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6 cyl Bristol cars Type 400 to Type 406

Restore or replace ?

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 09:56 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17
Default Restore or replace ?

I have embarked on returning a 403 onto the road after it has been left languishing for a few too many years.
The main question concerns the pursuit of originality against practicality -
The radiator has been taken out & a low pressure test conducted revealed it has corroded internally in too many places.
The recommendation is to replace the core - either with a reproduced 'honeycomb' core from a recommended contact based in N.Z, or with a modern core manufactured locally ( Melb.).
The proviso being - It will not look the same but will be more efficient, and affordable.

I might be coming into this late in the day but please bear with my naivety as I ask some pretty basic questions.

Is it each to their own? Or to decide to be a purist or pragmatist?
Will the wrong choice result in banishment to the mongrel section of the car show? Park behind the toilet block - which seems to be the lot of the Bristol driver at the Euro Brit car show in Melb. As an observation....

Next items on the list for the argument to restore or replace , in no certain order will be the brakes, fuel pump, cooling, interior trim, paint work - so many choices that enhance the 401/3 shape.

Still waiting for an outcome on the tail lights that has been posted on this site.

The intention is to have the car on the road and be used as far as possible, not cossetted in storage. That comes later.

Is this question too broad? or too well travelled?
I would like to think I am trying to add to the marque & not to detract from it, so I would appreciate a response.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 10:39 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 8
Default Restire or Replace

I have been plugging away with a 403 Restoration in Sydney for 8 years and have considered at some length most of your issues over the years. I have used as my guide the notion that the Bristol Company itself was always very pragmatic and adaptive. If you wanted it, they would cheerfully fit discs to a 401/403, if you were prepared to pay. Also there are several Service Bulletins about upgrading earlier cars to later developments. One such is the fitting of a front anti roll bar to 401s for instance. Similarly the fitting of the later type of handbrake to the 400/401. Given this philosophy I don't hesitate to upgrade if required, though I did go for the NZ Radiator core you mention mostly because of its originality. In Australia there is a stress within the Club for using cars. Even as we speak there are 45 cars on a run to Tasmania. The stress on originality that afflicts other makes does not seem to predominate here though it can be a fine line. More power to your arm.
Greg Mead
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 11:56 AM
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: West Wales.
Posts: 258

I agree with Gregs thoughts on this and if you look back through previous postings on this forum there is a lot of useful information. I just had two radiators re cored one fairly locally and one by a firm in south wales. Both firms used modern cores the only difference being the local one used a standard thickness core whereas the other used a thicker core which fills the frame better and so looks better off the car but would be less noticable when installed, everything else top, bottom tanks frame was reused so it still looks basically the same. I opted for this because the first car to have one fitted is going to hopefully used a lot and better cooling ability will be useful.
On my 401 I have already fitted a remote gear change lever and alfin drums, will probably put an anti roll bar on it and may in the future consider disc front brakes if the parts become available. In the meantime I will have a brake servo fitted. These are all the sorts of modifications you come across on cars in the UK, I have also fitted a Winterburn capacitor discharge ignition system and I have seen one car, a 401 or 403 fitted with LPG and a very modern American ignition system with coil packs for each cylinder.
I have used the Halogen bulbs with the original base fitting in a Bentley R Type and found that upgrade worth while but as LED's are now available as direct replacements for the BPF lamps I might try these, the other bulbs will be replaced by LED's.
Dave Dale has posted on one of the forums a very neat solution to extra rear lighting as has Stefano Pasini who has a very good website of his own detailing the comprehensive restoration of his 403 and advocates the overdrive conversion fitted to his car.
Radial tyres are well worth fitting as well, lots of choices then but that is part of the fun of the renovation/restoration.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 06:02 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: New Zealand
Posts: 135
Default Replace

There were not enough Bristols ever made - or Tony Crook's propensity for privacy kept the profile too low - to create a collector's market in the same way there are for, say Aston Martin. Accordingly, the must-be-factory-correct crowd has never had much of a presence in the Bristol market.

