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6 cyl Bristol cars Type 400 to 406 - restoration, repair, maintenance etc

Replacement engines for Bristol 6

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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 07-02-09, 10:15 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

On the other forum, someone posted a notice for an Ebay 401 with a Ford 6 engine, which prompted some discussion. Among the chat was this comment:

"Prewar BMW blocks aren’t all that tough to find if you’re in Europe…and I know of a rebuildable EMW unit in NH that’s available for a reasonable sum. The 328 style head is the killer, though they’re available new at about $10K apiece. I’d be tempted to install more modern BMW based mechanicals such as the M42 4 cyl, which is almost exactly the same length as the original engine and would provide sufficient power to move the car smartly, yet not completely overpower the thing."

So, any comments about a BMW M42 engine fitting as a replacement? It certainly would be the right provenance.

  #2 (permalink)  
Old 07-02-09, 10:50 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

"Free of corrosion" perhaps by midwestern
standards, or just not poking deep enough.
  #3 (permalink)  
Old 07-02-09, 11:30 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

It's been for sale before but no takers at the price. Bristol engines and
gearboxes are available if one wanted to do it right.
  #4 (permalink)  
Old 25-03-09, 09:44 AM
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Not sure if the web site has been commented upon in previous correspondence. But prices of engine spares are listed and of course the downward slide in the £/euro rate has not helped, but the head is listed at 8400 euro!!

Interesting site nevertheless.

  #5 (permalink)  
Old 25-03-09, 06:44 PM
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Location: London UK
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

401 was sold a few weeks ago with a 2.8 litre Nissan engine and 5 - speed box.

Dave Dale
  #6 (permalink)  
Old 25-03-09, 11:43 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 1,138

I don't think I could own that car. Can you imagine telling people it has a Nissan engine...

A BMW engine maybe, but nothing else.

Sadly if the cost of restoring a 6 cyl Bristol car exceeds the value of the restored car, then the high value of Bristol engines means that more 6 cyl Bristols are likely to be bought purely for their engine and transmission, which means the cars may ultimately end up on the scrap heap.

Ironic that Bristol's supply of engines and chassis to other manufacturers should result in the destruction of Bristol cars. Maybe Bristol should have listened to Harold Aldington and made sports cars!
  #7 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 01:04 AM
geo geo is offline
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Originally Posted by Kevin Howard View Post
I don't think I could own that car. Can you imagine telling people it has a Nissan engine...

A BMW engine maybe, but nothing else.
Hang on a minute Kevin, I do not know about that engine, but quite a substantial amount of BMW kit is manufactured by their partner company, the Bermuda-registered Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. (the company with which the late Rover first hoped to jump into bed).

Brilliance might only have produced thirty-odd thousand complete BMWs in 2007, but planned to increase this to 100,000 by next year.
  #8 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 06:00 AM
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

To be frank I simply wouldn't have a 6cyl Bristol with anything other than Bristol engine. The same goes for any other classic car. I just can't see the point.

But if you must replace the original Bristol engine in an aerodyne I'm sure an older German made 6 cyl BMW engine could be obtained quite easily.
  #9 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 11:00 AM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

I must say that I worry for old Bristols because they really are
neglected. My son was workshop manager at
where they regularly rebuilt cars for more than double their value.
I don't think the owner would appreciate me telling how much it cost
to restore a Gurney Nutting PIII, but the engine alone was about £80K!

Brian May has quite a few projects that require total rebuild and for
which there is little or no interest. I think I'm one of only a
handful who've completely rebuilt a 400. It's very sad and I don't
think it is so much the cost, which is considerable, but that
collectors are virtually unaware of them. Surely a decent 400 wouldn't
look out of place at Pebble Beach, it is quite distinctive enough, but
it has never happened.

I own a Bentley MKVI and they've been neglected for years, but in the
last ten or so, people have been spending considerable sums of money
on them and their condition has improved significantly. Rich is
currently doing a total interior restoration of a 400 but before that
it was a straight run of Bentleys.

I do hope some of you will shoot of to see Brian and save a few cars
that otherwise I'd be very worried about.

