1949 Bristol 400
The Bristol Marque is synonymous with exclusive hand built English sports cars and of course directly takes it origin from the company that was synonymous with aircraft manufacture in the second world war. During the 1930s Fraser Nash who are known to have made some of the finest sports cars of the pre-war era started to import three series BMWs. These were re-badged and sold as Fraser Nash BMWs.
The Bristol aeroplane company joined forces with Fraser Nash’s parent company AFN. Before World War two AFN was the concessionaire for BMW in the UK. As Bristol took procession of BMWs designs, AFN was therefore the natural choice for a build partner. The 400 was the first car born from the company combined efforts, based on a mixture of the Pre-war BMW 326 chassis and 327/80 body. The Bristol 400 is noted for its aeroplane levels of build quality and this lifted the 400 above its German ancestors. It is a drivers car, quiet at speed, reflecting its aerodynamics. The first model, which in itself is significant was the Bristol 400. This combined the chassis of the BMW 326 and the iconic bodywork shape from the 327 coupe with the superb engine of the 328 sports car this was immediately a bespoke and very desirable model from Bristol cars. The 400 was a very high quality motor car, hand built by highly skilled craftsmen and inevitably expensive at the time. Participation in the Mille Miglia in 1949 and also the Monte Carlo Rally served to underwrite this model as both competitive and expertly engineered. Records from the Bristol owners club, which form part of the excellent history file for this car show the car was first registered in 1949 by Bristol agents Bradburn and Wedge of Wolverhampton. This car has enjoyed continued long ownership for the last 17 years. The excellent history file reflects a regular period of maintenance, combined with regular use and importantly fully details the engine rebuild which was done regardless of cost back in 1997, but with only 15,000 miles covered since. There is a full photographic record of the work carried out. The history file also includes MOT certificates dating back to 1987 and a particularly nice addition is the record from the Bristol Aeroplane Company car division which covers the running and maintenance manual for Bristol 2 litre type 400.
The model 400 was the only Bristol to be fitted with steel and aluminium skin and had all flat glass. The 400 featured independent front suspension with a transverse leaf spring and a wide axle. This arrangement gives a comfortable ride with good road holding. The steering is precise and the brakes are very good. The handling in part no doubt attributable on the correct cross ply tyres. The heart of most cars is so very often the engine. Bristol 400s have always been well known to serious car people as very high quality sports cars. Bristol as a bespoke manufacturer were one of the first to encourage owners to return cars to the factory for various upgrades as these became available (a tradition that is more commonly associated with Aston Martin in the ‘80s & ‘90s revising Astons to vantage spec) and a feature now very often heard about with McLaren and of course other supercar manufacturers. Records show the car was originally registered with a single Solex carburettor cylinder head. Records show that this was later changed to three SU carburettor head and that then later this was revised to the three Solex carb set-up which is synonymous as delivering smooth power with good torque from this engine which is of course common to the AC Aceca from this period.
As the Mille Miglia develops as an international event a cars eligibility is very much a consideration for those with aspirations to take part. Cars, which ran in period are given start numbers according to the years in which they take part. The Bristol 400 participated in 1949 as such the motorcar offered for sale is uniquely suited to an application for the Brescia event. As part of our preparations before the car goes to a new owner the engine and drive train will be meticulously checked, so as to be well prepared for the thousand Kilometre event. Key items such as the cars cooling and braking systems and fuel lines will be fully overhauled so as to bring reliability. All routine service items will be replaced and the engine bay will be detailed to a show winning standard. The paintwork on the car is really very good, presenting a striking motorcar in the period correct metallic blue. Small blemishes that have occurred with the passing of time will be sympathetically corrected so that any new owner can be justifiably proud of one of the loveliest Bristol 400s to come to the market for many years with the revised three Solex head set up. The car drives superbly giving a wonderful exhaust note and very much encourages a driver with enthusiasm. With good space, a comfortable interior, super driving position and all importantly a useable luggage space for both spares and luggage, the car is perfectly well suited to any number of world wide events / regularity rallies and for sure would make a welcome sight at Brescia.
It is possibly an important point to mention that as the classic car market is increasingly driven by investment minded individuals, the Bristol 400 has been perhaps a bit of a sleeper in the world of classic cars. Not only is this a bespoke model from one of the very best manufacturers of the period. The wonderful engine which was used in a number of models at this time has been synonymous with a significant increase in values for such cars. The Bristol engined AC Acecas having recently shot up in value, early post war BMWs are almost out of reach. The Bristol 400 is perhaps a very clever purchase and I have no doubt that its eligibility for the Mille Miglia would be a factor in the car finding a new owner quite soon. Certainly, we would have no hesitation to assist with a Mille Miglia entry and can of course provide event support and put a package of on-event technical support together to suit any individual’s requirements.