This, coupled with the points raised above, that Bristol itself would replace if it made engineering sense, points to replace, not restore.

If you want to be faithful, do not throw away the originals, but keep them to be passed on to the next owner. Having the original radiator means that if times change, and restore becomes the holy grail where cost is no object, that future owner can have the original rebuilt or replicated.

Times do change. Back in 1969 when Alfa came out with the Spica fuel injection to meet US pollution laws, it was viewed negatively by the Weber crowd. Up into the 1990s, owners would still remove the Spica and replace with Webers - tossing the Spica in the rubbish. Now, originality has become the touchstone - although in part because it is acknowledged that the Spica design is in some ways superior to carbs, so those cars with the original fuel injection are more valuable... but only because the market says so. This has not happened yet with Bristol, and it may never happen. We do not have a big enough market to drive such decisions.

The biggest question looming on the distant horizon is extinction of the petrol driven car. Technology is shifting to electric... lower maintenance, huge torque, quiet, and as batteries come down in price we may come to the day where petrol is hard to get or banned. Will we send our Bristols back to the factory to be electrified? Will the remaining cars become garage queens - collector cars never driven except onto a flatbed for trucking to a show?

This could happen, and we could be the last generation of car collectors.

So I would say replace, upgrade and enjoy the car for what it is.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 07:51 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Bologna, Italy
Posts: 91


congratulations for your 403 (which chassis no.?) while I am still wrestling with many gremlins during the restoration of my own 403, as good friend and expert Bristolian Geoff Kingston knows all too well ;-))) The pages of my web site devoted to the process since 2012 are here:

My Favourite Cars-Bristol 403

FWIW, I've tried to keep everything as original (or original-looking) as possible, trying to evaluate every modification with the eye of a Concours Judge, as I am asked to be one sometimes. Thus I went for original-looking cores for the radiators (all 3 of them), but I also put in 403-1404 an alternator masked as an original dynamo and an electronic ignition nested in the original distributor. I kept the brakes, fans, carbs etc as original as possible, the exhaust was remade following the pattern of the original Burgess system but in stainless steel and so on. I'll probably fit a (hidden) brake servo booster while I would have spared myself several weeks of agony if I had fitted an electric fuel pump instead of insisting on keeping the AC pump for the sake (again!) of originality. I'd strongly recommend everybody to effect this modification: the electric pump on my 409 never gave any problem whilst the mechanical one on the 403 is a mess. And, as you are at it, please overhaul the whole braking system and fit a new pump and cylinders. It will not cost much and it will be an insurance for the future.

Originality: I think that Bristol owners are 'not lovers of Committees', as somebody wrote, and each one of us thinks with his own head and doesn't want to conform necessarily to an obtuse search for the maximum originality at all costs. Some modifications are necessary to use our cars in modern traffic and these will be more than welcome, IMHO, even if I would stop short of fitting disc brakes on my 403.

With my best wishes for a happy ending in your restoration,

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  #6 (permalink)  
Old 20-03-17, 11:40 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Perth
Posts: 18
Default original?

My Bristol 401 is one of many marques of cars I have restored privately and professionally over the last 49 years.
Most genuine enthusiasts (as opposed to hot rodders), will encounter these conundrums.

Purists will restore faithfully with genuine manufacturers (perhaps OEM) parts irrespective of on-road practicality and usually cost. A 76 year old client of mine had a Jaguar XK150 faithfully restored at a cost well over its value at any auction. City driving was very hard for him so we fitted electric power steering. Perhaps he would be classed a practical purist?

Restoring for profit usually means using substitute parts and altered systems to rein in the cost The finished product will more likely attract a practical enthusiast buyer than a showpiece owner or investor.

Of the many cars we have have done some or all resto work on including a Bentley S2 , 2 x Jag XKs, a Riley, 3 x MGs, a Lotus, a Mk II Ford Consul and others, the only one that was faithfully (purist) restored, largely by the owner, was the Ford - even down to the parts being original FOMOCO. It took over 15 years to complete.

