By on January 5, 2005

A once proud marque, now shrouded in secrecy (and for good reason) Bristol is one of Britain's most venerated carmakers. For over thirty-five years, Brits "in the know" have considered the obscure automaker's products to be the embodiment of English hand built quality and understated exclusivity. Unfortunately, motoring journalists need not apply. In fact, Bristol actively discourages any sort of publicity for its current cars. A test drive is "out of the question".

A few weeks before the end of my English adventure, I gave Bristol one last try. I immediately recognised the cut-glass accent on the other end of the phone: Tony Crook, former RAF pilot, racing driver and the undisputed Emperor of Bristol Motor Cars. Luckily, the octogenarian and self-professed "living legend" didn't recognise my voice. Mr. Crook agreed to a "five-minute chat".

Panel Gaps R UsDiscretion being the better part of valour, when my turn to speak finally arrived, I tried to establish a few simple facts. How many cars does Bristol make? "We don't quote production figures," Mr. Crook replied. "We always build fewer cars than people want." How many craftsmen does Bristol employ to build this indeterminate number of cars? "Not stated." How much does a new Blenheim 3 cost? "One hundred and thirty nine thousand pounds." (Approximately $250,000) How much for the more "sporting" Blenheim 3S? "Considerably more." What sort of improvements does that include? "Bigger camshafts. That sort of thing."

And there you have it. A test drive was still impossible. Thank you and goodbye.

The horror.  The horror. I would love to tell you how I got my hands on a Blenheim. It's a story that involves some truly Dickensian characters: quick-witted, long-suffering mechanics labouring in dark garages; a short-tempered multi-millionaire who believes that anyone who can't afford a Bristol is in no position to judge it; a motoring journalist whose florid prose poems to the marque are proof positive that love is blind. Suffice it to say, everyone I contacted in my quest for some Blenheim wheel time either refused to speak to me or laughed (guffawed?) at my request to drive their car.

Luckily, one brave Blenheim owner decided to step out from Tony Crook's long shadow. I eventually encountered a Bristol Blenheim in front of a sturdy brick manse in northern England, bathed in afternoon sun. Suffice it to say, the car's design did not complement it salubrious surrounds. It's angular aesthetics were a far cry from the organic, streamlined forms of Bristol's earlier models. As for the way the Blenheim was put together…

"What are the two things that can be seen from outer space?" the owner asked rhetorically. "The Great Wall of China and the panel gaps of a Bristol." True enough, despite the fact that this particular Blenheim had recently enjoyed a body-off restoration– to eliminate rot. Which was discovered after the car's paint had cracked (necessitating a total re-spray). Whereupon the owner's mechanics addressed a veritable laundry list of mechanical ailments: inoperative air conditioning, "inappropriate" shock absorbers, a failed exhaust system, two blown window motors, axle whine, insufficient engine cooling and more.

This tragic tale of mechanical malfeasance was easily eclipsed by the horror lurking inside the Blenheim's cabin. To call the combination of wood, cheap rocker switches, tiny mirror controls, gigantic air conditioner, fiddly Japanese stereo and seemingly random assortment of switches, buttons and knobs "unattractive" would be like calling a drag racer "quick off the mark". The Blenheim's interior is such a hideous concoction of styles and textures the snooty millionaire mentioned above felt compelled to redesign and rewire the entire dash.

Once underway, the much-repaired Blenheim handled better than you'd expect– for a car whose chassis dates back to 1946. At the time, it must have been a revelation. By today's standards, Group A rental cars offer better ride and road-holding. As for power, the 5.9-liter V8 felt decidedly reluctant. When I asked if the odd sound under throttle indicated some kind of problem, the owner told me to drop the subject.

All in all, as my father would say, "another myth exploded". The Bristol Blenheim offered insufferable build quality, questionable reliability and appalling aesthetics. Yet it cost twice as much as a top-of-the-line Mercedes, BMW or Porsche. Tony Crook will disagree to the point of apoplexy, but the only possible justification for buying a Blenheim lies in its rarity and its connection with Bristol's famous heritage. For some wealthy owners, a handful, it is enough.

But is it enough to keep the Bristol Car Company going? Probably not. Which is why, under new co-ownership, Bristol has produced a new car built around a Chrysler V10 engine. As test drives are still strictly verboten, one can only hope that the Bristol Fighter signals a return to the company's glory days of meticulous build and innovative engineering. If not, no amount of badge snobbery can sustain this manufacturer of overpriced, under-engineered automobiles.