  #10 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 12:57 PM
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Default Re:Replacement engines for Bristol 6

Given that a highly desirable and market driven demand for classics
will determine their value in original condition, it is apparent that
Bristols, as of this date, are not in the same category as say
Ferraris and other classics. I agree with everyone's sentiments so
far, but must also say that due to the cannibalising of Bristol
sixes, notably from the 406 model in favour of AC Ace, or Frazer Nash
cars due to their higher market value, is it not better that some of
these cars (Bristols) at least live longer and provide joy and
satisfaction to their owners irrespective of whether they are Bristol
powered or not. Further, until recently, although still largely
true, you could not buy a new motor, or in the earlier cars case, a
new gearbox. Take the Fiennes engineering company next door to
Alpine Eagle as an example. They build everything new for your
Bentley/Rolls if you need it - expensive but it's available.
Similarly the cost of the new Bristol six blocks and heads implies
that one would want to see market values increase dramatically to
justify the investment - or take a long term hope that they will

I do agree not just any motor should be planted inside a Bristol.
Indeed, rather than simply state it should be BMW just because of the
historical provenance of the original chassis and mechanics, one
should consider the fit, the cost, the weight, the performance, the
character and the general availability of spares for the
replacement. Being someone who has undertaken a long and hard review
of engines pre-2000 and post say 1985, their are a range of small to
medium V6's, big inline 4's and a handful of smallish lightweight
V8's that could be employed. Further to make the job easier to fit
into the criteria I've just mentioned, you must also look at
electrical matters as well as whether the donor car was RWD or FWD.
Sticking to RWD for a donor car severely limits the choices and yes
BMW remains top of the list. I even bought a 2003 2.5 litre six from
an early E46 model car and with the gearbox it was too long without
fouling the front cross member and steering rack, or needing a major
set of work to rebuild the entire bulkhead and even then the gearbox
would have been too far back for ease of use. I had to abandon that
idea pretty quickly and sell it on (at a small loss).

My final decision, although not a purist one, in as much it is not
BMW, is a relatively common, reliable, strong, easily fitted, perfect
weight, easily tuneable, Volvo red block motor. Using Penta marine
crank, Mahle pistons, forged H-beam rods, Garrett turbo and a host of
other improvements, mated to its original Getrag 5 speed box, it is
ideal for maintaining the same weight distribution, providing more
than adequate power and torque, whilst being pretty inexpensive to
maintain and support if things go wrong - almost anywhere given the
availability of Volvo bits. For me it will be my car and thus a
special, complete with improved brakes, seating, climate control and
other stuff. It will cost much more than it is probably worth, as
does every Bristol full restoration, regardless of who does it. It
boils down to personal choice. My car will be an Alpine Bristol,
thus differentiating it as a special - a Bristol modified and
improved by Alpine (Eagle) - although to my specs. Pity I've been
waiting several months for my motor to be built!!!

As to whether or not a 2.8 litre (long) Nissan motor is a good choice
I am not sure. Certainly it is an iron block motor and thus probably
a lot heavier than the original 2 litre six. Unless it has had
brakes improved and a few other items it may even be unpleasant to
drive, however the description is not complete enough for a full review.

  #11 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 01:50 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

Well it depends on the meaning of "collectors are unaware of them". In
Brians' case, he keeps his cars more or less hidden. Only those of us who
have visited him, and wandered around the garden are aware of his
treasures. I don't think he advertises, or if he does, not outside of
Bristol circles.
I have never restored a car that when finished would be worth less, than the
money I had invested in it.
In my mind, the idea is to save something rare and collectible wilst
protecting your financial investment. I do much of my own work and have
good connections in areas that I can't do. This is part of the fun and keeps
costs in line with the end value.
I can see were there are many collectors ( having to use restoration shops)
who see little point in investing in a car that will be cost them
substantially more than the end market value. Why place yourself in an
"upside down" position? At the end, the only one who gained was the
restoration shop. It is often cheaper to buy a restored car that is being
sold at a price that reflects market conditions and not the actual
investment costs of a misguided owner / collector.
This is particularly true in the current economy and likey to remain so in
the forseable future.

Dorien Berteletti
  #12 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 02:40 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

I agree with you and attempt, not always successfully, to do the same,
however many collectors do not. They can't do it themselves, they
have to pay someone else to so that they can get as near to a new cars
possible and then use them for competition, concours or rallying. This
is what pushes the value up and it hasn't happened to Bristol. It
wouldn't matter if there were more people like you and I to do
restorations, but there aren't and the cars are suffering terribly as
a result.

