|Key people||Toby Silverton|
|Parent||Since 2001 the company has been owned by Toby Silverton, with investment from the Tavistock Group|
Bristol Cars is a manufacturer of hand-built luxury cars, based at Filton, near Bristol, England. Bristol Cars has no distributors or dealers and deals directly with customers; they have a showroom in Kensington in London. They claim to be the last wholly British-owned luxury car builder. The cars have never been made in large quantities. The most recent published official production figures were for 1982 and stated 104 cars were produced that year.
Bristol cars are considered by the manufacturer to be "nicely understated" and based on tradition rather than ostentation. The cars are still handmade, taking four times the man-hours to complete compared to other luxury cars.
Styling is an engineer's creation rather than a stylist's. Although Bristol saloons provide "dignified express travel for 4 6-foot (1.83 m) persons and their luggage", the design means that a Bristol Blenheim is narrower than a Ford Mondeo and shorter than all competing cars. Luggage space is large as the spare tyre is stowed behind a hinged panel in the front left wing and the battery and fuse box in the right.
The company intends its cars to be effective daily transportation rather than occasional indulgences. With regular maintenance, the company expects the car to outlast its owner. They maintain the vast majority of parts in stock, and they will remanufacture or hand-make any other required parts. They will also provide upgrades, such as newer engines.
With their small production numbers, lack of glamour and no advertising, most even in the UK would not recognise a Bristol. This exclusive obscurity is very appealing to a certain class of buyer. Second-hand Bristols are generally considered to be "classics" and good value considering their quality, rarity and cost when new.
The history of Bristol Cars began in 1945. Forecasting an excess labour capacity postwar, the Bristol Aeroplane Company (BAC) began working with AFN Ltd, makers of Frazer Nash cars, on plans for a joint venture in automotive manufacture. By July 1945 BAC had created a Car Division and bought a controlling stake in AFN. HJ and DA Aldington remained Directors of AFN and were joined on the Board by Reginald Verdon-Smith and George Middleton White, both sons of BAC Directors. Reginald Verdon-Smith was elected Chairman and HJ Aldington Managing Director.
HJ Aldington, who was still in the British Army, used his military connections to visit the bombed BMW factory in Munich several times in 1945, culminating in a 'duty' trip in October 1945, along with his brother and two Bristol representatives, to take detailed plans of BMW cars and several development engines which they flew back to Bristol. This was quite a tricky manoeuvre as Munich had been declared part of the American Zone and the American Military had just issued orders for the BMW plant to be dismantled and crated up for shipment to the USA. These plans and engines were subsequently declared to be war reparations. BMW chief engineer Fritz Fiedler was also given employment at AFN where he continued development of the BMW 328 engine.
By mid-1947, the different intentions of the Aldingtons and Bristol were becoming clear and Bristol severed its ties with AFN, returning control of AFN to the Aldington family. Earlier in 1947 BAC had registered the company Bristol Cars Ltd although it continued for several years to market its cars as made by the Bristol Aeroplane Company.
The first car, the 1947 Bristol 400, was heavily based on pre-WW2 BMWs. The body looked very like the BMW 327, while its engine and suspension were clones of BMW designs (engine and front suspension based on those of the BMW 328, rear suspension from the BMW 326). Even the famous double-kidney BMW grille was carried over intact.
Until 1961 all Bristol cars used evolutions of the 6-cylinder BMW-derived engine. This well-regarded engine also powered a number of sports and racing cars, including all post-war Frazer Nash cars (apart from a few prototypes), some ACs, some Lotus and Cooper racing cars, and several others. In 1961, with the launch of the Bristol 407, the company switched to larger Chrysler V8 engines, which were more suitable for the increasingly heavy cars. All post-1961 Bristols including the current Blenheim and Fighter models use Chrysler engines.
From 1960 to 1973, former racing driver T.A.D. Tony Crook and Sir George White owned Bristol Cars; In 1973, Sir George sold his stake to Tony Crook. In 1997, Toby Silverton came on board and there followed the greater level of development of cars seen in recent years (particularly, the new Bristol Fighter). Crook eventually sold the company to Silverton in 2001.
|The British car industry – companies & marques|
|Rolls-Royce||Rolls-Royce Limited||Rolls-Royce Limited & Bentley||Rolls-Royce Motors||Rolls-Royce Motors (Vickers)||BMW & VW Group||BMW|
|Armstrong Siddeley||Siddeley-Deasy||Armstrong Whitworth||Armstrong Siddeley||Bristol Siddeley||Rolls-Royce Limited||Rolls-Royce plc|
|Aston Martin||Aston Martin||Aston Martin Lagonda||PAG (Ford)||Aston Martin Lagonda|
Land Rover Group (BL plc)
|Rover Group (BAe)||Rover Group
|MG & Rover (BMW)|
|Land Rover||PAG (Ford)|
|Standard||Standard||Standard Triumph||Leyland Motors||British Motor Heritage|
|MG||Morris Garages (MG)||Rover Group
|MG Rover Group (Phoenix)||SAIC
|Vanden Plas||Vanden Plas|
|Austin-Healey||Austin (BMC) & Donald Healey|
|Jensen||Jensen Motors||Britcar Holdings||Jensen Cars|
|AC||AC Cars (several ownership & company name changes)|
|Bristol Cars||Bristol Cars|
|Gordon-Keeble||Peerless & Warwick||Gordon-Keeble|
|Lotus||Lotus||General Motors Europe||Proton|
|Westfield||Westfield||Potenza Sports Cars|
|Vauxhall||Vauxhall Motors||General Motors||General Motors Europe|
|Hillman||Hillman||Humber||Rootes||Chrysler Europe (Chrysler)||Peugeot (PSA)|
|Sunbeam||Sunbeam||Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq||Rootes||(as Sunbeam-Talbot) Rootes||Rootes|