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Bengt Axel

Joined: 07 Sep 2008
Posts: 217
Location: Cheshire

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm interested in your assessment of the Bristol.

I've just finished reading Christopher Balfour's new Bristol book, and though I enjoyed it hugely, I did occasionally wonder how objective he was about the cars themselves. There seemed to be little real coverage of any shortcomings in the cars.

There also seems to be a general perception (possibly erroneous, possibly not) that Bristol as a compant stagnated from the mid 80's until Toby Silverton really took power, and that Tony Crook, whilst being the saviour of the company for years hung on for too long. This isn't really emphasised in the book either

I'd be interested in your assessment of the book, if you have read it.
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Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1431
Location: Near Stroud, Glos

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No I have it and I agree with you.

In my opinion a company with 60,000 employees, many with nothing to do once the war effort was over, wasn't very clever to make fearfully expensive cars and sell a mere 420 in the time the rest of the British Motor Industry had exported over a million.

Christopher positively fawns over the company and its products as enthusiasts tend to, but I don't think he represents fairly how good the cars were compared to the competition and he talks as though they were originators when all they were doing is making, albeit better, pre war BMWs.

By 1960 they'd sold about 2000 cars and then separated and used a V8 instead of the 2 Litre. I don't believe the early V8s sold because they were very heavy to drive, much too expensive and prone to overheating, but once they'd got power steering and more power in the late sixties and early seventies, they were able to sell more for a time because they were very fast and comfortable. I prefer the CV8 to the early V8 Bristols and I believe the Jensen Interceptor was more successful. From then on Bristol took an ugly pill IMO and also I think Tony Crook became increasingly difficult to deal with until Toby locked him out. I think they've sold another 2000+ cars since 1960 until recently when things seem to be improving.

I bought mine because it is an interesting piece of early post war history and because it's good looking and was remarkable in its day. I'm not a one make fanatic and I like to learn from a company's successes and failures rather than just worship as some do. Bristol owners are fiercely loyal and I'll probably get into frightful trouble for this but I think it's fair.

BAC was a wonderful company and in its day had been the world's largest Aeroplane manufacturer as well as producing one of the most successful aero engines of all time thanks to Sir Roy Feddon. Not forgetting the magnificent Concorde.
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Bengt Axel

Joined: 07 Sep 2008
Posts: 217
Location: Cheshire

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't appreciated that BAC were carrying 60,000 employees at the end of the war. Producing the car they did couldn't have made a very big dint in keeping them in employement.

I've considered buying a Bristol for some time, and was looking at the earlier V8's (407 to 409), so will take your comments on these into account. Maybe a 603 would be a better bet (410s and 411s fetch bigger prices and fuel bills!). The Bristol engined cars I have been put off due to reports that they are so difficult and expensive to maintain - indeed an acquintance has replaced the Bristol unit with a Rover V8 in his AC Aceca....

I agree with your comments on styling, although Bristols have never been about appearances Blenheim series 1 and 2 in particular are beyond the pale, the 412 could charitably be described as an aquired taste, and they didn't get back on track until the 3S. The Fighter of course is 'something else'

Bristol production figures post 411 are famously shrouded in mystery as you no doubt know, but I would think that 2000+ Chrysler engined cars is too many. I believe that in this era annual production was about 40 to 50 at best, and that in the real doldrums of the 1990's they were struggling to hit double figures (alledgedly one year it was 5). Certainly the long standing, and still being repeated. claim by the company that they limit production to no more than 150 per year is a complete hoot!.

I hope that the BOC don't 'know where you live' Wink
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Joined: 02 Jan 2008
Posts: 1431
Location: Near Stroud, Glos

PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're right, I reckon I've spent 12K sorting out a good engine and months getting the carburetion right, but Bentley engine rebuilds are at least as bad.

The trouble with Bristol engines is that the racing fraternity hoover up any spares that become available and the head and block castings, especially of the early post war cars aren't great quality.

The transverse leaf front suspension on the 2 Litre cars is crude compared to other makes of the time, hence the harsh/hard ride and because of the high roll centre on the rear axle, they are tail happy without an anti-roll bar. I love the thing and don't want to sell it, but I'm sure Austin could have made it for not much more than an A40 Devon and fitted proper door seals!

I think that compared to R-R, it was an amateurish car and that better effort should have been made to reduce manufacturing costs.

I'd still recommend buying an early car because they are up there with Alfas and Lancias of the day in many ways, especially handling. I have a friend who had an Aurelia GT as well and sold it to keep the 400 because he preferred it.

There are mistakes in that book that need explaining too. The original 85 engine and the BS1 racing equivalent used by Fraser Nash had a light crank in it and was prone to wearing the centre mains, especially when racing. It caused plenty of problems. BMW had used a much heavier crank with bolted on counterweights and so Bristol introduced this on the 403s and for the 100D2 sports engines in the ACs. However Christopher states that the weights flew off on the Le Mans 450s, so BCL left them off. Impossible and if they flew off then, why aren't they now in historic racing. I'd like to learn more about crankshaft development.

