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Bristol alternatives.

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Old 30-10-08, 03:40 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

I don't own a Bristol but I've been tempted by them for a long time. I think I have the will power to wait until I find one in the condition I would want, rather than buy one requiring improvement. Along the way, I've been considering alternatives which have some of the Bristol qualities and I'd welcome opinions from this group on their suitability;
  • A Mercedes W107 450 SLC seems understated, comfortable and well screwed together.
  • A Lancia Flavia 1800 coupé has the engineering detail which drove Lancia to bankruptcy.
  • A Rover P5 3L has the traditional interior and build quality which the Leyland era 3.5L didn't continue.
  • A Reliant Scimitar SE4 coupé has the around town style and rorty V-engine.

Any good contenders I've missed?
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Old 30-10-08, 04:30 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

Mr Potential,

It is all a matter of money and taste, as well as risk assessment based on
availability of parts and expertise. Apart from bodywork and some
suspension bits, the Bristol (V8 ones anyway) shares lots of common cheap,
mass produced, easy to obtain new bits with relatively simple design -
effective, low stress items mostly. Even electrics are simple. In fact the
Bristol is probably the easiest of your list to own as a going concern due
to its simplicity although the Reliant will be more so when factoring in the
suspension. Bristol front and rear suspension (especially rear) can be
expensive (a couple of grand) to rebuild to like new.

Your 450 SL Merc will be terrific to own but much more costly to rebuild and
will need more expertise than a Bristol. It is also much more common (!) on
the roads but is appreciating well. There is a huge support network of
parts suppliers, body shops and dealers - but they will charge good money.
It is only a two seater unless you includethe SLC - barely a 4 seater.

The Rover is solid but of a different nature and style to either of the
first two - more old-fogey than swift understated sports (2 or 4 seater).
Parts should not be a problem considering the owner's club and numbers
produced. The Bristol is still simpler (rear suspension aside).

The Reliant is very simple and no where near the quality and style of the
Merc or the Bristol. Not my cup-of-tea.

All boils down to cost of running and owning plus what you expect / prefer.
The Bristol (V8) is pretty quick and can be made to be very fast (easily
extract 350-450bhp), is somewhat thirsty if used a lot and is not flashy or
complicated - read as inexpensive to maintain. You can upgrade a Bristol V8
with more modern stuff - like a more efficient engine and gearbox combo as
well as other "factory" or third party bits. The underlying philosophy
remains even with improved cost of ownership and driving appeal.

The best bet is to meet several people with reasonably decent cars and ask
for a poke about and test drive. As long as the suspension is in good
fettle (the only expensive bit of the mechanicals), the most costly part of
the Bristol is repairing the underlying chassis and alloy panels if
corrosion is rife.

Clyde (of V8 Buyer's guide)
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Old 30-10-08, 05:26 PM
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Out of the 4 the 450SLC would attract me most. Even really good ones rarely go past £15k.

What about the Jensen Interceptor though???? I wouldnt go for the FF for complexities sake but a late S3 is very tempting if you can afford the juice.

The problem with owning these kind of classics is that you cant run them on a shoestring budget and it helps to have mechanical knowledge and a garage. People own these cars reasonably reliably for years buying them cheap and spending very little on them and they one day end up as sheds on fleabay. Reliant Scimitars are a good example of this although Bristols account for a fair number as well. The very few running on the roads are not just because of the low numbers originally produced - there are probably just as many languishing in garages on under covers in peoples driveways. It's a shame. I dont like giving advice which isn't asked for, but get the best you can afford. It will save you sleepless nights in the long term!
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Old 31-10-08, 04:43 AM
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Mr Potential,

I wouldn't consider the Reliant Scimitar comparable with a Bristol. Not that there is anything wrong with Scimitar, but it's a very different car. To be honest nothing is quite like a Bristol!

The Mercedes 450 SLC has certainly stood the test of time. Probably has better build quality than a V8 Bristol. But it's much smaller than a V8 Bristol and I can't imagine it would carry four adults in the same comfort as a Bristol. Cons: Common as muck, ex pimp car.

I quite like the Rover and have toyed with the idea of buying one myself, but I would want a P5B Coupe. I don't believe they had any build quality issues. It was good enough for the Prime Minister!

Lancia Flavia coupe is a great looking car, but I don't know much about it.

Other suggestions,
BMW 2800 CS
Bentley T1
Jaguar XJ6 Coupe
There was a time you could have got a good Gordon Keeble for that money, or an Aston DBS, but not any more...

