|We have developed what you might call a Bristol 411 Series VI...|
Racing driver and individualist, Tony Crook, ran the company until 2002 from the one-and-only showroom in Kensington High Street. He would gauge the cut of the cloth of a potential buyer in the showroom and, if suitable, might deign to let the customer have on of his motor cars. With the replacement of the venerable 2-litre engine by the creamy Chrysler sourced 5-litre V8 in 1961, Bristol motor cars moved more upmarket and into the Grand Tourismo category.
Present Bristol Cars Limited owner, Toby Silverton, has the same mind-set as Crook and he has carried on the company ethos of manufacturing individual cars for the few. The current Blenheim remains true to the fast, comfortable four-seater touring ideal. But Silverton has also added the aerodynamic Fighter sport car to the range which features a V10 engine pumping out 500+bhp.
The word eccentric is usually used to describe Bristol motor cars from the Sixties as the company steadfastly refused to follow the rest of the motor industry in the pursuit of trends or fashion. (Ironic, considering a number of pop stars and designers appreciate their uniqueness). But the motor cars were always engineered to Tony Crook’s high standards even if the body styling of the 412, 603 and later Blenheim’s were not to everyone’s taste.
It is apparent that a Bristol is like Marmite: you either love it or loathe it. Detractors opine that Bristols are plan ugly and weird while supports enjoy the low profile and rapid progress offered by all the V8 models. Having driven a few, those of us at Octane are always impressed at how usable and capable they are in the real world.
Speak to Bristol types and you will find that most agree that the 411 was the best looking, offering an ideal package of styling and performance. The 411 was produced in five series running from 1969 until 1975, with the original 5.2-litre engine expanding to 6.6-litres with the final iteration.
Being aware of the popularity of the 411 Toby Silverton has come up with a plan. Being Bristol Cars, this is a very Bristol plan. Whilst buyers of the Blenheim and Fighter keep the order books healthy, enthusiasts still hanker after the 411 of yore. Today, the production facilities at the Bristol factory are still available to be used on the out of production 411 because the cars were largely hand made and many of the craftsmen who built them originally are more than capable of doing so again. Bingo!
'We have developed what you might call a Bristol 411 Series VI,' says Silverton with enthusiasm. 'We basically rebuild a brand new Bristol 411 at the Bristol works, with all the sort of upgrades you expect in a modern car, whilst retaining the classic 411 virtues. The Series VI comes with a new car warranty and will cost you £128,500 including.'
Imagine, a manufacturer building you a classic car to ‘as new’ condition in its original factory and handing over a new car warrant to go with it. A concept that is hard to conjure. And Bristol wants £128.5K for the pleasure? Hmm. But think about it a bit longer and the idea is not that far-fetched, just a little lateral.
The Aston Martin Works Service can offer you a Heritage Restoration, which is not the same as a new car. Richard Williams is renowned for rebuilding Astons to superlative standards with all sorts of modern upgrades, but they remain R S Williams cars. Henry Pearman will build you an Eagle E-type and Porsche will rebuild classic cars at its factory.
Ferrari offers the Ferrari Classiche certification which verifies that the car is as it left the factory. Of course Ferrari is happy to extract your money to make sure its criteria is met. There is one exception to the rule; a few years ago Nissan rebuilt as new a few Datsun 240Z sports cars, to original specification. But Toby Silverton will build you a brand new Bristol that looks like a classic. It will be a factory car with a new car warranty. Why, because he is an enthusiast who owns the company so he can do what he pleases!
'We source a good 411 then take it back to the works and completely strip it to the last nut and bolt,' says Silverton. 'Everything is renewed and upgraded including all mechanicals, interior and bodywork. The car is built to the owner’s requirements so no two are the same. We essentially add up to date Blenheim components to the 411.'
The current Blenheim is an evolution of the 411 so most components are bolt on. The reworked 411 receives the latest 5.7 V8 engine with its multi port fuel injection system, electronic ignition and management. This is mated to a modern 4-speed automatic gearbox with electronically controlled clutch lock-up and a very long rear diff ratio which gives 40.17mph per 1000rpm. Brakes are discs all round with four pot calipers at the front and two pot at the rear and the suspension is upgraded with adjustable dampers and a handling pack.
The interior is completely reworked with all the accoutrements you expect in a modern luxury car. This includes air conditioning, cruise control, electric seat adjustment, central locking and ‘clicker’ keys for the door as well as a choice of sound systems ranging from earache to nose bleed. Everything is very tastefully done but as each Series VI is made to order, you could try for pearlesent paintwork and shark skin interior. Just don’t be surprised if Mr Silverton has you thrown out of the shop.