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21 Comments on “Bristol Blenheim Review...”

  • avatar

    After looking at the photos of this car, I am in literal shock and awe that it exists, and that it is indeed being created to this very day. The vehicle looks, at least on the exterior, as if its last model year should have been circa 1984, while the interior looks as if its last model year should have been…well…the very moment it was put into production. What a disgrace that Bristol Motor Cars and Tony Crook himself should be producing this monstrosity, this poor excuse for badge snobbery and money making. Pathetic.

  • avatar

    I respectfully disagree with the review.

    For a start, to get price on the 3S going to the Bristol Car web site will show the published price of Basic £134,750.00 VAT £23,581.25 Total £158,331.25. The reviewer is converting into US dollars, so Value Added Tax may not apply. The company web site will also explain in detail what extras the buyer gets.

    To look at a Bristol, one need not skulk around North England associating with Dickinsonian characters, although it does make for writing in the “it was a dark and stormy night” genre. Presuming the reviewer went to England, the first stop would be a few miles down from Heathrow Airport where new Bristols are on display in the showroom. If you don’t like Mr. Crook, speak to Mr. Silverton, who owns the company (since 2001). By the way, as of this writing, Mr. Crook has retired at the merry old age of 87.

    To look at used Bristols, go to the home page of the Bristol Owners Club, and learn about the club meetings or what car shows they will be visiting with displays. At those meets and meetings, you will find drivers and enthusiasts from the full range of Bristols… 1946 through current models. If you are friendly, owners may kindly volunteer a test drive – but be aware you may be driving a decade-old car or older.

    The reviewer then goes on to evaluate a Bristol that is reputed to have undergone a body-off restoration due to rot. How old? The model began production in 1994 and could be 13 years old by now. We must assume the reviewer is suggesting (but does not state) that the restoration was done by the factory, and we must assume the owner instructed the factory that cost was no object in bringing the car back to factory new. We need to know if these two assumptions are correct or not.

    A car that is so badly rotted as to require the body be removed is, with few exceptions, a candidate for the crusher. That a Bristol is even worth such rescue sets it apart from other cars.

    But then, if it is so rescued, one has to ask who did the work, and what budget and time frame was provided? One also has to ask under what conditions the car was driven and for how many years to require such a restoration?

    Bristol has a remarkably high survival rate, with the club registry showing cars on the road from every single production model starting with the 1946 ones. Some suffered from mid-life neglect when they were bought by posers who wanted the ego boost, but could not afford proper maintenance. Some are driven in salt without protection and cleaning, parked outdoors for years on end, and when something failed, parked in a field for more years. If it were a Ford, it would have been hauled away and crushed. But in the case of a Bristol, some bold enthusiast would recover and restore it.

    A few of those cars get proper restorations, but the price of restoration exceeds market value, so this is the domain of the passionate and rich. Many get brought back to running status, but with details neglected. It will drive like a car, but not drive like a Bristol.

    Bristols are not cars for the masses, thus to judge the car by mass production applies the wrong test. If one wants a top of the line mass-produced Mercedes, BMW or Porsche, one goes to one of hundreds of such dealers, plunks down the dosh and drives away.

    Bristols are hand made, and hands are never so precise as computer driven machines and lasers. Even the relationship of buying is personal. The salesman owns the company… for 45 years it was Tony Crook, now it’s Toby Silverton. Send a car made in 1970 back to the factory, and the fellow who built it will remember it. Order a part not in stock for a 30-year-old car, and be told to come back on Tuesday. The factory made it on Monday; Tony Crook flew out from Heathrow to Bristol aerodrome and brought it back. You need a part for a 45-year-old car? They may still have it in stock, ex 1962 or even ex 1952 since they only change designs when engineering demands it.

    “Another myth exploded” writes the reviewer. What myth? Bristol does not truck in myths. They make few claims. They mostly build to order, so the customer is already sold before they place their order. Customers for new cars are a different breed than the reviewer. They are rich. Seriously rich. Rich enough that they don’t really concern themselves with the fact that it is double the price of Germany’s finest. They also dress down. Sure they could afford a Rolls, but that calls too much attention. They want a Bristol, and they want it for reasons completely different than the standards the reviewer sets.

