was the size of a sofa, but it seems they’d been positioned on the dashboard in a team-building game of pin the tail on the donkey.

Either that or someone fires them at the dash using a catapult and then nails them down wherever they land. “Where’s the switch for the lights?” I asked the minder. “Dunno mate, could be anywhere.” Absolutely. I couldn’t find it but then I didn’t look in the passenger footwell or behind the sun visor.

I also didn’t find the switch for the heated rear window, but having examined the glass I’m not sure it has one. This wouldn’t be entirely surprising. It also doesn’t have an airbag, satellite navigation, heated seats or indeed anything. On its official website, the company talks only about the excellent optical quality of the glass. Well, it’s certainly unencumbered with heating elements.

So you’re not buying a Bristol for the number of gizmos or the way those that you do get are attached to the car. I carefully examined the front air splitter, for instance, and deduced that it must have been put there by a horse.

No, really. As Sherlock Holmes himself advised: “When you have eliminated the impossible” — and it is impossible to imagine a human making such a hash of it — “then what remains, no matter how implausible, must be the truth.” So it was a horse.

And then there’s the engine. It’s a 5.9 litre V8 that is still made in a small corner of Chrysler’s Detroit engine plant especially for lil’ ol’ Bristol. It’s not green, powerful, economical, modern or quiet but it will last for a long time.

And the same goes for the chassis, which first saw the light of day in Ben-Hur’s chariot. I should also draw your attention to the styling which appears to have been done by . . . well, me again actually, and the £145,000 price tag which is, let’s say, hopeful.

Customers include Richard Branson, Liam Gallagher and Jeremy King, former owner of the Ivy, the upmarket London restaurant. They sell 150 a year and it’s hard to see why.

What’s the appeal? What am I missing? Why would anyone buy a Bristol and not a Bentley Arnage T or an Aston Martin Vanquish or a Range Rover or a Mini or a Kia Sedona or a Toyota Prius even? Well, going back to my film analogy, Bristol is Marlon Brando. Way past its sell-by date, fat and possibly a bit wet in the panty department. But for no memorable reason, still a huge name, still a bankable star and still, as a result, icy cool.

There’s only one reason why you would ever buy a Bristol: so that when anyone asks what you drive, you can tell them.

I love the bumper being put on by a horse analogy and the switches being fired onto the dash by a catapult from the back seat."



2) I used to do a bit of business with Tony Crook and I would love to tell you details of the eccentric way he did business, but he is very litigeous and I don't fancy going through the hassle. His letters were easily indentifiable in a batch of post as they were still typed, as in a type writer. Suited the image I guess.
3) I can't believe they were racist, as the showroom was often manned by an enormous black bloke as eluded to in Jeremy Clarkson's article.
4) Bugatti lacked attention to detail when delivering EB110's in the early 90's. Would you be happy taking delivery of a car like that when they could not be bothered to make up their own tax disc holder and number plates, so they used BMW ones? Not good.

Edited by Whitney-Paine on Thursday 28th August 22:32

Vario-Rob

3,034 posts

184 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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thinfourth2 said:
What not to like about a company that sayes this

"Bristol 411 Series 4. Peacock blue with black leather. Good original interior. Modern, more economical 5.9 litre V8 fitted by ourselves in 1987. "
Indeed and what’s not to like about a car that has sufficient space for four gentleman and their luggage?

In case anybody is even vaguely interested Octane has a nice feature on Bristol this month and over one hundred grands worth of recommissioned 411.

