We’ve just become the guardians of Bristol Cars’ name and heritage. Well, not really, but notionally.
We’ve done it to enjoy the process of creating an important car from scratch – without risking a penny on production or marketing but using a convenient, venerable heritage to guide us to a modern product. The real Bristol Cars business was liquidated by court order late last year, so no car production is remotely likely, at least for a while. But the company’s name is still an asset, and someone somewhere may one day use it. For the want of hard news about that, we’ve decided to create a Bristol of our own.
We’ve assembled a tight, talented team for this task of renewal. First, we’re tapping into the distilled imaginings of the Autocar and Classic & Sports Car teams, who have driven a score of old-time Bristols between them and are attracted to the idea of finding a future for this quirky British marque.
Second, we’re using the fertile imaginings of Autocar’s own Coventry-trained car designer, Ben Summerell-Youde, who draws dozens of cars every year but rarely gets to do one of his own.
Third, we’ve drawn on the baked-in Bristol knowledge of Richard Hackett, the world’s most prolific seller of Bristols. At this moment, his SLJ Hackett emporium in Warminster can offer more than 50% of the world supply of Bristols awaiting new owners, with its stock ranging from original 400s to a last-hurrah V10 Fighter made in the early 2000s. Hackett recently acquired a few unfinished Fighter chassis and can build you a new one if you’re rich enough and prepared to wait.
Fourth and most important, we have access to the know-how of David Brown, founder of Silverstone-based David Brown Automotive. He knows exactly how to go about creating a rare, luxurious ‘gentleman’s grand tourer’, because he’s done it. His super-exclusive Speedback GT sells successfully around the world to clients who love quality and exclusivity and reject obvious choices.
THE BRISTOL BASICS
Our car must be, even in this age of equality, a true “gentleman’s express” – the description coined many years ago by Anthony Crook, Bristol’s gently eccentric owner for the golden years of its 75-year life. Bristol made a saloon and a few dropheads but, to be true to type, we reckon our new car must be a fast, plush, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive, four-seat, two-door coupé of 4.5 to 4.7 metres in length, more luxurious than sporty in driving character and hand-built in Britain. It needs a sumptuous but not sprawlingly spacious rear in which two people must be snugly accommodated.
What about performance? Bristol started life using an ex-BMW 2.0-litre straight-six engine, which did the job until the cars grew heavier and wider (like the people they carried). Then it graduated to large, low-tech Chrysler V8s hooked up to super-smooth automatic gearboxes in order to preserve the brand’s reputation for offering “a quiet touch of class”.