Basically any resto has to suit your requirements as a driver, investor, and a desire not to be behind a toilet block.
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old 21-03-17, 06:28 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17
Default Restore or replace

Thanks for your comments. Can stop contemplating and make some pragmatic choices.
The difference in costs for the radiator core quoted was effectively, a honeycomb radiator restored or a modern infilled radiator with funds left over for leather for a new seat .
Thought I was on a winner until I read Stefano's disclaimer regarding disc brakes.. ....
Having spent most of last night reading the posts, I can make the confession - I have picked up some parts from a cannibalised 401/403(?) back in the early 80's & have front discs , with later model roll bar ( for lock to lock clearance ) running on Jag wire wheels.
The set up was constructed by a ships engineer with no intention of it working on the standard Bristol rims. The car was wrecked as the Owner was of the opinion it was worth more sold separately - which was the case for far too long.

Also experiencing some of the same problems - a tendency for the back to lock up.
In modern traffic drums all round can make you feel like a super tanker coming into dock - too fast.
Appreciate the heads up about not throwing anything away looking for more storage space now.
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  #8 (permalink)  
Old 21-03-17, 06:34 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 956

As one gets older, being close to the toilet block at the car show can be quite handy ...
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  #9 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-17, 10:49 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17
Default restore or replace ?

Stefano, Do not have chassis # but engine # is 3115 or 8 & body# is 1418.
I do not think my 403 will be a Concours contender -I did mention the disc brakes & wire wheels didn't I?
It has suffered in the past some body damage so preservation is the goal.
In general terms, the fittings & fixtures of a 1950's auto contain a lot of style that mass production does not possess - from the radiator core to the wing nut on the air filter.
Which brings the general condition of the interior into discussion - the paint work is non-existent, the leather(torn, worn & dehydrated) beyond saving & the carpets, moth eaten & ragged.
The glove box lids have suffered water damage & the veneeer has delaminated .
The motor though remains a beautiful example of mechanical art, but the frame has suffered
The comment regarding the ignition and magneto is intriguing , as I have had a recent conversation with a 400 owner & retired mechanic who was extolling the virtues of his adaptation bypassing the AC unit attached to the block with an electronic fuel pump fitted in/under the chassis.
Improvements in reliability are necessary in traffic these days.
Will proceed to review other posts for information.
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  #10 (permalink)  
Old 29-04-17, 04:14 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17

First posting of photos.
Engine No 3115
After years of neglect, cleaning away dust, oxidization & flaky paint.
Solex carbs reconditioned, radiator re cored with bits & pieces cleaned, polished.
Probably returned either back to front or upside down despite all the pictures taken prior to disassembly.

All I want for Christmas is a Parts Manual,

Yours in passing,

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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 29-04-17, 07:27 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 280

I think BOCA have copies of the 403 parts book and DVD Copies of the full workshop manuals are available through a BOCA member .
Good to see some progress in getting it mobile

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  #12 (permalink)  
Old 01-05-17, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17

Thanks for the heads up on the manual & DVD, Geoff
BOCA Membership cheque has been posted & am currently on the look out for a replacement starter motor to enable the saga to continue.
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  #13 (permalink)  
Old 02-05-17, 10:41 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 280


Modern geared starters should be available in Melbourne through various sources. They are the same as ones fitted to MG TD . I fitted one to a 403 a few years ago and they work so much better than the Lucas original , they just bolt straight on.
Check your local MG Specialist

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  #14 (permalink)  
Old 11-05-17, 04:24 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17
Default Starter motor

Thanks Geoff.
I have sourced one in Melb .
One step closer to firing up .
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  #15 (permalink)  
Old 13-08-17, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 17

Hi torque starter sourced from a gentlemen in Mont Albert - very helpful and knowledgeable - happy to recommend his services.
Bit of to & fro to have the face plate line up & allow clearances for exhaust & block.
Startermotor snugly in place & turns over beautifully.

Your assistance is appreciated,

Currently on the trail of ignition points & carbi's that do not leak so it can fire up.

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