Bristol Cars is a dormant manufacturer of hand-built luxury cars. It headquartered at Mychett Place, Surrey, England. The company was founded in 1945. Bristol Cars Limited is a newly formed company which was incorporated in 2011. After the original company fell into administration that same year and was dissolved by a court appointed administrator, after changing its name to BCL 2011 Ltd. The car division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company was appeared after the Second World War, later becoming Bristol Cars Limited.
1945; 72 years ago
London, United Kingdom
In March 2011, the company suspended manufacturing, when administrators were appointed, 22 staff were made redundant at the factory in Filton, and consequently the company was closed. In April 2011, a new company was created by the administrator to sell the original assets to Kamkorp. Since 2011, the company has been restoring and selling all models of the marque while a new model was being produced. The company has exposed a desire to return to automotive production in 2018 with an all-new model, called the “Bullet”, initially dubbed “Project Pinnacle”. The car was first unveiled to the public on 26 July 2016.
A chance discussion took place in May 1945, between D. A. Aldington, a director of Frazer Nash then serving as an inspector for the wartime Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP), and Eric Storey, an assistant of George White at the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Further, it led to the immediate take-over of Frazer Nash by the Aeroplane Company. This seemed the perfect match for the aeroplane company’s own aspiration to produce a high quality sports car. With the support of the War Reparations Board. H. J. Aldington travelled to Munich and purchased the rights to produce three BMW models and the 328 engine.
George White and Reginald Verdon-Smith of the Aeroplane Company joined the new Frazer Nash Board, but in January 1947, soon after the first cars had been manufactured, differences between the Aldingtons and Bristol led to the resale of Frazer Nash. The Bristol Car Division became an independent entity.
Bristol Cars was sold after its parent joined with other British aircraft companies in 1960 to form the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), which later became part of British Aerospace. The car division originally merged with Bristol Siddeley Engines, and was marked for closure, but was purchased in September 1960 by George S.M. White the chairman and effective founder.
In 1973, Sir George White determined to sell his majority shareholding to Crook. As the ties with the White family were severed, British Aerospace requested the company to shift its factory from Filton Aerodrome and it found new premises in nearby Patchway. The showroom on Kensington High Street became the head office, with Crook shuttling between the two in Bristol’s light aircraft. Under Crook’s direction the company manufactured at least six types, the names of which were largely borrowed from Bristol’s distinguished aeronautical past: the Beaufighter, Blenheim, Britannia and Brigand.
End of the second era
In February 1997, Crook sold a fifty per cent holding in Bristol Cars to Toby Silverton, with an option to take full control within four years. Silverton, then son-in-law of Joe Lewis of the Tavistock Group and son of Arthur Silverton of Overfinch, joined the board with his father. In August 2007, Crook finally gave up his connection with Bristol Cars. In March 2011, it was declared that Bristol Cars Limited had been placed into administration, and it was that company that was renamed and consequently closed by the administrator.
Pre-war BMW designs, Aldington brothers and early cars
HJ Aldington, a director of the Bristol Aeroplane Company affiliated AFN (BMW’s pre-war concessionaire in the UK), used his British Army connections to visit the bombed BMW factory in Munich several times post-war. In 1945 he planned for BMW cars back to Britain, and BMW chief engineer, Dr. Fritz Fiedler was also employed. Its first car was the Bristol 400, prototyped in 1946 and launched at the 1947 Geneva Motor Show. In 1949, the 400 was joined by the five-place 401. The 405, which entered production in 1954, was much more successful, not least for being Bristol’s only four-door. It continued in production until 1958, with 297 saloons and 43 drophead coupés manufactured in all. In 1958, Bristol unveiled the 406, and it continued in production until 1961.
The 406’s replacement, the 407. It was powered by a 5.2-litre V8 provided by Chrysler of Canada. It was followed in 1963 by the 408, with drastic restyling as well as improved suspension. Also, in 1966, the 410 was launched. So, it was a return to the high-performance touring tradition, offering the same top speed as the 409, and superior acceleration, with the same powerplant. In 1969, the Bristol 411 introduced, with a new 6.2-litre Chrysler V8 delivering higher top speed and even better acceleration.
Until 1961 all Bristol cars used Bristol-built derivatives of the BMW M328 2-litre six-cylinder engine. With the launch of the Bristol 407 in 1961, the company switched to larger Chrysler V8 engines, which were more suitable for the increasingly heavy cars. All post-1961 Bristols, including the later Blenheim and Fighter models, used Chrysler engines.
Kamkorp era (2011–)
Administration and purchase
It was declared that Bristol Cars had gone into administration on 3 March 2011, with the instant loss of 22 jobs when the factory at Filton, Bristol was shut down. On 21 April 2011 another new company was created to sell the assets of the previous closed company, and it was this company that was bought by Kamkorp, which also owns Frazer-Nash Research, a technology producer of electric power systems.
However, in 2015 Bristol Cars declared the development of a new model codenamed “Project Pinnacle”. Initial reports indicated it would be a petrol-electric hybrid with a petrol engine from BMW. So, the car, a two-seater roadster, made its first public appearance, slightly camouflaged, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June 2016. its name given as Bristol Bullet. Also, it is said to be powered by a normally aspirated 370 bhp (280 kW; 380 PS) 4.8 litre BMW V8 engine driving the rear wheels, has a body of carbon fibre, weighs 1130 kg.