    The reviewer contends the car performs badly based on a test drive in one that is not in factory condition, but an old rotted one brought back to life and owned by an unhappy owner. The reviewer criticises the engine performance. The engine is a Chrysler. If the performance of the test unit is weak, then maybe the engine has a problem. But the Chrysler V8 engine as a brand is as proven as one can ask.

    As for handling, check the rubber bushes. After a decade or more of use and aging, the handling can begin to feel sloppy or worse. Tony Crook was a race driver, it took him a long time to even agree to provide power steering (midway through the 409 series) and when he did, drivers agree the ZF unit gave excellent road feel.

    Interior aesthetics? No, it’s not a plastic fantastic where even the wood veneer looks as if it is coated in epoxy, like the Mercedes. It’s old school British. Flat panels of wood, real (and fine) leather and a grudging concession to safety that required Bristol give up the rocker switches and go to plastic flat ones. You do need to remember however, that with production in the dozens or hundreds per year, one does not place a bulk order for custom switches. One buys what the market supplies, and Tony Crook was never one for poofery. If it worked, if it switched on the lights, that was good enough for him. No Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton edition for him. And since it was his company, what was good enough for him is what he offered for sale… and when Aston Martin, Jensen, Rolls Royce and all those other marques got into trouble, he kept selling just enough cars to keep him enjoying his passion.

    What Mr. Crook does not have any interest in is what the motoring press says. To the contrary, he wants to be left alone. Bristol shows little interest in the motoring press in part because unlike almost all other marques, it does not need them. The press writes for an audience unlikely to find themselves in 368 – 370, Kensington High Street, or if they did, unlikely willing to part with the admission price because they bring a different value set.

    If one were to summarise Bristol, it is about authenticity in a world of mass production and franchises. A few human beings appreciate authenticity, and value the work of a man’s hand over the price-performance of the era of automation. Bristol has two audiences. For new cars, the buyers are rich yet have some discernment in what they buy.

    For used (older) cars, the buyers tend to love engineering over image, and they get a bargain because the cars are not well known so underpriced relative to comparable British classic marques. Andrew Blow, who brokers many of the used Bristols lists them typically for £8000 for a decent one up to £25,000 for an excellent or properly restored one. See He is most conversant with the lemons out there as well… the ones badly restored or tarted up.

    It’s a small circle. One owner thought he was smart stuff by having his car repaired and then driving off without paying. Word gets around. He took it to another one of the repair shops, and when he went to pick it up, he was told to pay the other shop first. How many Mercedes or Porsche dealers would do that for one of their competitors?

    I write this reply for the one in million drivers who would otherwise be misled by the above review. Driving and owning a Bristol is a path few take. It takes weeks of driving to begin to appreciate its qualities. There is something quiet and peaceful about it; it’s an absence that takes time to recognise. It’s like living in a city and walking out at three in the morning to notice something different… heavy snow fell and it stopped the traffic. The air is cleaner, quieter and something is missing… that buzz that is so familiar as to be accepted as normal.

    Bristols have a different feeling to them, a feeling no Mercedes, BMW or Porsche can match. But it is a feeling that requires the car be ship-shape, not tired or abused, and it is a feeling that takes weeks to sense and a broader vocabulary than mine to articulate.

    Disclosure: The author of this critique has no connections or affiliation with Bristol Cars or any other Bristol business. This author has owned five used Bristols over the years and currently owns one Bristol as well as a Mercedes and a Toyota. Over the years he has bought new Mercedes, and various BMWs including one H&B set up for racing. He is qualified to compare the difference.

    • 0 avatar

      THANK YOU. Perhaps the wisest – and beautiful – words I ever read about Bristol. Snow falling, indeed… Bristol is the quintessencial proof of that elusive harmony that sometimes exists between man and time. But how do you begin to explain that to short-sighted morons?! Bristol is poetry in motion, not a computer game on wheels. And I also own a mercedes, an old coupe in tip-top shape, and thankfuly devoided of the usual gadgetry…

  • avatar

    The thing about Bristol Cars is that you either get them or you don’t. My business partner hates mine and can’t understand why people come up and start enthusing over it every time you pull up at the lights or park up. My kids love it, as do their friends, especially sitting on the sofa like seats, which they reckon are the most comfortable ever made.

