In Bristol fashion: how we’d bring back Bristol Cars


BRIGAND? BEAUFIGHTER? BULLDOG?

Last thing: the name. Bristol used Brigand, Britannia, Bullet and Bulldog in the past, but that kind of aggression doesn’t really suit the modern age. One of Brown’s colleagues cleverly suggests Clifton, after the famous suspension bridge in Bristol, on the grounds that this car spans the gap between the company’s old and new epochs. That name has worked on a car before, too – a large, vintage-era Austin tourer – so it deserves serious consideration.

However, at this stage, we’re leaving the question open – not least because someone is bound to come up with an excellent choice that we simply haven’t thought of.

Of the existing suggestions, we have strong leanings towards Blenheim, partly because of its connections to the Bristol Aeroplane Company that built the Royal Air Force’s original Blenheim light bomber (and spun off Bristol Cars after the Second World War) and partly because it shares the name of the Duke of Marlborough’s magnificent Blenheim Palace outside Oxford – the sort of place to which a new owner might occasionally travel for dinner with His Grace.

LAUNCHING THE NEW CAR

During our new Bristol’s gestation, our company has no income beyond the odd deposit from committed customers who hear about us when we get around to making a formal announcement, perhaps in two and a half years’ time. It’s a scary time and encourages us to keep pushing. The best launch date looks to be early in 2024, perhaps at the Geneva motor show – if we can still raise the funds to pay for that.

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Will Summerell-Youde’s styling still look fresh? We believe it will but, like so much of what we’ve covered, that’s not certain. It’s helpful that Bristols have always been conservative cars, not trendsetters. Yet even in a proposal as cursory as this one, the number and extent of the risks taken by low-volume-car creators are starkly evident.

They emphasise the achievements of recent bespoke manufacturers (Ariel and David Brown stand out) and show why it’s vital to have a well-understood niche and to make good decisions about key components and production processes. Yet despite those risks, that idea of making an all-new Bristol car still seems extraordinarily seductive. Who’s going to help us give it a go?

A short history of Bristol cars

Bristol’s car-building arm was launched at the end of the war, when the aeroplane company had a surplus of labour and few aeroplanes to build. Bristol acquired rights to BMW’s pre-war cars as war reparations, formed a car division and by the end of 1946 had launched the handsome, fast and progressive 400, powered by a BMW-related 2.0-litre six-cylinder engine.

In 1956, the car division became a company in its own right, and in 1960 it was bought by Anthony Crook and Sir George White as partners. A year later, the BMW engine was dropped in favour of Chrysler V8s, which powered Bristol cars until demand waned in the 1990s. The Dodge Viper V10-powered Fighter began a brief fightback in 2004, but the brand’s golden days were long gone by then.



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