There is a car for sale in their showroom currently that was once the former property of King Hussein of Jordan, it’s the little touches that do it.

clanger

1,087 posts

194 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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Always wanted, still do, a 405 Convertible - absolute, quintessential top of the range Brit Sportscar - trawl classifieds every week searching for one - if anyone can point me in the right direction? smile

Whitney-Paine

568 posts

131 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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Try speaking to Andrew at Mitchell Motors. They restore Bristol vehicles and may be able to help put you in touch with an owner prepared to sell - 01747 820223.
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hot metal

1,411 posts

129 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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paulmurr said:
sniff petrol said:
HowMuchLonger said:
Apparently they have the stiffest bodyshell of any car - including the Mclaren F1.
It looks like a Mk2 Escort thats melted a bit confused
Christ it looks like I made it

clanger

1,087 posts

194 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
quotequote all
Whitney-Paine said:
Try speaking to Andrew at Mitchell Motors. They restore Bristol vehicles and may be able to help put you in touch with an owner prepared to sell - 01747 820223.
Many thanks will def give them a call in the morning smile

Ren-Raku

604 posts

130 months

Thursday 28th August 2008
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HowMuchLonger said:
Apparantly they have elegant timeless lines.jester
Not as good as a 335d...please don't hit me, first time I've used the goddamn joke.

Ed.

1,616 posts

174 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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Used not to like blenheim 3 but have to say profile has grown on me, something to look forward to I guess. The Fighter in fantastic, there was a great review in evo a year or few ago talking about its ability to wade through water, full size spare, space and handling.

Far Eastender

1,361 posts

154 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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It will be a sad day for car fans of a brand like Bristol went to the wall. That Tony Crook sounds like an absolute riot!

tog

3,440 posts

164 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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clanger said:
Whitney-Paine said:
Try speaking to Andrew at Mitchell Motors. They restore Bristol vehicles and may be able to help put you in touch with an owner prepared to sell - 01747 820223.
Many thanks will def give them a call in the morning smile
You should also call Andrew Blow, a broker specialising in Bristols. Be warned though, they only built about 30-something 405 dropheads, are they're rarely for sale and are getting pretty expensive too, probably £60k plus for a good one. And don't get a rough one - there's one in the club that I hear absorbed about £120k in transformation from barn-find to concours winner. Many sales will not be advertised, but be sold through the owners club. Bristol Cars themselves also sell classics, so would be worth a try.

BTW, Tony Crook has now left the company I'm afraid, and it's run by new boy Toby Silverton, who has transformed the way it's run and they seem much more welcoming now. And that Jeremy Clarkson piece is very old - I'm not certain about the Fighter chassis details, but it was designed by racing car designer Max Boxstrom who also did the Aston Group C racer, amongst other things.

williamp

16,223 posts

209 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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Hey Tog how's your bristol? And Tatra?

I really like that 410 that Andrew Blow has for sale. Mechanically excellent, and I can live with bad paint. £10K. Claire would kill me.....

tog

3,440 posts

164 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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410 going well thanks. It's a pretty good car that Andrew has there - it's been for sale for ages so grab yourself a bargain! The paint is not that bad - I've seen much worse. I was tempted to get it myself when I crashed mine last year, but opted to rebuild it in the end and I'm glad I did - would have seemed wrong to toss the old girl aside just because she was a little bashed! Tatra sold now, but still missed...

Trommel

13,879 posts

195 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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tog said:
The paint is not that bad - I've seen much worse.
Ah, you must have seen mine. smile

absolutely

3,168 posts

128 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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A close family friend of ours had a Bristol 401, I think, it was very rare and the body was styled by Pininfarina, he had it in the 60s after he qualified.

Dr JonboyG

2,550 posts

175 months

Friday 29th August 2008
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One of the things I've had to resign myself to is that moving to the US means I now won't get a chance to buy a Bristol. frown

Bristol 412 S1

16 posts

120 months

Tuesday 20th January 2009
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Some beautiful classic Bristols for sale on the Bristol Cars website AND you get a warranty with them!

Ed

XitUp

7,690 posts

140 months

Wednesday 21st January 2009
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HowMuchLonger said:

matt uk

12,881 posts

136 months

Wednesday 21st January 2009
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Look like a Vauxhall Senator

XitUp

7,690 posts

140 months

Wednesday 21st January 2009
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But with worse panel gaps.