SOLD 10/21

1951 Bristol

Bring a Trailer NO RESERVE auction preview: Running/driving Ford-powered 5-Speed Project. Innovated design and personable charm makes this a great restoration platform.

  • VIN401909
  • Exterior ColorGreen
  • Interior ColorGray
  • MileageTMU
  • Engine2L Inline 6
  • Transmission4sp manual
  • StatusSold
  • StockFJ2526


Driving video:

1951 Bristol 401

Chassis No. – 401909
Engine No. – 1814C (original engine included as spare)
Exterior Color – Green
Interior Color – Dove Gray
Engine – Ford Falcon In-line 6 cylinder
Transmission – 5 -speed manual Toyota Celica transmission
Current Kilometers – 00,002 kms (TMU)
Current Owner – Purchased in 2017

Currently powered by a Ford Falcon six-cylinder engine, the original engine block and head are included with the car along with other assorted engine parts.

Marque Overview

After building aircraft of superb quality during the second world war, the Bristol Aeroplane Company applied their aircraft knowledge to automobile manufacturing under the name Bristol Cars Limited. The first of their luxury sport offerings evolved from the 400 to the 401 which was manufactured from 1949-1953. An impressive and low volume production car of substantial merit, just over 600 401s were produced. Beautifully appointed and elegantly prepared, the hand-formed alloy bodies were inspired by Carrozzeria Touring designs for Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and others. 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, rack and pinion steering, and independent front suspension via transverse spring and wishbones with a solid rear axle and torsion bars. The peppy Bristol benefited from stout in-line 85 hp 2.0 liter six-cylinder engine returning comfortable ride manners befitting a car of this stature.

In addition to their advanced engineering, Bristol assembled their cars with the same level of quality and attention to detail found in Bentleys or Rolls Royce cars, including a hand formed alloy body mounted to a deep box section steel chassis, Connelly leather interior, a solid wood dashboard with veneer finish, and impressive detailing throughout the cabin and exterior. And while cost seemed to be of little concern to the pride and quality, Bristol simply refused to compromise regardless of lacking profit, a trait that limited sales at the time, but now benefits collectors seeking rare and desirable cars. Unknown to even avid automotive enthusiasts, Bristol Cars Limited continued to operate well into the 21st century despite ongoing financial challenges, highly priced offerings, and often taking years to complete customer cars. Although Bristol ceased operation in 2020 their cars continue to appear in many top-tier collections.

History of this Car

This Bristol 401 was assigned the chassis number 401/909 with engine 85C/1814 and completed at Bristol Cars Limited May 3, 1951. Upon completion the car was dispatched May 11, 1951, to Garage Du Lac, Geneva, Switzerland. Configured in right hand drive and finished in Cambridge Grey (a light metallic green-grey color) the car was optioned with a speedometer in kilometers, heater, and oil-cooler. Although information documenting the early history of ownership has yet to be uncovered, records from the Bristol Owners Club archives indicate the car was owned by Mr. Douglas Palmer, Seattle, WA in 1992. In 2009 the car was offered for sale in St. Louis, MO and featured on BringaTrailer, though not offered for auction. At that time the car was outfitted with a vintage Ford six-cylinder engine and a Toyota 5-speed transmission from a Celica. Palmer notes that he installed the Ford Falcon engine due to the former Bristol engine having head issues. The Bristol engine was sold to an AC owner though it was not determined if that particular Bristol engine was the original unit dispatched with the car when new. Both the Ford engine and Toyota transmission appear to be the same units installed in the car today as well as the SU carburetor intake system which appears to have been part of the Ford engine transplant performed on or around the same time. A further owner is noted in 2015, located in Napa, CA and by 2017, possibly still under that same ownership the car was advertised for sale when Jim Smith, a prominent BMW collector and Bristol enthusiast purchased the car that same year. Smith was remarkably able to source the original 100 D2 spec. Bristol engine block stamped with the number 1814C which matches the Bristol club records indicating this to be the original engine. This original engine is included with the car.

General Condition

Today this Bristol 401 still delivers on the promises of excellence once offered in this marque. Though the finishes and general condition are showing their age, the body contours, distinct Bristol features, and uniquely streamlined alloy coachwork still evoke the prestigious streamlined presence offered when new. The paint has faded over time, but the various brightwork still delivers the delightful design accents that thoughtfully complete the car. The inboard headlights and revealed central bumper treatment create a unique visual signature to the sophisticated full envelope design, particularly notable in the hood and front fender contours. The coupe configuration sweeps back and tapers in a beautifully tailored fastback rear line giving a sporting presence to the spacious passenger area. The large doors operate with push button access, opening and closing easily with very good panel fit to the body. The hood and trunk lid also display very good fit to the body. The rear of the car features CH lettering, in tribute to the original delivery destination for the car, Switzerland.

The interior has been previously refinished including the seats, carpets, and other details, most of which remain very serviceable. The dashboard features unique instrumentation, spacious seating for four, and a fuel release lever located on the inside of the car, possibly being one of the first car companies to promote this security feature.

In preparation for sale, the car was inspected and started, which proved successful, achieving steady idle though a fuel leak was evident at the carburetors. The gearbox engages and the car is drivable, providing great care is used during limited operation. Please note: The brakes are functional under cautious use; however, we recommend that the next owner perform a thorough brake and brake line inspection and service prior to driving. The remaining systems, fluids, fuel lines and hoses, would also benefit from further inspection and evaluation before operation.

Items Included with the car

The car is offered with the original Bristol 100 D2 engine block (stamped 1814C) and head, and additional Bristol parts including a water pump, a set of Bristol cam covers, a Bristol head, a Bristol oil pan, crankshaft, nine spare pistons, and a few spare cast parts also part of the engine assembly and believed to be original to the car. Additionally, the car is accompanied by two books on the Bristol marque, copies of reference literature on Bristol cars, a binder labeled “Bristol Parts List”, a Bristol Workshop Manual, an original Bristol Instruction Manual, various grill badges, a car cover,

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.

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Fantasy Junction  •  510-653-7555  •  1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608