    I drive mine daily and I absolutely love driving it. It is luxurious, smooth, powerful, hugely maneuverable and I can go anywhere in it without offending anyone’s sensibilities. These are the qualities that only a Bristol embodies.

    They depreciate very slowly and fortunately for enthusiasts, they last a very long time. By the time they hit classic car age they are eminently affordable as they don’t have a badge premium unlike some marques which were the pin ups for previous generations. Like the Forth Bridge they go on and on and Owners Club members regularly put 15k miles a year up their cars, even when the cars are older than they are. How many other makers can say that of their cars.

    Each car is unique, I have met the men who built my car and have maintained it ever since. It is handmade which does mean that it has quirks and like most things made from scratch by a man it has imperfections, it is built using hand tools not computers. If you should be so fortunate as to be able to afford to have one built for you, then that is what you get, a car built for you. Personally. Just like bespoke shoes or a hand made suit it will fulfill it’s purpose perfectly, speak quietly and last a lifetime. For that last reason it won’t conform with fashion, it is not a style statement or a display of wealth. just the quiet enjoyment of the best that life can offer. Bristol’s walk quietly and carry a big stick, as my own dad often advises this is the best way to approach life.

    Part of the fun of being a Bristol owner has been the joy of dealing with Tony Crook. Unfortunately he has recently retired at 87 and that chapter of the history has closed to open up a new era. A test drive with Mr Crook has been one of the more memorable hours of my life. Hopefully someone will write a biography of this very english eccentric. As a very private man he certainly never would himself. Neither would the factory director, who is 88 and has now worked for the company for an incredible 62 years. He knows every single car the company has ever built, and has driven each of them.

    It is really unfortunate that the car driven for the review was obviously old and unloved. A worn out car is not a fair reflection of the marque.

    If you are on a return trip to the UK there are many owners who would be more than happy to share their car with you for an hour, perhaps you might even get a run in a Fighter. It is unlikely that the Company will supply a test drive in a brand new car, it will after all have been made especially for a customer, and like Lobbs of St James they wouldn’t let you try on another man’s shoes.

    Like the previous post, I have owned Porsche, BMW and Merc cars and driven Aston’s Morgans, Maseraiti and Bentley Company and friends cars and enjoyed them for a while, but none has made me feel special in the way that my Bristol does. (I am not connected with the Company in any way either)

    If you are at a place in life where you appreciate the real value of something and don’t want to wear a Logo then a Bristol is pretty much the only choice of car to buy. They transcend money, whether you have money or not anyone can enjoy a Bristol.

  • avatar

    Message for ‘Enthusiast’. You say your Bristol attracts a lot of interest, which Bristol model is it?

  • avatar

    While it is blatantly apparent that there are three sides to every coin, there is little genuine reason to behold the Blenheim which remains visually inside retentive esoteric domains to the absolute. Proportionately so in my opinion, that it is what it is and if folk wish to spend thier hard earned on one it is a choice.

    Someones junk is another one others gold and rightly vice versa of course. As long as we all are capable of dialogue there will always be a disparity of opinion and due regard for Bristol design. It is a given, and as far as Bristol Cars are concerned it is clearly intended by now. Whether or not that is a wise choice remains to be seen, although I personally doubt this. A couple of things do bother me however and have done so for decades. One would be the continued non admission of any sort by Bristol Cars. The other would be the irritatingly singular and galvanised viewpoint of particular Bristol users.

    It is a little sad, but it is at the same time a legacy.

    • 0 avatar

      Whilst the Blenheim is a bit outdated, with some creative accessorising, mine is quite the “mac daddy ride” as my grand-daughter is fond to say. It is in fact quite sporty with a rear spoiler, Lamborghini style door hinges, and a sporty body kit made originally for a luxury audi sedan actually required surprisingly little customisation to appear as though it was made for my Bristol sedan.

      Neon lighting underneath the carriage on the exterior and tucked beneath the dash on the inside really make for a treat at night.

      In all, for about a thousand quid it is quite easy to update the otherwise sedate look of a Blenheim, bringing it into the 21st century with a skosh of “bling”.

  • avatar

    Bristol is the Fawlty Towers of British cars. I love Fawlty Towers. And I hope to one day own a Bristol!

