Curbside Outtake: 1959 Bristol 406 – A Gently Fading Aristocratic Reminder

Britain is about to embark on some major change, courtesy of the Brexit phenomenon. We don’t know where we’re going, the route, or when it’ll actually really impact us, but change is coming. Is looking back at a car that in 1959 was starting to look anachronistic likely to help, or just give a confusing suggestion?

In 1959, a car like the Bristol 406 seemed more at home. CC has covered the history of Bristol before, so I won’t go over the details again, but just celebrate this wonderful example of an older Britain (and probably older Briton) doing the supermarket shopping. Somehow, I suspect the original owner didn’t use it for the weekly shop,  not least because he didn’t have access to a supermarket car park.

The 406 was the final Bristol to use the Bristol straight 6 engine, itself fairly openly based the pre-war BMW OHV design. In this instance, the engine was bored and stroked out to 2216cc to give around 110bhp and 129lbft at 3000rpm, with a four speed manual gearbox. Performance was 107 mph top speed. Setright declared it “a delight to drive.”

Suspension was independent at the front, with wishbones working on a transverse leaf spring. At the rear, the live axle was controlled by a Watts linkage, a new feature for Bristol. Steering was rack and pinion, and disc brakes all round were another new feature for Bristol.

Bodywork was the traditional aluminium over wood framing, with the full English wood and leather interior. Sales and production were limited, principally by capacity and the price, and whether Anthony Crook, owner of Bristol Cars, liked you or not.

This was the last Bristol with the six cylinder engine. In 1961, the 407 used the Chrysler 5130 cc V8 in a visually very similar body, albeit with a new coil spring front suspension. This resulted in a car with a very different character.

And my favourite detail on this car? The indicator repeater on the edge of the roof, rather than on the front wing.

There are now just 7 Bristol 406 registered on the road in Britain, and fewer than 300 Bristols in total, on and off road. Delightful, beautiful, impressive craftsmanship without doubt, but not really the ideal car for shopping in the rain?