With the V8 Bristol you are paying for exclusivity and a bit of mystique. Having helped pull one apart, I personally don't think the engineering or build quality is superior to most of the other cars here. You can definitely tell they were hand made. But, if you start with a good one it would be one of the easiest to maintain.
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Old 31-10-08, 09:01 AM
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eeerrrhhhh Kevin, what size are the 4 adults which you are carrying in comfort in a Bristol? I am on my third Bristol, but none have managed to accommodate 4 normal sized adults in comfort. 2 yes, but 4, never.
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Old 31-10-08, 10:00 AM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

The Jensen CV8 MKIII has the 6.75 Litre engine, is beautifully made,
looks astonishing and is a hoot to drive. It's my favourite of all
the US engined Europeans, although the Facel Vega is a pretty
amazing coachbuilt car too. The detail work in stainless steel is
very clever indeed.

Ashley
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Old 31-10-08, 10:04 AM
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As for the SLC, on longer journeys the back seats are only suitable for children really.
Anyway, I would recommend the 500 SLC with the aluminium 5 litre engine rather than the 450 SLC.
And people needing more spaciness should consider the succeeding SEC line. Although this is an entirely different car in character - more comfort-oriented.

Regards,
Markus
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Old 31-10-08, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markus Berzborn View Post
As for the SLC, on longer journeys the back seats are only suitable for children really.
Anyway, I would recommend the 500 SLC with the aluminium 5 litre engine rather than the 450 SLC.
And people needing more spaciness should consider the succeeding SEC line. Although this is an entirely different car in character - more comfort-oriented.

Regards,
Markus
Actually even better for rarity would be the 450SLC 5.0 - I think they only made a few hundred before it became the more obviously named 500SLC.
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Old 31-10-08, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Levine View Post
eeerrrhhhh Kevin, what size are the 4 adults which you are carrying in comfort in a Bristol? I am on my third Bristol, but none have managed to accommodate 4 normal sized adults in comfort. 2 yes, but 4, never.
Ah, you got me there Richard, I guess I was quoting the old marketing hype!

My 411 has been off the road for the last eight years and only ever once carried adults in the back that I can remember. Not that there were any complaints, but the passengers were female and it was a short trip. I guess it depends on the height of the driver and front passenger as well.

It's all relative though. Of the cars mentioned none of them would have any more leg room that a V8 Bristol, and several would have considerably less.

The only cars I can think of with really generous room in the back have been long wheelbase versions of more modern cars.
  #10 (permalink)  
Old 31-10-08, 11:47 AM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

I had a Scimiter. Prefer the look of the earlier GTE over the later
Cologne engined model. Handles well. Enough grunt. Seats 4 at a bit of a
pinch. Downsides are that they leak around the back window. Unless fixed,
all of them overheat (there is a simple cure) I remember going to a
meeting and noticing that everybody arriving popped the bonnet for a bit
of extra ventilation as soon as they stopped! I became adept at changing
warped cylinder heads. Fibreglass body is difficult to maintain to
concours standard. I think they get tired. Last time I asked, parts were
not a problem.
Lancia Flavia: beautiful car. But the flat 4 is a bit slow. The bodies rust
terribly and electric are a nightmare. I guess that spares would be a
problem particularly in England where so few were sold. (Colin Dexter told
me that he knows absolutely nothing about cars and it was a friend who told
him that an eccentric like Morse should have a Lancia Flavia ... and that is
the car that features in the early Morse novels. The Jag which appears in
the films was purely the inspiration of the film producers.)
Rover: agree with Kevin that the coupe looks fine. Used to have an early
six cylinder which was dreadfully slow and thirsty. The V8 much better
from that point of view but it's still a big old car. Awful rust around
the wings. Handling? If you've ever been on a canal barge you'll know the
feeling!
Mercedes: I know nothing.
Other suggestions: keep with Lancia. The Gamma was a fantastic car, whether
in Berlinetta or Coupe mode. Either look great. Fantastic handling, more
than adequate performance from the 2.5 flat 4. Early ones shed cam belts but
I think the design was put right with the fuel injected models. It's the
last true Lancia. Those that followed were Fiats. Wouldn't cost a lot
either. Peter
Old 31-10-08, 11:53 AM
potential
This message has been deleted by potential. Reason: duplication
  #11 (permalink)  
Old 31-10-08, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimfoz View Post
The problem with owning these kind of classics is that you cant run them on a shoestring budget and it helps to have mechanical knowledge and a garage. People own these cars reasonably reliably for years buying them cheap and spending very little on them and they one day end up as sheds on fleabay. Reliant Scimitars are a good example of this although Bristols account for a fair number as well. The very few running on the roads are not just because of the low numbers originally produced - there are probably just as many languishing in garages on under covers in peoples driveways. It's a shame. I dont like giving advice which isn't asked for, but get the best you can afford. It will save you sleepless nights in the long term!
I agree with your sentiment and I certainly wouldn't stint on maintenance or go for a poor car to save money. The cost of improving one exceeds the cost of buying a good one, with few exceptions. I have in the past bought good but not excellent old cars as daily drivers and those can be great fun so long as I ignore the urge to perfect them. I think the thing is to sell them on to someone who enjoys restoring more than driving at that point and redirect the proceeds to a better car.
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Old 31-10-08, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Howard View Post
The only cars I can think of with really generous room in the back have been long wheelbase versions of more modern cars.
I currently use a Daimler Double Six of the last generation in the long wheelbase version. This is what I call generous legroom in the back.
But still, it's problematic for people of more than 1.90 m because of the classic Jaguar roofline. I guess this is why the current XJ is considerably higher - but has lost this special appeal.

