Bristol 401

Bristol 401

The Bristol 401 was the second car in the Bristol Aircraft Company (later: Bristol Cars ), which presented in 1948 in addition to the two years before Bristol was offered 400.


The Bristol Aircraft Company had in 1946 brought to the Bristol 400 their first automobile on the market, which was positioned in the upper class and was incorporated in the British press, with the agreement. In some export markets, however, the tight space was criticized especially in the area of the rear seats and in the trunk, so that Bristol already decided to early 1947 to develop a larger vehicle. However, since on the one hand, the technical basis of the Bristol 400 and especially his six-cylinder engine should be adopted unchanged and on the other hand, the new car should not be slower in spite of larger dimensions than the 400, the company decided early on for a lightweight design that reduced the vehicle weight compared to the 400; Moreover, the body should be especially favorable flow. To achieve these goals, Bristol developed the new model - the Bristol 401 - together with the Italian Carrozzeria Touring, the possessed with their patented Superleggera mentioned design principle of special skills in the field of lightweight construction.

History of development

The Bristol 401 took over the chassis of the 400 unchanged. The drive technology, including the engine did not experience any changes. Bristol used the already known from the 400 engine, type 85C, which delivered 85 bhp.

Completely new, however, was the body. It consisted, in contrast to aluminum predecessor and rested, following the Superleggera principle, on a made ​​of steel pipes scaffolding. The Bristol 401 was subjected to one of the first British cars before production begins extensive wind tunnel tests with a 1:10 scale model. This resulted in a drag coefficient of 0.36. Thus, the 401 is one of the most effective aerodynamic cars of its time.

In terms of design, the bodywork of the 401 which is also designed by Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Touring Coupé was leaning against. The body design was essentially of touring, but was revised in detail by Bristol- designers. The hood was pointed to, on both sides of the narrow grille, the still of two " kidney " was in the case of Bristol, there were two round lamp units and wings extended up to the doors. In contrast, the roof structure was independent. He was to the rear axle very high in order to allow the greatest possible headroom in the rear, and then dropped into a large, roundish -designed rear. Overall, the Bristol 401 could carry five adults appropriately.

The structure pointed to some unusual details. Of special were initially the bumpers. They were initially plated - later they were painted in body color - and included rubber inserts that should catch light shocks. The taillights and turn signals were integrated into the bumpers. For aerodynamic reasons, there was no external door handles. Merely snaps, after their operation, the door slightly opened, whereupon a further mechanism to fully open the doors was to operate were on the doors. The spare wheel was located in a separate compartment under the trunk; it was accessed from the outside.

The performance of the Bristol 401 counted by the press as convincing. The high production quality and the almost complete absence of wind noise even at high speeds were repeatedly praised. The 401 had a top speed of 98 miles per hour ( about 155 km / h). He surpassing despite its increased dimensions, the performance of the smaller Bristol 400, which was interpreted as evidence of the success of efforts to lightweight and aerodynamic efficiency.

The Bristol 401 was introduced in October 1948, together with the convertible version 402 at the London Motor Show at Earls Court. Production lasted from 1948 until 1952. Bristol Owners Club tries to divide production into three series, which differ from each other in details. A differentiation is, however, complicated by the fact that Bristol as a typical small manufacturers more or less regularly changed little things, improved, or simply adapting some details you customized.

A total of about 650 copies of the Bristol originated 401

Special bodies

A variant of the 401 was the Bristol 402, produced only a few copies of the four -seater convertible. Besides created a number of other special-purpose bodies, most of which were one-offs or were implemented only in a few copies. Among them were:

  • Four convertibles that were designed by Pininfarina, and largely corresponded to the design, the Italian body shop for the Bristol 400 was developed.
  • Two two-door coupe ( saloons ) with structures of the body Swiss manufacturer Gebrüder Beutler in Thun.
  • A Cabriolet, which built the Gebr Beutler for the Geneva Motor Show 1951. The vehicle had distinctive front fenders, which continued up to the rear of the car. The car was offered in Switzerland at an auction in 2007, but was not sold.
  • Two or three convertibles (Drop Head Coupe ) with a structure of Bradburn & Wedge, a former Bristol- dealer.
  • A two-door, four-seat saloon scarce, the Giovanni Michelotti designed in 1954 for a Lugano-based Carrozzeria Ghia - Aigle. The body of the vehicle is likely to be done in Switzerland. The vehicle had essentially rectilinear a pontoon body with an indicated momentum over the rear axle. The cabin was set back far. The roof trusses were designed very narrow; the glass surfaces predominated significantly. The vehicle was delivered in bright paint with blue roof. With regard to the proportions of the Ghia - Aigle- building took the design of the later Bristol 406 anticipated.

Pictures of Bristol 401