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Bristol 2 litre 400 Classic Car

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This is a rare and unusual classic, never seen one before. Saw this car at a local show. Resembles a hammer head shark. The cab was an after thought as the car is all engine. It's a Bristol 2 Litre Model 400 Second Series, made from 1948-1950. Does anyone know how fast it goes or any other useful information ? Well looked after and still in its prime. Bristol Cars was formerly an aerospace company, after the second world war they moved into car making. They have no dealers, if there is a problem you go to them direct. Their latest cars cost in the region of £120k+ built on engineering excellence and meant as an investment, one can see why !


In March 2011 Bristol Cars went into bankruptcy proceedings with 22 jobs lost. They said they will try and continue to support existing customers. In the same month Kamkorp Autokraft, part of the Frazer-Nash group has apparently purchased the company. Anon

My brother had a Bristol 400 & went around a hairpin bend at 50mph (80kms an hour)& it hugged the road like it was glued to it. The most amazing car - no other cars could take that bend at that speed without crashing Anon

The Bristol Car Company bought the design of the pre-war BMW328 and put it back into production. There was no market for expensive luxury cars in Germany and BMW was reduced to producing bubble cars. The BMW 328 was one of the best pre-war sports cars and Bristol were lucky to get it. Getxo99
had a 405 in 1965-68 - Wonderful car - effortless 85 in third gear and cruised all day at 100. Bought it for $500 in 1965 - Had to sell it when the little ends went in 1968 and it would have cost $400 to repair (six months salary at the time). I worked at the South Hants hospital at the time, and three of my colleagues had Bristol's - a 403, another 405 and a 404. Best car I have had, including the BSA Scout, the TR6, and the XKR though all have been great fun. Anon

A really sublime car in looks and performance - excellent r&p steering. Mine is exactly the same as the first photo on this page - perhaps it is ! Anon

I did a panel beating apprenticeship at Cedar Service Station in Fareham Hants. Cedar were agents for Bristol cars and I worked on most models up to the 406 between 1958 and 1963. They were hand built cars, Body was alloy and the trim pigskin. Engines were similar to the 2 litre BMW engines of the time, but they used a Chrysler V8 in the 406. The cockpits (because that's what they were) had a comprehensive array of gauges and you would think you were in an aircraft. I was able to drive most of the range built between years 1948-1962 but on 35p per hour (skilled rate in 1962) could not even dream of ever owning one. The 405 my favourite cost £5500 in those days. Anthony Crook Motors of Basingstoke were the Main Dealers in the South for these splendid examples of British engineering. Anon

If you check out Bristol Cars you'll find lotos of useful facts about the Bristol 400 and a contempory road test. Ashley

HI, I used to own a 1939 BMW Fraser Nash. It was basically the same car as the Bristol. It would manage 90 to 100mph quite easily and had very good road holding. I parted with it in about 1965 when I was a mere 19 years old ! Each time I see a Bristol now I want another ! I currently race a Ginetta and also have an Austin Nippy.  Laurie Cheshire

I've had a 400 for 20 odd  years now, my 4th Bristol. 400 is perhaps one of the raciest Bristol models with its prewar silhouette, though later models were more and more radical (wind tunnel designed, streamlined aerodynes with aluminium of mine even had a tufnel floor). Mine still cruises at 80 plus and is great fun on the track with its 50 50 balance.

2 litres wasn't a lot even in the 50s but you could out handle cars with twice the capacity and get there first. Every Bristol was a 100 mph car, and the balance and handling reflect the remarkable engineering within. And some of the original staff are still at the factory, providing parts off the shelf for cars nearly 60 years old as well as plotting more BHP from the latest Fighter model (1000 bhp when I last looked) Anon

I owned a Bristol 400 from 1964 to 1968. It was the company director's car of a garage in Edenbridge. According to the red line on the rev.-counter the top speed was 85 m.p.h. but I did manage to get 90 out of it on one occasion. Doug

My father owned one in the 50s-60s. It was his first car. He wanted a Rolls, but was talked out of it by my uncle. I always thought this funny, because my father told me that he had to re-set the timing every weekend. And when it went wrong he had to take it to Bristol. He quoted top speed in excess of 90. Don't remember him mentioning 100 but ???? It was in British racing Green, and next time I get out the photo album I'll take a look, and scan a pic so you can see it.

All I remember (I'm now 45) is that he loved it, but said that compared to cars of today (he meant the 80s/90s as he's no longer alive) it was like trying to stop a tank. Must have been fun on the M1 etc though when there was no speed limit :-) N.Boyer

I own a Bristol 400, my father has owned the car for the past 20 years, now it is in a process of full restoration. I live in Paraguay, but the car was bought in Argentina Anon

It's basically a pre WW2 BMW design, (It was the last pre-war car designed by BMW but never put into production), which was given to the Bristol Aviation Co. as part of the post war reparation 'agreements'. The body has a steel tube frame which is skinned in (rather soft) Aluminium, all great fun to work on. Jerry

Wonderful car.  Deeply regret never owning one.  There are basically two types of Bristol (although many model numbers) - the two-litre BMW-derived engineered ones and the later American V8 engined ones.  All are very special cars ("The Thinking Man's Bentley") although some of the later ones have the aesthetic appeal of a house brick.

Can't answer your specific questions without digging a few tea chests out of the attic, but from memory:

{How fast does it go ?) - faster than it has any right to, probably 100+
(What's its Horse Power ?) - not much, maybe 80bhp
(What are they like to drive ?) - wonderful
(Easy to maintain ?)  - dunno - it's a fairly complex engine with IIRC very short crossed pushrods to give it a sort of OHC appearance.  Unsure of the rest of the mechanicals, but then I'm a lousy mechanic.  Tremendous continuing support from the factory, plus one eccentric individual who seems to have various Bristols buried all over his farm but can always find the bits.

If it doesn't break your bank, go for it.  It will take some commitment from you but will be very rewarding GeoffM

I owned a Bristol 400 in the mid 60s..Triple Solex carbs were a real pain to tune. Handling was great..Top speed maybe 100 on a good day..It had a chassis lube system that was fed from an oil tank. You just pressed a lever to get a shot of oil to the relevant parts. I think it also had an onboard jacking system. I traded it for a minivan!!!!!   Shoot me please. Alan
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