Ever since the first Panamera spy shots appeared, I had this nagging feeling that I’d seen this car before. Repeated memory bank searches came up empty, but I knew it was out there somewhere. Last night we went to see the very excellent film “An Education”, and there it was, coming around a curve on a London street circa 1961:
Eureka! A Bristol 405! Bristol is a truly remarkable outfit, comparable in some ways to Morgan, in that they just keep doing the same thing that they’ve been doing since 1945: building expensive coach-built (“bespoke”) coupes in very limited numbers. Their first car, the 1947 Model 400, was heavily based on pre-WW2 BMWs. Styling was almost a dead ringer for BMW’s 327, and its engine and suspension were BMW clones as well. The 2 liter six and front suspension were based the BMW’s 328 and the rear suspension from the 326. Bristol even used BMW’s famous double-kidney BMW grille intact.
After 1961, Bristol switched over to Chrysler V8 engines. Two door coupes carrying the number designations from 400 through 412 were built through 1994, with only very gradual and and subtle changes. The distinctive long nose on all these cars was the result of a compartment inside the front fender just behind the front wheel to store the spare “tyre”. The Bristol 603 is still made to this day in a number of variants, and is about as exclusive as it gets in a new car. It’s truly a living relic of the authentic classic British upper-crust-mobile. PBS Mystery’s “Inspector Lynley” drives a classic maroon 409.
The 405 is unique, because it was the only four-door in the line. Built between 1955 and 1958, it had one of the last of the 2 liter sixes, producing 125 horsepower. Wikipedia has a pretty good write-up of the brand, and links. And you can order a new one, or peruse used ones at Bristol’s home page.