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Bristol owners in America

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Old 05-01-16, 05:35 PM
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Default Bristol owners in America

Hello,

I am new to the world of Bristols. I am smitten by the cars and very seriously considering buying a 410 or 411. My problem is I've never seen one nor sat in one. I'm 6'2" and worry about comfort. I've had a number of cars of the era and this is an obvious and important consideration.

I was hoping to connect with an American owner to discuss the issues with owning such a rare care in the US. Please feel free to connect through this forum.

Happy New Year!!

Scott
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Old 06-01-16, 04:10 AM
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Location: New Zealand
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Default 6.2 headroom

Hi Scott,

The 410 and 411 and all other Bristols have excellent headroom. As you can see in this photograph, Tony Crook, the owner of Bristol Cars was at least your height if not taller and he was known for having tall, narrow cars - a bit like himself.

I find I can drive my Bristol 411 with a hat on, and I am 6 feet. The comfort is exceptional, provided the car is not thrashed. The car was said to have been designed for four men to enjoy a two-week continental holiday in comfort, which means good headroom, ample leather seats and a cavernous boot (trunk).

The 410 and 411 have power steering, which is an improvement over the earlier cars which did not get power steering until midway through the 409. I have owned a 409 that did not - with the original type tyres it was a bit like in the 1940's movies with constant movement of the steering wheel to keep me on track. By the 410, it became a modern car and in my mind the 411 Series 1 and 2 are the best looking, best performing of all the V8 Bristols. There is a certain silkiness to the 411 as opposed to say the rubbery feel of a Mercedes.

If you are happy with right hand drive, there are more cars to select from. As an American, you may find a left hand drive car, but they are few. Generally for every 75 cars made, there might be one to three LHD. However, in 1995 in America, just before we moved to New Zealand, I could have bought a 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409 and 410 all LHD and all in America (instead I took a RHD 411/M2). And, while all could be bought, none were advertised. Typically it was word of mouth, and at the time I was the North American registrar, so I kept a list of who might sell and who was looking. The price range was so wide that providing any meaningful numbers to NADA (I was on their classic car advisory board) was impossible. A 409 owner would decide he had the car too long (30 years), so he would take $7,500 and was happy to see it go (in fine shape, I should add). Later it would go up for auction and sell for $35,000.

The problem with the market is the cars are so rare that there is an insufficient market, which has the effect of keeping the prices down but also discourages great restorations. Few have ever heard of them. Thus, it is safe to say that Bristols are hard to buy when you are looking for one, and hard to sell when you decide it is time to move on. But whilst owning them, they give great pleasure. They truly are an owner's car, not a collector's.

Relative to exotic cars they are not difficult to maintain, but if you need a factory part, being a member of the fraternity of Bristol owners helps (there are at least three forums). Many parts are made by hand. At one point I needed a radiator cover which the factory was happy to sell me... next week. When I got it, it was clear they made it for me between the time I ordered it and the time they handed it to me. In the old days it was cheaper, easier and more fun to fly to London from New York for long weekend and fly back with the parts, but I haven't done that for 20 years so can't comment on today.

You will find the bigger challenge is to find the level of finish that suits your budget and desire. Much of what is on offer are restoration projects. Bristols are not bad cars to restore, but you should set aside five figures with big chunks for interiors, body work (aluminium not steel), sometimes chassis work if neglected and the many details that eat wallets. The powertrain is easy in America, being a Chrysler. But if you can find one where someone else has gone through the pain, you will be ahead.

Cheers
Claude
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Old 06-01-16, 09:37 AM
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Location: Bologna, Italy
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Hello Scott,

I had the same idea (buying a V8 Bristol) for years and never had any chance to drive one, but at the end I bought a 1966 409 (#7355) over the phone at an auction in UK and had been very pleased by it, though the rebuilding process was a bit long and complicated. You can find the history of the restoration here:

My Favourite Cars-Bristol 409

Personally, I chose a 409 because it's the last one with pushbuttons gearbox selector, 16" wheels and the Bluemels steering wheel; when I saw #7355 being auctioned I decided to buy her because it was equipped with the power steering (the first one so equipped by the factory, allegedly) and this is necessary for your confort.

You will find that there is no shortage of space in the interior, as Claude rightly says, nor in the luggage compartment: the Pasini family does never travel light (you can see an example of luggage for me and Anna for an extended week-end at the bottom of the page Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 2015 ) and the 409 lets us carry whatever we need/want, so it's a great car for traveling, even long-distance. Seats are excellent, ventilation is much better than most comparable cars of that same era, performance more than adequate for today's highways.

My Favourite Cars-Bristol 409

Now that my 409 has been completely refurbished/restored, it's a great car; the mechanical restoration was troublesome until I found someone who is familiar with USA engines, then it was all OK. You will not have that problem in USA, of course, and this will make a V8 Bristol ownership a real pleasure.

If you make this purchase (409 or 410 would be my personal favorites, but I am sure that the 411 are excellent as well) I'd strongly advise you to have the cooling system refurbished at once, as the early problems of my 409 were related to much and dirt in this area; also it is mandatory to switch from the original crossply tires to the modern radials, as Claude said, driving with those tires is messy, as I discovered recently fitting Avon Turbospeeds to my 403.

If you ever need any help, please let me know sending an email to my sites' address, as I rarely check the forums' private messages. Cheers!

All the best

Stefano
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Old 06-01-16, 08:26 PM
JAM JAM is offline
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I have a 411 (not for sale) and am 6'1". I find that there is ample headroom, although it can be a bit tight overall, if someone is sitting behind me. I don't live in the U.S., but if you are ever in Toronto and there isn't snow on the ground, I would be happy to take you for a spin.

-- Jonathan
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Old 08-01-16, 02:34 AM
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Default thank you

Thank you Claude, Stefano and Jonathan for your thoughtful answers, very helpful.

Stefano, Your 409 is beautiful.
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Old 17-01-16, 11:40 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Vermont USA due to Covid
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Default 410 support in USA

Scott,

I'm the lucky owner of one of Claude's former cars, the LHD 410 ("Merlin") which was the source of many fine adventures for him, and more recently for me.

I've found that my local mechanic in a (very) small town in Vermont is very capable of keeping the oily bits in good shape, and so far I have not encountered any difficulty in getting parts from Bristol themselves or US suppliers as appropriate.

Availability should be your only impediment!

Wishing you luck with your search.

Steve

Some pics if you are interested:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/107289...57637155099704
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Old 05-06-20, 03:22 AM
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Posts: 30
Default Bristol Owners in America

I'm in the process of doing a body off restoration of a 409 with the intention of converting it to LH drive. I'd love to come visit to see the differences between the RH and LH cars. Larry (robinlarry(at)aol.com
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