Cohort Outtake: 1952 Bristol 401 – Timeless Elegance Of An English Spa Town

CC has looked at the history of the gently eccentric and very British Bristol before, but this example and the photographs taken by Nathan Williams and posted to the CC Cohort deserve an airing.

Bristol cars had their origin in the transfer of technology from Germany, in this case BMW, to the UK after the second world war. Using a certain amount of skulduggery and victor’s swagger, the Bristol Aircraft Company acquired the designs, rights and some tooling for the BMW 328 series sports saloon, and restarted production in Bristol as the Bristol 400 in 1947. These cars were very close to the pre-war German cars.

The 401 was the first British development of the concept, with a body restyled by Touring and which achieved a drag coefficient of 0.39. Production started in 1950, and ran to 1953. The car still used a Bristol built six cylinder 2 litre engine, directly traceable to the earlier BMW design. Bristol was still associated with the aircraft company at this time, hence the pose with the experimental Bristol Brabazon airliner.

Nathan saw this car in Cheltenham, some 40 miles or so from Bristol, and one of England’s larger Georgian spa towns, and still renowned for its elegant streets and facades. Someone, the Bristol seems to fit in.