The Most Original Left Hand Drive Bristol 404 in Existence.
1955 Bristol 404
s/n 404/2051, eng. no. 100B3613
Green with White Interior with Green Piping and Carpets
Having served the war effort with great distinction building aircraft of superb quality and construction, the Bristol Aeroplane Company applied their aircraft knowledge to the building of automobiles under the name Bristol Cars Limited. First offered in the 400 series and later revised to the 404, the Bristol was a formidable, albeit low volume production offering, that stood proudly on its own merits. The arrival of the 404 was a welcome departure from the previous 400 in part because the body design was evolved from aerodynamic studies achieved by careful use of Bristol’s inhouse wind tunnel. The unique design featured a short wheelbase (96 inches) with a teardrop profile and a unique aircraft-inspired air intake, all of which conveyed a very sporty and unique design. The ash-frame, alloy body 404 was powered by a BMW derived 2.0 liter six-cylinder engine which Bristol modified using forged alloy pistons, a specialized aluminum head with hemispherical chambers, and triple carburetors, all of which was coupled to a four-speed manual gearbox. In addition to the carefully constructed body, the car was outfitted with Lockheed hydraulic assisted alloy drum brakes, aided by a dual circuit for front and rear actuation, along with rack and pinion steering. The peppy Bristol benefited from 125hp output which was more than enough to be competitive against contemporary offerings.
Bristol was dedicated to building their cars with the same level of quality and attention to detail befitting that of a Bentley, while retaining a unique sporting flare. Buyers might have been more inclined to purchase these cars in greater numbers, but the price was quite high for the times, entirely due to the high level of build and labor-intensive construction methods, upon which Bristol simply refused to compromise. As such, a mere 52 examples were built during the 404 model production run, the vast majority of which were configured with right hand drive. Though records are not decisive, it is believed by most marque experts that two or three examples were built with left hand drive. Unknown to even avid automotive enthusiasts, Bristol Cars Limited continued to operate well into the 21st century despite financial challenges, highly priced offerings, and often taking years to complete customer cars. The company finally ceased operation in 2020.
This Bristol 404 is understood to be the most original example in existence today. In addition to the rarity of the 404 model, coupled with the extraordinary originality, chassis 2051 is believed to be the very last 404 produced. Upon its completion, the car was dispatched to both Geneva and New York where it served as a show car to encourage future orders. Having been built with left hand drive configuration, the first owner was in attendance with his wife at the New York show and, upon her request, purchased it immediately as a wedding anniversary gift. She drove the car approximately 17,000 miles until her death in 1970, at which time, a New York doctor purchased the car, retaining ownership for about a year while adding an additional 6,000 miles. The next owner stored the car until 1989 until it was sold to a Bristol engine specialist who performed a sympathetic mechanical freshening, tending to the brakes, water pump, exhaust system, shocks, tires, and performing a general tune up to the original engine. In 2008, the car was then sold through Fantasy Junction to the next and previous owner. With mileage of 31,715 miles, 1,000 of which were accumulated during the 2013 California Mille, the car had the brake wheel cylinders replaced, the radiator replaced, and an electric fan installed to aid in cooling. Under current ownership, now showing 31,962 miles, the car remains a remarkably original example, proudly bearing both the elegance of the original design and the time-softened integrity of the preserved finishes. In 2019 the car was reviewed at length by Bristol expert Laurence Anderson who performed a detailed inspection in the company of the current owner including fluid inspection, review of all mechanical systems, and a helpful diagnostic tutorial for the owner.
Today this wonderful Bristol 404 displays the original emerald-green paint and much of the original ivory leather interior, both of which offer authentic and wonderfully settled patina. The original paint has some crazing, a few areas that are peeling, and has worn through in a few areas, but overall, the finish is very pleasing, particularly for enthusiasts of preservation grade automobiles. One minor dent at the edge of the grille opening is evident, but otherwise the aerodynamic alloy body is beautifully contoured from the gently rising front fenders to the delicately tapered trailing fin blades atop the rear fenders. The wheels appear to have been refinished at some point, and some chrome pieces appear original with modest aging to the surfaces. The Lucas tripod headlamps are in excellent condition, along with the center-mounted driving lamp and rectangular Marchal fog lamps. Both front fender storage panels open smoothly allowing access to the battery on one side, and spare tire on the other – a clever design element, one of many that surely added cost to these already expensive cars.
The interior also offers originality and refinement in both the finishes and quality of instrumentation, details, and woodwork. The original leather seats had survived quite well over the years, but the current owner elected to reupholster the driver’s seat for greater driving comfort. The color and design or the material are very closely matched to the original. The floor carpet has also been redone in correct color with matching piping, as has the handbrake sheath, wrapped in matching ivory leather. Overall, selected finishes have been sensitively tended to with respect to the originality of the car and in keeping with the quality of the original build. During ownership in the 1970s, the clear finish for the dashboard wood was redone, but today shows signs of age, though the wood itself is in good condition. The Smiths gauges are quite nice, still displaying excellent contrast and color.
Under the hood, the original engine is consistent in visual presentation with the original aspects of the car. Finishes show signs of aging but have been preserved and much of the mechanical systems remain mercifully free of modern updating. The radiator has been replaced with a modern high performing unit, which has been fitted with an electric fan to aid in cooling. Throughout the engine compartment there are delightful authentic details including the Bristol engine tag affixed to the engine, the casting numbers on the exhaust header, the triple carburetors and correct air cleaner, and the Bristol data plate which validates the engine and chassis number, both of which match the car today. The underside of the car is consistent with original construction showing no signs of structural compromise to the floor or to any of the suspension mounts. The chassis remains clean and well prepared though not detailed to show level, once again, remarkably original and tidy throughout.
Driving manners are surprisingly modern with a very well-balanced engine and gearbox pairing, befitting the short wheelbase and lightweight construction. The driving position allows for very good visibility with ergonomics nicely laid out, which, one must believe is reflective of aircraft diligence allowing for immediate proximity to vital controls, and informative visual captures of all instruments when needed. The engine idles smoothly and upon command delivers a throaty inline six-cylinder engine roar consistent with AC cars or prewar BMWs similarly equipped. Delightfully light and easy to use, the gearbox is very well-suited to the power range of the engine and the gear ratios are perfectly spaced for the power. An interesting technical feature, these cars are equipped with a deceleration/freewheeling feature in 1st gear. The brakes are effective, bringing the car down symmetrically under good pedal feel. In all this Bristol 404 is captivating as both a driving car and uniquely derived symbol of engineering and design excellence for the period. Extremely rewarding for its sophisticated build and elegant trim, much of this still applies today when making fitting comparisons to other performance cars of this era.
The car is accompanied by a set of tools and tool roll, the original radiator, original dispatch record document, a Bristol workshop manual, Bristol instruction manual, and a Bristol spares handbook.
This original left-hand drive Bristol 404 represents an unrepeatable opportunity to acquire a wonderfully preserved low-mile example which can be readily enjoyed. A 32,000 mile original car that has retained the dignity of the original finishes and uniquely designed details. The mechanical quality combined with originality create a wonderfully satisfying car that will capture the heart of an astute collector seeking a unique vehicle with authentic finishes. With a 1955 manufacture year, this Bristol can also be an excellent event car including participation in several popular vintage tours. Captivating in every respect, dignified by time, and sportingly beautiful, this last production, left hand drive Bristol 404 is sure to delight sporting enthusiasts for many years to come.
The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.
Fantasy Junction • 510-653-7555 • 1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608