  • avatar
    The truth about THAT car

    It seems that the reviewer managed to locate the worst Blenheim in existence. It was seasoned in the rain for ten years, heavily modified, crashed and rebuilt by some back street outfit who hand formed replacement panels without jigs, neglected some more, resprayed under the arches and then presented for testing.

    This review is probably as relevant to Bristol Cars and Blenheims, as a review of pimped up Merc 190e that has been used as a tramp’s storage facility is to a current C class Merc. Perhaps the reviewer, in the interests of fair play, would contact the owners club who I am sure would arrange a drive in a selection of cars which are a little more representative of the Marque

  • avatar

    My Blenheim 3S has covered some 325,000 miles and had nothing more than regular servicing and, naturally, new brakes and dampers from time to time. The fit and finish of everything is still perfect and I find none of the switch gear or control levers, etc., to be as described by the “gentleman” in the original article.
    The paint, while a little crazed in places, is still sound as is the leather interior.
    My late husband commissioned the car and it has outlived 2 Mercedes Benz, 2 BMW of dubious build quality and stands up only to my 1954 Bentley Continental for reliability.

  • avatar

    We got suckered into two world wars to defend this?
    — Angry American

  • avatar

    Dear Angry American,

    What makes you angry? Life is a lesson to be learned, anger is failing the grade.

    Actually, world war two was the best thing that happened to America in the first half of the 20th century. Before Pearl Harbor, Americans were suffering from 11 years of the Great Depression. You probably were not alive then. The war gave America back its hope, and gave it faith in both technology and education. It also gave it a fifty-five year run of the best years in America’s history. It gave its people a reason to hold their head high again, after 11 years that crushed the spirit of so many.

    There was a time when nations were loyal to each other, and when Americans were known for their generosity and willingness to help out. They were an optimistic people with a can-do attitude. When they saw evil in the face of Hitler and were attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, America’s young men were down at the recruiting office the next day. Overnight, they reinvented their industry, with women taking the men’s jobs at the factories as the men sailed off to war. These were not professional soldiers, they were ordinary Americans being asked to do extraordinary things. They did not fight in anger, they fought because their allies needed their help. They fought because it was the right and decent thing to do.

    And when the war was over, their generosity was extended to the enemy. With the promise of Japan and Germany to forswear war ever again, those two countries rose out of the ashes. Unlike the winners of the first world war, who made Germany starve in punishment, America, the only real winner of the second world war gave the vanquished the means to rebuild themselves as a loyal friend of America.

    America got suckered into nothing. To say so is to demean the sacrifice made by so many volunteers, by so many families and by so many communities with gold stars on the family home. My dad’s mother was a blue star mother. Her only son, he fought front lines against the Germans in Italy and came home after the war ended in victory. My mother’s mom was a gold star family. Her mom lost her eldest son in the first few weeks of the war, after he volunteered for the Navy and was lost at sea to a German sub. Her younger son fought over Germany in the air, shot down over enemy lines but rescued by the Resistance. He survived 13 air crashes during his military career and died of old age. They were not suckers, they were Americans.

    Today, I wonder and worry about Americans. What happened to that generosity of spirit? Why are so many Americans like you, angry? Especially about something as unimportant as an old car.

    Ironically, the car itself is a legacy of that war. While America helped the losers, the allies, especially Great Britain, were left to take care of themselves. Their economy was wrecked, their factories were destroyed, they were broke. Their cities had been ceaselessly bombed every night; their citizens lived through the equivalent of 9-11 every night for 57 nights. It left 375,000 homeless. The precise number of dead was 18,629 men, 16,201 women, 5,028 children and 695 unidentified charred bodies. Hitler used 18,000 tons of explosives to exact this toll. Bristol England was one of the major targets, as the Germans sought to destroy the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The Bristol Beaufighter (the plane) proved to be an effective weapon against the Luftwaffe that slowly turned back the Blitz. After the war, facing the prospect of laying off skilled engineers and technicians, the company made the decision to build a car based on German war reparations. They continue in business today, still making their way against the tide, asking nothing more than to be left alone.

    I could go on, but enough of the history lesson. If I may give you advice, it would be to try to be kinder, to be less angry. Forgive those who offend you, and seek to turn America back to the generous nation that is the inspiration of the free world. Anger demeans you, not just as an individual, but as a nation.