The 406 engines have been nicked, but they are not the valuable ones,
Sub 2L and 100D2s are what the FN, Cooper, AC etc people want.

  #13 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 03:30 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

On the last point, anyone who buys a new car surely knows they are losing money on the purchase yet people still seem to be buying crapboxes in alarming numbers. If one buys an old car, restores it or even has it restored, then drive and enjoy it for a few years, well in my mind they got their money's worth. I love driving (and riding) old and interesting vehicles. If someone gave my a new BMW I would have no idea what to do with it, except perhaps sell it on and use the proceeds on something of real value. That said, most old cars don't depreciate much if it all, so even from a purely financial point of view they make sense. Not sure about the UK, but here in the States I can run a car valued at US$30k and insure it for about US$200 a year. My wife's modern SAAB costs almost that much to insure per month, is worth far less, and lord help me if I can even change a headlight on that thing.
  #14 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 03:47 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

Dorien, I think the term "misguided" is not entirely appropriate.
When one knows where and when to use a specialist and is prepared to
pay market rate in full and open view of sense and sensibility then I
do not call that misguided. Also, making the car better than say
when new and especially upgrading it in areas where it may well cost
more, like brakes, climate control, suspension and interior, doesn't
mean the owner is all money and no brains. I don't take offence as I
am not a wealthy man nor capable of all the skills needed to work on
my project, yet I do do a lot where I can. In fact it is cheaper for
me to pay someone to do most of the work whilst I do my specialist
effort at much higher day rates than to spend my time doing it, even
if I could, so the equation varies. Largely it all depends on what
one wants as an end result. My cheapest option would have been to
buy for £8-16k a decent 406, sell the original engine and gearbox and
do the re-engine engineering at a total cost probably far less than
£18k after selling the Bristol motor and gearbox. Further, fully
restored and cheap Bristols don't come along all that often and I
waited near 2 years to find the one I have, albeit was in far dire
condition than I wanted. In any case whatever I bought was going to
stripped bare and rebuilt - that was my aim. I wanted something that
I know will be solid and secure for another 20-40 years and which I
can pass on to my son (isn't he a lucky chap). If Bristols were like
some other classics, certainly I believe the 400, 404, 405DH and
Zagato models are pretty much getting there, then I would have
invested a lot more and created a new standard 406. But then Bristol
has always prepared cars to the owners specification anyway,
something I am simply extending to make it more serviceable and
enjoyable now and not as it was in 1959 when I was still on a leash.
It will be My Private Car.

  #15 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 04:50 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

I agree.... and yes I also drive for little insurance money, cars that I
enjoy, can fix and are certainly unusual and interesting. But then would
you be happy if your car valued at $30k had cost you say $50k ? I would
call that a loss and the same result as depreciation, albeit under a
different name. The so called "crap boxes" do have a number of advantages
which is why they are being sold.
Advantages ? Well a warranty, the posibility of leasing and or financing, a
good heating and air conditioning system and good fuel economy. Plus the
dealer network " comfort factor" if it fails.
Having just written that, I haste to ad that I would not own one, but then
many of us are a rare breed LOL!
Talking about headlights I had to laugh as I can't change the headlight in
my wife's Ford Ranger pickup truck. The excuse for such a vehicle is that it
has 4 wheel drive and easy to load hay bales for the horses.
If I come across a Saab headlight fix I will exchange the info for a Ranger
  #16 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 06:26 PM
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

My suggestion of the term "misguided" is exactly what that word means. As
you correctly say, if you know what you are doing and are happy with the
results then go for it and you will definitely NOT be misguided. My
suggestion was not about any specific car or person. Having or creating your
own Private Car is great!

However, I have seen many so called "collectors" invest heavily in a project
and then moan that the end result was well short of market trends and values
and or performance. They must have been misguided.

