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1955 Bristol 404 Coupe

The Last of 52 Produced. Impeccably Original LHD Example with 31,000 Miles and Known History from New. A Wonderful Driving Car that Proved Itself on the California Mille.

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VIN 4042051
Exterior Color Green
Interior Color White Leather with Green Piping
Mileage 31715 Miles
Engine 2.0 Liter Inline-6 no. 100B3613
Transmission 4-Speed
Status Sold
Stock FJ627


1955 Bristol 404
s/n 404/2051 engine no 100B3613
Green with White Interior with Green Piping and Carpets

Though not widely known in the United States, Bristol is a legend among those who appreciate their combination of build quality, exclusivity, reliability, and performance. Before building cars, Bristol built airplanes and airplane engines, over 100,000 of which served the United Kingdom well during the Second World War. Since the war, they have built a reputation for producing hand-made automobiles that are unique and distinguished, but also elegant and understated. Bristol has never had a widespread dealer network and almost all new cars are sold through the factory showroom in London. They were meant for the gentleman, the same sort of person who would buy a Bentley, but who wanted something just a bit more exclusive and individualized.

The 404 is unique even among Bristols. All other early cars used 108-inch wheelbases but the 404 used a more sporting 96-inch wheelbase. The same sophisticated BMW-derived twin cam inline-6 (employing forged alloy pistons and aluminum cylinder head with hemispherical combustion chambers) was used, and the styling was done in house using Bristol`s own wind tunnel. The interesting front end employed a “carefully designed radiator inlet duct combining maximum cooling efficiency and low frontal area,” while the brakes were sophisticated alloy drums with Lockheed hydraulic assistance that used separate front and rear circuits. Steering was by rack and pinion. The car was hugely expensive when new, and just 52 examples were built. Almost all examples were right hand drive, with either two or three left hand drive cars built.

This particular car is an original left hand drive example and is believed to be the last 404 built. It was the Geneva and New York show car in 1955 and was then sold new to a wealthy American aircraft executive (whose work address was quite literally on Wall Street) because his wife requested “one of those” when they had seen the three factory Bristol entries at Le Mans (which placed 1-2-3 in class and 7-8-9 overall in 1955). He gave the car to her as a wedding anniversary present and she drove the car until her death in 1970, covering 17,000 miles in the car. The car was then purchased by a New York doctor, who kept the car for about a year, putting an additional 6,000 miles on the car. The car’s next owner stored the car until 1989, when it was sold on to its next enthusiastic owner (who owned a shop specializing in Bristol engines), who performed a sympathetic mechanical freshening (brakes, water pump, exhaust system, shocks, tires, tune-up). Fantasy Junction sold the car to its current owner in 2008, who has added an additional 2,000 miles to it, bringing its total mileage from new to 31,715. During his ownership, he has replaced the radiator, added an electric cooling fan, and performed brake work which included new wheel cylinders. He successfully completed the 2013 California Mille driving the car as well.

Cosmetically, the car remains completely original, with both original paint and interior showing wonderful patina. The paint shows crazing, peeling, and has worn through in places. Aside from a dent in the edge of the grille aperture, the body is very straight. There is no corrosion in evidence, while the wheels are excellent and have likely been refinished. The Lucas tripod headlamps are excellent, as are the center-mounted flamethrower driving lamp and Marchal foglamps. The chrome trim is on the whole excellent considering its age, with some very light haze and pitting.

The interior is also highly original with excellent patina. The leather seats are creased and show some cracking and tears but remain supple. The leather door panels are excellent considering their age, as is the dashboard. The owner of the car in 1970 reports having refinished the wood on the dash, and it remains in good condition. The instruments are well laid out and beautifully preserved Smiths items. The green carpets have worn through in places and are showing their age. The engine compartment is very original and correct, as is the underside.

The driving experience of this car is genuinely extraordinary; it is one of those satisfying coherent cars that makes the driver happy. The car is truly a pleasure to use, from the driving position to the interior ambience to the actual vehicle dynamics. The driving position is very commanding, while the view out over the deeply contoured fenders and hood is very sensual. Visibility is superlative, and there are thoughtful details throughout, such as the timed and still functional trafficators. The instruments are well placed for legibility, while the steering wheel grooves are thoughtful and a tactile delight. The entire interior is an ergonomically intuitive and aesthetically pleasurable place to spend time. The engine purrs at idle when warm and the exhaust note is unmistakably inline-six and wonderfully “rorty” as the English would say, a familiar sound to any AC with Bristol engine or late prewar BMW driver. The engine starts easily, idles smoothly, and is well tuned, with good carburetion. The engine revs rapidly with good throttle response and performance that makes the car easy to use in modern traffic. The gear ratios are well-suited to the engine’s power delivery, and there is a sensation of quality and well-being that comes from driving this car that is difficult to characterize but will be appreciated by the automotive connoisseur. The handling is capable, balanced, and predictable, and the brakes effective with symmetrical operation and good pedal feel. In short, this is a hugely satisfying driver’s car that remains, fundamentally, a 30,000 mile car. The car was hugely sophisticated in its day and remains today a demonstration of the high quality that has always characterized Bristol cars.

This is an unrepeatable opportunity to acquire what must be one of the best-preserved 404s in existence. This is a genuine 32,000 mile car that has never been molested. It has unmatched patina but feels mechanically fresh and is a wonderfully satisfying car to drive in way that will appeal to the seasoned collector. Its 1955 build date, excellent mechanics, and cosmetic patina make this the perfect event car for something like the California Mille. In a sea of sparkling more common cars, this car is sure to stand out, while its excellent road handling will ensure that the driver has as much fun as the spectators. This car is highly complete as well, with documentation and paperwork (including a pair of photographs taken in 1970, and a great series of letters between owners and the Bristol Owners Club) back to the 1970, as well as original sales brochures.


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Fantasy Junction +1 510 653 7555 Emeryville, California 94608 USA

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