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1955 Bristol 404 Coupé

  • 1955 Bristol 404 Coupé
  • 1 of just 52 examples built
  • 1 of 2 built with the ‘small boot’
  • Known history back to new
  • Full engine rebuild and upgrades by Ian Nuthall in 2019

MODEL HISTORY

Launched at the Earl’s Court Motor Show in 1953, the Bristol 404 was quite a departure from the previous works of the Bristol Car Company. Gone was the BMW-style front grille, now replaced with a single aperture inspired by the air intake of an aircraft engine. With their aviation roots, Bristol were able to develop the design and shape of their cars in a wind tunnel and by using aluminium over an ash frame, were also able to keep the cars light. The result was a car that the motoring press lauded over. Here was a car that combined the comfort of a saloon or similar GT car with the handling and performance of a sports or racing car. The word connoisseur was used in abundance in road tests and reviews and this word is as apt today as it was in period.

Powered by the renowned 100B Bristol engine that would be found in the AC Ace-Bristols and numerous other sporting road cars and race cars, the Bristol 404 sat on a very short wheelbase of just 8 feet. Suspension was independently sprung at the front with a torsion bar set up at the rear. Brakes were Lockheed hydraulic drums all round and the transmission was Bristol’s own design.

Despite being built for 5 years, just 52 Bristol 404 Coupés were ever built. Of those, just 2 had the ‘small boot’ which offered a second luggage compartment set into the rear bodywork underneath the main luggage compartment.

THIS MOTOR CAR

This particular Bristol 404 Coupé currently for sale at The Classic Motor Hub is one of those two ‘small boot’ cars and was sold by Bristol Cars to one of their Scottish distributors in 1955. Originally White with Black interior, the car presents today in a very attractive Dark Green with Black leather trim and Grey carpet. A letter on file from Bristol Cars dated May 1991 runs through the early ownership history. After a couple of initial owners, Bristol Cars bought the car in the early 1960’s. They sold it to a client before re-acquiring it in 1967. In December of that year, they sold it to an old friend of Tony Crook (then owner of Bristol Cars), who in turn left it to his son upon his death. The car went unused for 20 years before being bought by Bristol Cars again in late 1989. They went about performing a complete bare metal restoration including renewal of the ash frame. Photos from this restoration carried out at Filton are on file. The car was subsequently sold to a Mr. Norman of West Lothian who owned the car from 1991 until 1999, during which time it was maintained by Edinburgh based Bentley & Rolls-Royce specialist, Ian F. Cunningham.

In 1999 the this Bristol 404 was inspected by Spencer Lane-Jones on behalf of Dr. Christie, the report is on file. Dr. Christie went on to own the car until 2005 during which time the car was taken religiously to Spencer Lane-Jones every year for a thorough going through. At some point in Dr. Christies ownership the engine was changed, albeit for a correct 100B unit. In 2005 the car was purchased by a Mr. James who kept the car until 2009 when it was purchased by Alistair Hacking, the owner of Spencer Lane-Jones (SLJ), who looks to have used it as his own personal car until 2011 when it was sold to renowned collector John Bentley. Well known collectors such as Chris Blundell and Peter Lovett, owner of the Dick Lovett Group, had the car in their collections, with maintenance still being overseen by SLJ. In 2019, the Bristol was purchased by the previous owner and being a very much a driver, as opposed to a collector, he insisted on having the car in tip top condition mechanically. As a result, he entrusted renowned Bristol & Frazer Nash specialist, Ian Nuttall of INRacing to carry out a complete engine rebuild and mechanical recommissioning. The invoices on file tally up to nearly £40,000 GBP and the engine was rebuilt to fast road specification with a 10:1 compression ratio, a significant increase from the original 8.5:1. The car was also fitted with an overdrive for long distance touring at higher speeds.

Recently refreshed cosmetically and with the extensive mechanical work carried out by the best people in the business just last year, this lovely Bristol 404 Coupé is very much ready to be enjoyed and is an ideal candidate for any connoisseur who wants a high speed express that is both refined and comfortable, yet exciting and quick to boot. Such attributes when combined with the rarity and provenance of this particular example make it a very enticing prospect indeed.

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