  • avatar

    All sides considered, I think 250 thousand dollars buys a better car than the Bristol. If you disagree then maybe you own one.

  • avatar

    If Bristol didn’t exist it would have to be invented. It makes a statement that the world needs uniqueness in every field. To-day’s cars all seem to be versions of one another, whereas the Bristols stand out as separate and aloof from the whims of fashion. As to build quality and driveability,it’s obvious that people are driving and enjoying them as a means of transportation. So, cut the cheap shots. May there always be Bristols and the people who can afford and appreciate them. As for me, a mere peasant, I shall continue to drive and enjoy my 1974 TR6, which I’ve had for 35 years. It’s rough and tough and primitive, and it suits me just fine, even though here in Ottawa ,Canada the driving season is rather short.

  • avatar

    I reckon the reviewer was a little over the top, but that most of his comments are fair, Bristols were ugly cars and post 1960 consisted of an inexpensive, over the counter, American engine and gearbox fitted into a modified pre war BMW chassis with a home made body on top. As someone said, you either get them or you don’t and clearly no one did and they went bust.

    I had and rebuilt from scratch an incredibly beautiful 1949 400, as so many are, it was in a parlous state and had to be totally remade, so I learnt a lot about what was actuallly a prewar BMW 328 engine in a 326 chassis with a Bristol made body that was a cross between a Paulin streamliner as made for Bentley and Peugot and BMW’s 327 coupe. Bristol bought drawings, engines and other bits from BMW and their plan was to employ some of their 60,000 employees, no longer needed after the war, to make cars. In the event about 430 400s were made by 1950 compared to the million or so of the rest of the industry had exported in the same time. Letters from one of BMW’s engineers Fritz Fiedler to the directors imploring them to find more efficient methods of production were clearly ignored.

    The Bristol Aircraft Company had been the biggest aircraft maker in the world and was undoubtedly one of Britain’s truly great companies. For a time their Jupiter Aero engine was a world best seller, but they never got to grips with car production and, even before Tony Crook and Sir George White acquired the car subsidiary in 1960ish, they had, by any commercial standards, failed. By the time the Blenheim appeared, I doubt many were taking
    them very seriously because so many far better cars are available for that sort of money and most from companies with a proper pedigree. They probably made less than 5000 cars between ’46 and collapse in 2011.

    There in new hands now, so it’ll be interesting (IMO not very) to see their next offering.

  • avatar

    I am not fortunate to own a Bristol but did have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Crook at the Kensington showroom in 2006. He struck me as rather different from described here. I had simply wandered in to admire the cars and he came over and in a friendly manner started to chat. I told him about my admiration for the brand, particulary a 1962 model which used to live in my neighbourhood some years ago which he helped me to correctly identify as a 407. He even asked me a few more questions assuring me that in all likelyhood he would recognise the individual vehicle and be able to name its owner! It is I think rather difficult to imagine Dr. Reithofer (CEO & Chariman of BMW) being able to match that.

    I found Mr. Crook charming and down to earth. He joked that although he was retired the company very kindly allowed him to potter around in the showroom and then he invited me to vist their underground parking area where, besides current models there were a couple of fully restored older cars for sale. If it is true that Mr. Crook only sold cars to people that he took a personal liking to then I am immensely flattered to recall that he offered me the opportunity to purchase one that had been recently fully restored and that counted amongst its previous owners the late King Hussain of Jordan. I had to confess that I was not there to buy but to his credit he continued to share stories and even invited me to visit the factory if I was “ever in those parts”. That sort of personal, cordial relationship that I was able to glimpse must surely be a large part of what owning a Bristol would have been about. Knowing the men who built your car by hand. Being on conversational terms with the living legends who built the company. No amount of Mercedes Maybach glitz or Volkswagen Mulsanne slickness can compete. Bristol didn’t die because of anything wrong with the cars they built, its because the sort of people who would buy them and have the leisure to enjoy them are becoming extinct.

  • avatar
    Mike C

    I am a middle aged engineer now looking for a project to enjoy fiddling with for a while. I have restored a few motorcycles and that was fine. I have been looking for a good used Bristol . I have been looking for decent reports on the vehicles and have found a few. I have alos found a lot fo negative press as basing the comparison of the car to a more modern vehicle.

