Tag Archives: Balfour

An Education – Bristol 405 Saloon

Back in February I looked at the Bristol 405 Drophead, fit for for a Sheikh, today I am looking at the 4 door saloon, seen here at the recent Silverstone Classic, built on the same chassis design.

Bristol 405 Saloon, Silverstone Classic

When launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1954 the 405 experienced overheating problems while running in heavy Parisian traffic, this turned out to be due to a faulty batch of cylinder heads rather than the fog light blocking the radiator.

Bristol 405 Saloon, Silverstone Classic

Once the overheating problem had been sorted customers were full of enthusiasm for this versatile model which was lighter than the preceding 2 door 403.


Larger doors and windows, than those seen on previous Bristol models, were accommodated by dropping the hitherto successful Superleggera body construction in favour of body work built around a wooden frame.


Unlike the 405 Drophead chassis which were sent initially to Abbots and later Tickfords for their bodywork to be built, the 405 Saloon had bodywork built in the Bristol works factory.


Gary Barker told the Adelaide Advertiser in 1956 “The Bristol 405 is a car in the very best tradition of high British performance.”


A maroon 405 Saloon was the star of the 2009 coming of age film ‘An Education‘.

My thanks to Christopher Balfour who’s book Bristol Cars A Very British Story supplied many of the background details for this blog.

Tomorrow I hope to be attending the Bristol Owners Club Concours d’Elegance a free event held at the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich – The Painted Hall.

It is sad to have to report that Chris Lawrence, one of the men behind the Morgan Triumph SLR cars that featured on a GALPOT blog two weeks ago, passed away on August 13th. Along with the SLR Chris was responsible for the Mini based Deep Sanderson and much more recently the Morgan Aero 8 amongst many other vehicle developments. I hope you will join me in sending condolences to Chris’s friends and family.

Thanks for joining me on this British Performance edition of ‘Getting a lil psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a large sports car from a revived brand that now hails from Chippenham, Wiltshire. Don’t forget to come back now !


Going it alone – Bristol 407

Just 88 Bristol 407’s were built between 1961 and 1963.

The 407 was the first Bristol model launched after ownership of the Bristol Car Company had been taken over by the Bristol Aeroplane Company founders grandson Sir George White 3rd Bt in partnership with Bristol’s preeminent retailer Tony Crook in September 1960.

The exterior of the Bristol 407 is distinguished from its predecessor the 406, which I have yet to write a blog about, by a horizontal bar across the radiator grill at the front and twin exhaust pipes at the rear.

Underneath the car could not be more different, the 407 is powered by a Canadian built 5130 cc / 313 cui Chrysler V8 connected to a push button operated Torqueflight transmission, a combination which first came to the attention of of Sir Reginald Verdon Smith the Bristol Aeroplane Company director in the 1950’s on a private visit to Canada.

Bristol attempted to develop it’s own aluminium block V8 in the 1950’s but, insufficient experience casting aluminium and lack of capital thanks to the spiralling cost of aircraft development elsewhere in the Bristol group of companies meant that the V8 never got beyond an underdeveloped prototype stage at which crankshaft main bearing housing distortion presented an obstacle to production.

Changing to the Canadian V8 from the hitherto BMW inspired straight 6 necessitated replacing the former transverse leaf front suspension with a pair of coil springs and replacing the highly praised rack and pinion steering with Marles worm driven steering.

The chassis was fitted with Dunlop disc brakes all round and the aluminium body production was moved from Jones Brothers to Park Royal Vehicles in London.

The 407 chassis set out the basic architectural features for all Bristol’s with many incremental modifications right through to the introduction of the Bristol Fighter in 2004.

This particular model photographed at a Loton Park VSCC meeting is registered in Sweden, notice that it is a Right Hand Drive model, Sweden switched to Left Hand Drive in September 1967 to bring it into line with it’s Scandinavian neighbours.

My thanks to Christopher Balfour who’s book ‘Bristol Cars a very British story‘ provided many of the insights in today’s blog.

Hope you have enjoyed today’s Marles worm driven steering edition of ‘Getting a lil’ psycho on tyres and that you’ll join me again tomorrow for a look at the even rarer Bristol 410. Don’t forget to come back now !


Under The Skin – Bristol 403

Continuing the Centenary Celebrations of the Bristol Aeroplane Company which for my part went horribly wrong when I originally identified the car in today’s photographs as a Bristol 401.


With that error thankfully corrected I am now armed with a Bristol Owners Club Membership and Car List and a Christmas treat to myself recommended by Teb Marius, the excellent ‘Bristol Cars, a very British story‘ by Christopher Balfour to help correctly identify the various Bristol models in future.

Apart from the badging differences and chromed bumper of the 403 detailed in my Bristol 401 blog there is little externally to help tell a 401 apart from a 403.


Internally however there were many changes between the two models, the 403’s engine ran with larger valves in the cylinder head and larger crankshaft bearings which helped boost the power of the BMW derived engine by 15 hp up to 100 hp. Coupled with improved ‘Alfin’ brakes and an antiroll bar on the front suspension the 403’s performance was much crisper loosing 3 seconds from the standstill to 60 mph acceleration test to record a time of 13.4 seconds.

Just 287 104 mph Bristol 403’s were produced from 1953 to 1955 when the process of separating the Bristol Car Company from the Bristol Aeroplane Company, it’s parent, was getting underway.

Hope you have enjoyed to days ‘Alfin’ arrested edition of ‘Gettin’ a lil’ psycho on tyres’ and that you’ll join me again tomorrow for a look at a fabulous drop head Bristol with tail fins. Don’t forget to come back now !