Ex: Master Blow has a nice 403 for sale at an asking price of 25,000 with
new paint. I am not current on UK paint / body prices, but I will guess at
least 10,000 for a respray maybe much more. If somebody were to purchase a
scruffy example of the same car for say 18,000 he would be misguided. He
would have 18+10?+ mechanical service work. That might total over 30,000
plus the aggravation / cost of getting it done. Not a good investment of
time and money.
If you go to a Casino with $1000 with expectations of winning, and you lost,
you were misguided or foolish. If you went there with the idea of fun,
excitement and meeting pretty girls..... and it all happened that way, then
it was money well spent!

  #17 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 07:50 PM
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Posts: 63
Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

Dorien, I understand, however your statement was presented as a
generalisation, hence my rebuttal.

For the benefit of other readers, I paid £2k for my complete car less
motor and gearbox - the seller made all his profit just selling the
motor and gearbox. If it wasn't a Bristol I may have got away with
even less, but the major expense will be in body and cosmetic
restoration as that is where the majority of man-hours are spent.
(circa £25k including leather, panels, paint, chrome, rubbers,
suspension and brakes etc.). Add in the motor and its bits and
pieces plus improvements (I keep some of these secret) at around
£8-10k plus a contingency of say £4-5k, then my full budget is about
£40-45k. I guess it might yield £25k if I wanted to sell once
finished - it will be better than a new one with oodles more grunt,
more economical ownership proposition and no one else will have one
like it. But who knows. I certainly don't care as I know if I take
the job to Bristol and ask them to restore it will set me back at
least double that sum, so I am being wise with my money. Even if I
had the requisite skills, I'd still save money paying someone better
than me to do it whilst I made more money doing my day job. It will
retain the simplicity of the original car with the ease of
maintenance and parts of the Volvo drive train, plus some modern
improvements to make it more enjoyable and useable as a regular
driver. I also forgot to say that it now has a later 410 V8 back
axle (running a 3.06:1 LSD) and larger Girling brakes to compliment
the 4-pot after-market front callipers. This was installed so that it
would have around 30mph per 1000rpm in 5th gear whilst haveing the
strength to handle 300+ lbsft of torque and the advantage of the LSD
for handling and cornering. Bristol quoted me a new axle (like a
Blenheim - same as the used one I have) at £5k plus braking and wheel
hubs - say £7k. I bought the used axle for £450 - collected myself
with help from Sam Frost and then had it fully rebuilt by Dana Spicer
in Birmingham for £750 - new crown and pinion, new wheel bearings and
from what we can tell even new axles - and they painted it and
delivered it back to us - that saved me an awful lot of money. It
happens that Spencer Lane Jones (advised me of the service) uses the
service as does Bristol themselves. You just have to find an axle!
My point is that as long as you do the math and research first it can
be done properly by experts but at reasonable costs - at least enough
not to feel guilty or remorse when it's finished.

The price for a superb re-spray in UK will be between £8-12k from the
quotes I have received. My 928 S4 was quoted late 2007 at £7k glass
out and taken back not quite to bare metal. Leather interior is
£6-8k depending on hides and finish/detail. New wood is about £1k
and carpets, sound proofing and other bits and bobs can add another
£1-2k, plus metal work and panels, which will depend on amount of
corrosion and repair work required. My 406 luckily only needs
£2-3k's worth of panel work as it turned out to be in good shape
after paint was stripped. Much to my relief. Hidden costs start to
happen if you do not go about modifications with good planning and
analysis. Stuff like glass is an issue as it may mean special runs
must be done to get the rare front screen made or others too. I want
to have at least one new one and a spare front screen with my
original used one. Anyone have a 406 front screen in superb
condition (or new) contact me.

  #18 (permalink)  
Old 26-03-09, 09:30 PM
Ex Member
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Default Replacement engines for Bristol 6

Looks like you are doing a capital job on this project. Congratulations! If
I may ad from personal experience, you might want to consider getting a
spare Volvo engine. I did something like what you are doing some 30 years
ago using a strong reliable engine. It was a 250 SE Mercedes engine. As time
went by the engine I was using actually became rare and expensive in some
parts. Sort of backfired on me. I mention this as you + Son plan to keep
this car 30 or 40 years.
  #19 (permalink)  
Old 28-03-09, 04:54 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 1,138

As this thread has wandered off topic and become a general discussion about restoration, I have started another thread (click here) and moved the posts which were not related to the original discussion.
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m42 bristol 6

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