Rare Rides: A Bristol Beaufort - Timeless Beauty From 1984
Today’s Rare Ride is the very first Bristol featured in this series. Hand-crafted in a shed somewhere in England, Bristol maintained exclusivity via an owner who only sold cars to people he liked.
Presenting the aerodynamic Beaufort cabriolet, from 1984.
The Beaufort was a variation of the 412, the first modern car available from Bristol. For the decade prior to the introduction of the 412, Bristol produced just one car: the 411. Serving as the brand’s entire lineup, the 411 was produced in minuscule numbers; just 287 were created between 1969 and 1976.
A single year of product overlap occurred during the 411’s phase-out, with the 412 entering production in 1975. The rakish targa body of the 412 was built by Zagato in Italy, then shipped to Filton, England for completion. The 412 spawned a sibling, the 603, in 1967. More true to Bristol’s conservative heritage, the 603 was a two-door sedan and was certainly not built by Zagato.
Bristol lightly revised the 412 for 1982, re-releasing it as the Beaufighter. Though Zagato was still credited with the design, the body was now built in-house at Bristol. Accompanying the new model was a change in engine (rare at Bristol), with a 5.9-liter Chrysler V8 taking the place of the old 6.2-liter. A turbocharger was also fitted, which meant the 1961 version of Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic needed reinforcement. It received a new prop shaft and torque converter pulled from the TorqueFlite attached to Chrysler’s 440 V8.
The final development of the 412 — the Beaufort — was introduced shortly after the Beaufighter, aimed at buyers in export markets only (left-hand drive). No longer restrained by a targa arrangement, Beaufort was a true convertible. Additional engineering went into reinforcement of the windshield for structural rigidity. And given it was sold outside the British Isles, Bristol fitted a larger 36-gallon fuel tank. The huge tank allowed for a cruising rage of 500 miles, great for those cross-continental weekend jaunts. Production figures never materialized, but high cost and low-speed production made the Beaufort a permanent rarity. It ended production in 1994, as Bristol switched all its attention to the new version of the 603, called Blenheim.
Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Wiltshire, which is a green place in England. With 30,000 miles and an interior straight out of 1962, it asks $166,000.
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At no time was this ever a beauty.
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