The 410 is a nice characterful car and my favourite of the V8s, but a CV8 MK3 Jensen is better IMO and great fun if a little dangerous to drive. It's very fast and torquey on narrow tyres and 11 mpg is typical. I get 28 mpg on the 400.


PS. The fabulous CV8 Jensen

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Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2010 10:13 pm    Post subject: became interested in cars Reply with quote

I became interested in old cars when I was 16 ( now I am 56 ) .
My uncle had many old carmagazines the oldest from 1926 and I like to read them .
I always wanted to buy a old car but until now it never happend .
I do have many old bicycles , mopeds and motorbikes .
The car I would like to buy is a Jaguar MK 2 .

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Joined: 24 Aug 2008
Posts: 135
Location: Further up the creek

PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Jensen C-V8 Reply with quote

That's a terrific looking C-V8 you have there. Everyone that knows me knows where my passion lies.

The Jensen C-V8 and certainly the Interceptors were much-loved by the rich and famous. Here is singer Susan Maughan ("I want to be Bobby's Girl!") at the Jensen factory when she became the owner of a C-V8 Mk II - unusual colour scheme of black with black leather interior.

2000 Jaguar XJ8 4.0 LWB
1974 Jensen Interceptor Mk III
1969 Jensen Interceptor Mk I
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Joined: 20 Apr 2009
Posts: 75

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My father owned cars, ignoring the modern ones the 'collectable classics' were, pre war Hillman saloon, post war Austin Somerset and Hillman Husky, he also had a Cyclemaster. However, his great passion was fishing and boats, in that order. The cars towed the boats and he went to work on the Cyclemaster. I loathed fishing then and still do! My interest in motorcycles stems from talking to the young men who rode them and lived in the nearby streets.

In those far off days a 10yr old boy talking to 'strangers' was not frowned upon. I soon became, so I thought, an expert on mechanical matters, I was certainly an enthusiast. One young man had done National Service in Germany and brought back a 250cc NSU Supermax. With great patience he explained why it was superior to any British motorcycle and gave me a ride on the back!

I'm also interested in the remark from Ashley (above) " They are (MKVI Bentley) regarded as the second and last time that R-R made the best car in the world and I think that is fair". I think Ashley has also suggested, in another post, that R-R never made a profit on their cars! I'm just about to re-read 'What ever happened to the British Motorcycle Industry?' by Bert Hopwood.

So my question is, why the decline of UK Engineering plc?
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Keith D

Joined: 16 Oct 2008
Posts: 974
Location: Upper Swan, Western Australia

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


Your question regarding the decline of UK engineering interests me.

I think there are several major factors. The time when the Herbert Austins and William Morris' died off and car design became controlled by bean counters who had no "feel" for a motor car, just the money they hoped they could make from them.

I recently read a book about "Austin - the men and the cars". (I'm not sure if this is the exact title, but it's a recent book) It was one of the most depressing motoring books that I've ever read. The man leading BMC openly declared that he intended smashing Morris because he had a blue with him and left Morris just before the war to join Austin. By 1951 he was leading BMC. This man was known as a "production engineer" whatever that means! After years of pathetic "badge " engineering, Leyland was told by the Government to take over a very ailing BMC. For whatever reasons, this just did not work. The rest is history.

I was living in the UK when I bought a brand new 200cc Triumph Tiger Cub motorcycle in 1961. I had it eight days when somebody drove into the back of me, wrecking the back mudguard. It took the main Triumph dealer in Southend 4 MONTHS to get me a new one. The bike was in full production in the factory at the time.

Anybody who was riding motorcycles when the Hondas first arrived in the UK will still remember the shock we all felt when we discovered that motorcycles did not have to leak oil, they did not have to be noisy and they could have an incredible performance and still be cheap. Spare parts were easily available and every dealer wanted to handle them. I was small in statue at that time and I had great difficulty kicking a 650cc bike over. Despite being told by the British motorcycle industry that electric starters were impossible to fit on motor cycles, Honda acheived the impossible and small guys and any girls could now ride bigger bikes.

The Mini is a classic case of an absolutely brilliant car being put on the market "half finished". Certain things should have been done to improve the original car. For instance accessability of components. A bonnet hinged like a Triumph Herald's and a removeable panel on the firewall (bulkhead) would have made the vehicle a joy to work on and service. But BMC and Leyland didn't consider it worthwhile to do this. A great pity.

I don't think the engineering in the UK failed, I believe it was very bad management and mediocre design, coupled with complete indifference regarding the supply and availablityof spare parts. (The mediocre design was almost certainly caused by management restrictions and certainly does not include styling)

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