    I live in southern California and am looking to see if anyone here has a good hendle on the importation issues with such a vehicle.
    As far as performance and such. I am mainly looking for a well running well sorted car. I figure if the pricing as repersented on the old used bristol site is accurate then these are actually not a bad price for a neo classic car.

    If you think this is not rue you must see what people will pay for a much less usefull vehicle such as a late 50s Bel Air. Which in is best days were not good and fixed up to the presnt state folks bring these to are about a good as a well sorted mid 80s american sedan.

    Now in the real world driving much over 85 mph is foolish BUT you want to be able to get to that point easily ..a concept lost on most economical cars.

    So I do not plan to drive a bristol at 110 but it would be a nice weekend car to suppliment the Toyota Hybrid dullmoblie i drive now.

  • avatar

    I recently owned a 2003 Blenheim 3 which i purchased from Bristol Cars Limited. The car spent the first two months under my ownership going to and from service where they attempted to fix recurrent problems that should have been undertaken prior to delivery. These included brakes locking up ( a few days after collection) which resulted in a near accident , faulty heater (3 times back prior to sorting it out) , various bangs and squeaks (in the end after 2 or 3 recalls they replaced all the shock absorbers) . Throughout all these issues I experienced conflicting reports between service and sales as to how or why the issues had not been properly dealt with. As i became more familiar with the car i realised it was not for me. In particular the car felt like it had all the disadvantages but non of the advantages of a classic car . Apart from the unreliability previously mentioned the handling is something you might expect from a 1960’s (not 2003) car but with over powered “one finger” steering – quite weird and I never felt quite in control. Also a rather awkward seating position where one feels like you are seating on the car and not in it. The paintwork was bubbling on one of the wings, the disc brakes felt antiquated. The finish of the interior began to grate on me also – In particular the instrument dials look a bit cheap and fake , pvc covered steering wheel -i could go on. So I decided to trade the Blenheim for a 411 . This time round I organised an independent specialist to inspect the car. Bristol Cars carried out all the work on the car prior to purchase. I much preferred the 411 to the Blenheim. Much more sporty to drive and bags of character to go with it. = However a few weeks after collection the throttle was sticking on kickdown so it went back to service to be sorted out together with some other niggles . They failed to do the job properly so it went back in again . Service asked me if i had been lifting my foot of the ground and slamming the pedal as it was bent. You can imagine my dismay at the intimation that it was somehow my fault. When I arrived to collect the car after repair I was informed that whilst they had the car under their care it had been involved in an accident an was very likely a right off. I insisted on a full refund which was agreed at the time but over the following days they indicated they may change their minds (due to the tone of my emails) they said they would let me know . I instructed my solicitor to deal with the matter and in the end i recovered the money directly from the 3rd party insurers. I have successfully owned many classic cars over the years (in particular Aston Martins from RS Williams) but despite admiring the earlier cars I could never bring myself to buy another Bristol from Bristol Cars ltd.. In my opinion , the new ownership at Bristol Cars Limited has done nothing to address the issues that may have led to the companies earlier problems.

  • avatar

    Amazingly, Autocar review the Blenheim in 1993…Tony Crook must of slipped…or more likely this journalist isn’t familiar with the Autocar…shocking for a company that doesn’t offer test drives…

    The dash being ‘unattractive’? It looks like a combination of the Jaguar XJ6 with a Rover P5’s nacelle, not a bad combination. Jaguar had the same level of push button switches too. Maybe Farago never set foot in a Jaguar or Rover to know.

    The information is out there; there doesn’t appear to be a black out of reviews on Bristols with Brooklands actually publishing a compilation, with 300+ pages (‘gasp’).

    This whole article almost seems fabricated since it has no bearing on reality, it must have been a slow news day or motivated to be anti-British. British cars are not your plastic indistinguishable American/Japanese/German mass marketed cars; they are hand made like Swiss watches with real wood, real leather and foibles and idiosyncrasies that their buyers want. Farago obviously doesn’t get it, but that’s still no excuse to fabricate a story in an attempt to ruin the reputation of a car company.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure the author didn’t have some sort of ace to grind? I have experience of a couple of Blenheims. They are unusual but wonderfully comfortable and feel solidly built. I am disappointed by this article. Must have been a slow news day. A bit Daily Mail and trying to be shocking, perhaps?

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