Friday, 22 August 2008

Bristol Fashion


Driving out of Market Harborough this week I chanced upon a stunning shiny black motor car climbing quickly up Gallow Hill. I can't tell you how much I lust after this car (and its stable mates- Inspector Lynley drives one), and I'm only surprised that a) I didn't drive into the ditch in some kind of respectful homage, or b) that I haven't gone on about them on the blog before. This is a Bristol 403, pictured here some years ago in deep cherry red at a location I've forgotten. Charles Oxley in his Bristol: The Quiet Survivor calls it the 'definitive' Bristol, and you can see it on the Bristol Owners Club website. Here you can find out all about Bristols old and new, and on Bristol's own web pages (yes, they still make them, but not like this one). The 403 was made between 1953-5, possibly only 275 models costing £2,976.2s.6d. each. I expect the 2s.6d. was for one of the aeroplane-style push-button door openers. Bristol still have a showroom on Kensington High Street, and when I worked on the same street a few years ago I continually stared through the plate glass windows like a 12 year-old. I did go in once, and was told by the septuagenarian salesman that every secondhand Bristol sold by them had to be brought back to ex-works standard. Dear God, I know I haven't been very good lately, but please, if you can find your way to letting me have just one, any model, I'd be eternally grateful. Thanks.

13 comments:

Fred Fibonacci said...

The 'septuagenarian salesman' to whom you refer is ex-racing driver Tony Crook, co-owner of Bristol Motors. He owned the company outright until quite recently, when he sold a large share to a wealthy Bristol enthusiast. I understand this was to help fund the development of the Beaufighter, a V10 super-light gullwing sportscar. They had two in the window earlier this month. The injection of fresh funds and a younger, but like-minded, business head will also ensure that Bristol carries on doing what it does so well: building deeply idiosyncratic cars for discerning car freaks. All Bristols are hand-built and yes, I want one too.

As Castillo Fibonacci is within walking distance of the showroom, I often see Mr Crook driving to work in his Blenheim.

ps. I saw the actor Rufus Sewell re-fuelling his 411 at a BP station on Camden Road a couple of years ago. He immediately shot up in my estimation, especially as his maroon car ran on 'Minilite' magnesium alloy wheels.

Jon Dudley said...

Spooky or what? have just been Googling around looking at these cars with a view to maybe turning in my modern box for one. Hopelessly impractical I expect, but must be like driving around in the 4 wheel equivalent of a gentlemans club and yet somehow not as ostentatious as a Rolls Royce. The later models with the big V8 engines can sometimes be found with a liquid gas conversion which might just make the fuel consumption affordable. Trouble is you wouldn't have much boot space left...still, no worries there, all you'd need for continental travel would be a credit card and a toothbrush. Blimey Fred, Top Trumps standard on Bristol knowledge! ...dont you just love the idea of a spare wheel inside the front wing?

Fred Fibonacci said...

Jon. Buy one, and soon. I'd steer clear of the LPG conversions; they can burn out valves (anecdotal evidence only, I'm sure Bristol conversions are better engineered than most).

I did once think I might be able to buy one, and had a very helpful discussion with Tony Crook. It appears that he regularly buys back cars to re-sell, Bristol owners being a loyal breed. The thought of buying and running one for a couple of years, in the certain knowledge that a buyer lay in wait, albeit at a price advantageous to Messrs. Bristol, held immense appeal. The throttle pedals pivot on needle-roller bearings, by the way, but now I've gone too far.

A F-A said...

I've always liked Bristols; found it difficult to keep my hands off them.

Peter Ashley said...

Very good Fred, but my salesman wasn't Crook Esq. He came in with a walking stick whilst we were talking. So glad to hear that some kind of leather-bound future is assured for such wonderful cars.

Please Jon, get one quickly so that you can drive me around Sussex hot spots as I put away copious amounts of Harvey's.

Jon Dudley said...

Bugger that! we'll get someone else to drive us around! Good idea though.

Fred Fibonacci said...

But do I get to keep some points for the needle-roller throttle pedals?

Peter Ashley said...

Yes Fred, sorry, of course you do.
And you can chauffeur Jon and I around as a reward, like you used to do Ron, me et al in your pale blue Landrover down to that dodgy pub in Shoreditch. What we really ought to do of course is get a "Camilla" to dress-up in the full rig, with a fetching peaked cap tilted down over her eyes and long painted finger nails just lightly touching the steering wheel.

Jon Dudley said...

Fred, the possession of such detailed knowledge as needle roller bearings in the normally humble pedals dept. elevates you way beyond the ordinary!

Fred Fibonacci said...

Jon, don't worry; I'm seeing someone about it.

Also, for 'Beaufighter' read 'Fighter', the Beaufighter is an earlier model. How do I know? Well, I've just popped up the road and snapped the showroom, and contents. Shamelessly, I shall now direct you to my fledgling blog: 'Out The Window Bloke' in order to see them.

Peter, I had forgotten that the showroom is very close to a proper, pukka, belly-dancing club. I once sat in the Hare & Tortoise restaurant facing both the showroom and the nightclub. It was very late at night and all sorts of exotic females went in and out of the belly-dancing gaff. Naturally, I only had eyes for the 408s.

Moving on, and picking up on your perfectly reasonable train of thought, I think we ALL squeeze into Jon's new Bristol and get one of these wriggly girls to do the driving . In sequined belly-button splendour, with her veils and jewelled head-dress making interesting patterns of light and shade across the pale cream leather and West of England Cloth she can waft us around the West End after dark, a bubbling hookah pipe clasped between our heels.

A F-A said...

Bristols, belly-dancing, hookers....FRED!!!! Behave!

Jon Dudley said...

This is all starting to shape up rather well. 'Fraid it won't be a new Bristol either. No matter, the fun sounds dangerous and therefore enticing. Will somehow let you now if/when I've found the right vehicle.

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