The optimum for rear seat passengers would probably be a RR Phantom (old or new) or something like that.

Regards,
Markus
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Old 31-10-08, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Markus Berzborn View Post
I currently use a Daimler Double Six of the last generation in the long wheelbase version. This is what I call generous legroom in the back.
But still, it's problematic for people of more than 1.90 m because of the classic Jaguar roofline. I guess this is why the current XJ is considerably higher - but has lost this special appeal.

The optimum for rear seat passengers would probably be a RR Phantom (old or new) or something like that.

Regards,
Markus
Any of the LWB S-classes had very good rear legroom and they are still 'cheap as chips' for a relatively good one unless you go for the 6.9 or 6.3 variants
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Old 31-10-08, 12:42 PM
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Well sure, the S class is fine. And relatively easy to maintain, at least over here in Germany. Spare parts are also readily available and not very expensive.
If I lived in Britain, I probably would have an S class. But I just don't like seeing the same car at every corner. They are just too common here. I think in England, it's probably the other way round - the XJ is common and the S class exclusive.
One of my neighbours has a 6.9 in very good condition with all options. But it seems he is not really able or willing to afford the maintenance. He only registered it again last year when it achieved "vintage status" (in Germany you can apply for that for cars older than 30 years, it means taxes are significantly lower then) and even so rarely uses it. Fuel consumption is really high for today's standards. Anyway, I personally prefer the 6.3 because of its classic body shape. The 6.9 is a bit too ostentatious for my taste.

Regards,
Markus
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Old 31-10-08, 04:17 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

Markus, i live in Manchester in England and the Mercedes S-class, as well
as other models is a very common car in Manchester. The Jaguar XJ is a
rarer car here as it has a bad image, too much of an old mans car i hear
and lacks sophistication. I do like the S-class though.

Andrew
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Old 31-10-08, 04:26 PM
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Lacks sophistication?
That's funny. I think the ride in an XJ series X300 is still excellent, concerning the comfort aspect. Certainly better than in an S class up to and including the W126 series.
For me, the Double Six was not planned as an everyday transport but then it turned out that it is so much more fun to drive than the E class (current model) that I use it very often, regardless of the fuel consumption which is twice the E class. Although the comparison is a bit unfair, as it is only the E 220.

By the way, what is the image of Bristol in Britain, i.e. for people who even heared about the marque?

Regards,
Markus
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Old 31-10-08, 04:50 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

When i say sophistication i mean more about the statement the car makes,
rather than the technological capabilities of the car. Sorry, i should have
been clearer. I can understand the older man view of the car over here, but
i don't agree with the sheep like views to so called style in this country.
Jaguars are fine cars and like any other cars, you buy what you prefer. I
think many of our nation need to take the image views of a car a little less
seriously and just enjoy cars.

Andrew
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Old 31-10-08, 05:37 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives.

Hi all -

My next project is likely to be a Maserati Quattroporte, series
III. Much more common than the Bristol in the US (what isn't?) and
"good value", in some semi-insane sense. I'll need to sell my '66
Imperial LeBaron to make room for it, so if anyone would like a
decent example of the "best" postwar Imperial, see it at
http://teamchicago.com/imperial/ . Full details provided on request,
of course.

Bob
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Old 31-10-08, 06:27 PM
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Default Bristol alternatives - Alfa?

Interesting that Alfa doesn't seem to have featured in this thread? I
have only recently investigated with a cheapie 155 V6, seems to have
some grunt, handling, comfort and quiet, but maybe be a bit lacking in style?

Stuart
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Old 31-10-08, 06:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RGSchmitt View Post
My next project is likely to be a Maserati Quattroporte, series III.
That's a nice one and still quite cheap.
I almost bought one two years ago.
I would recommend the (rarer) version with manual transmission, it's much quicker.
Or the Royale, the ultimate luxury Quattroporte (only available with automatic transmission). It even has Daimler/RR-style wooden fold-out tables in the rear.

Gruß,
Markus
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