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

Just not getting anywhere.

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Old 11-09-11, 09:03 PM
Des Des is offline
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Default Just not getting anywhere.

I've been rebuilding my car for the best part of a decade, or rather I haven't. Progress has been painfully slow. In about 2000-ish I sold my 401, it was in regular use but a shed, getting it nice would have needed a lot of panel fettling all over, the interior was awful, seats recovered in vinyl, no carpet, everything rickety, impossible to know where to start, but I kept busy with annual bouts of MOT work and re-bodging bodges to keep it running. I replaced it with a low mileage 403 as an easier option, this car was in good order from the radiator back, had taken a knock on the nose after an engine upgrade around 40 years previously, (upgrade brakes, then engine) previous owner cut off the front of the nose section, and laid a 401 nose cutting in place, he then bought a nice 400 and with no means of welding aluminum the car sat in this state while the decades rolled by.
My first move was to buy a complete nose from Mr. May in Birmingham, this panel has now sat on the car, retained by just a few screws ever since. Meanwhile I've carried out work, sporadically, random tasks such as the small amount of welding needed, overhauling some components, some chroming, a lot of gathering of parts, but time passes and I never manage to get properly stuck in. The car lives in a workshop a bit of a drive away so only gets seen when I have the whole day free. I have eleven vehicles in total, in various states, waiting for my attention but I don't really have the energy any more, and my poor management of celiac disease robs much of my time. Early this year I worked out a plan to trim my fleet down to four, one for work, one for weekends, one for fun and another for fun. More than enough really, two of these are on the road, the next is straightforward, leaving the 403 to concentrate on. Of the cull victims five would be easy to make road legal to enable easy disposal. Summer has come and gone and I haven't made any progress.
I can see this situation remaining indefinitely, the workshop where the 403 resides will be gone in a year or so, and now I must act. The unthinkable notion of moving on the 403 has to be considered, while heartbreaking, it would help make life easier. I should enjoy the variety of cars I have but in reality it's a liability, only two out of eleven are road legal, six could be back on the road with little work, but X 6 = lots of work.
If I decide to sell the 403, I'm out of touch with prices, not an easy car to value anyway, what sort of figure would be fair for a restoration project? About 50K miles, 100AB engine upgrade but still with long gearlever and no overdrive, other than the engine very original, has it's keyring from the 50's, still on its first carpet, all those little signs of an un-messed with car that warm the heart.
Do please understand I'm not offering for sale just yet, but an idea of value could help me decide what I do, will clear the others first, sticking to my four car plan, but 403 will either need to be road legal within a year or go, so I must work out how likely this is to happen. Bugger.
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Old 11-09-11, 09:19 PM
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Default Fixing the old Bristols

Somehow, I share your pain, and it is hard to accept the fact that things do not work out as quickly as one would hope. As to value, I will leave that up to others who are more expert at such things. The early Bristols never caught my eye, but I have been chasing the 409-410 models in hopes of finding a half-way decent example at a fair price. So far, and it has been at least ten years now, no luck. I am stricken with the older American Chrysler Imperials from the 50's, and it turns out to be just as difficult to find spares for these cars. One would think that higher production numbers would make life easier in the parts chasing, but that is not the case. When parts are found, they are in worse shape than mine. Your Bristols have to be a labor of love, and short of finding a good panel beater who is also proficient with aluminum welding and a stout budget to hire such a person, I have little advice other than to consider handing them off to someone with the time, enthusiasm and wherewithall to tackle them. I sometimes wonder it the time spent on a couch in a therapist's office would be less expensive and more beneficial. Sometimes I just hate the old car hobby.
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Old 11-09-11, 10:17 PM
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Default 403 values.

Given the low mileage I would think 20k to 25k would be about right. Restored cars are being offered at 40k to 50k. Of course the proof of the pudding.............

Good Luck

Richard
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Old 11-09-11, 11:02 PM
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Default The value of these old cars

Somehow, regardless of the make and condition, the values placed on these cars is a bit staggering, and my experience with older British cars has not been that impressive. Even Astons are rusters, and ony one in the three I owned was decent in the bodywork. It was as if they took no precautions in rustproofing the cars. Same will all six E-Types I owned. And the Jensens, well.....Estimating value has to be taken with consideration on condition, for many of us do not get past the great paintjob or the nice interior. Rust repair is expensive, and rebuilding engines and transmissions will make most weep.
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Old 12-09-11, 01:21 PM
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Given that you have dealt with Brian May, he may give you some clues on prices. Mr Blow would also be of help and may actually have customers looking for a project.
You should also look at what is being offered and actually sold, and use as a guideline.

Dorien
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Old 12-09-11, 03:12 PM
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Default Placing value on old cars, buying and disposing of them

I have contacted any number of people in the business and the hobby regarding prices and availability of cars. Seems most wish to keep the cars close to the chest, either thinking they have something valuable or believing that there is one out there who will step up and meet their demands. As one who has owned a lot of desireable makes, I am going to walk away from this one, and perhaps look at a vintage Ferrari or Maserati. Even the older Rolls and Bentley cars are valued more correctly. I wish everyone well and hope they continue to enjoy their old cars. That is my plan.
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Old 15-09-11, 12:19 AM
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Thanks all for the comments, Bristol values have been steadily rising of late, still good value though. hopefully less so to engine raping kitcar fanciers. It took a decade-ish for me to find just what I wanted, dabbled with a couple of toads on the way. compare this to when I bought my house, looked in 3 or 4 estate agent windows until I saw something not too chavvy with a garage and that was that. I actually put a few hours in today, popped new valves in the carb float chambers, relined 4 brake shoes then finally got around to checking a spin on oil filter adaptor for correct flow direction (been collecting dust for about a year) found it suitable, but the socket headed allen bolts supplied are metric, can't remember where I bought the thing so will have fun trying to find whitworths. Feels good to have done something, but as soon as the thing goes and stops reasonably well I need to concentrate on the bodywork, where progress will be most visible, it should encourage me. Here's how it's looking now, the shabby look does have some charm.
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Old 15-09-11, 10:48 AM
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Default I know what you mean

This is very close to my heart. Having had a 405 sitting in my garage for far too long, I decided that this was the year that I would do something with it one way or another.
In the Spring I got a rush of enthusiasm and started to get the car up and running but this waned over the Summer when I found plenty of other things to do. Also, the bodywork on the car has aged better than my own (well it is a few years younger than me!) and I don't get a lot of pleasure in crawling under cars any more.
TRT 722 in now up for auction in October at H&H Auctions in Buxton. H&H have been very helpful and told me what I might expect to get for it before committing myself. Whether you sell the car privately or through an auction, it might be worth while asking them for an estimate.
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Old 15-09-11, 03:17 PM
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Default 'Engine raping kit car fanciers'

That is a new expression to describe some parts of the car hobby, but it fits, and many people find themselves in a position, either by economics or plain, old common sense to bring things up to date and make the machine reliable. I am constantly torn between keeping things original and keeping them on the road. As a result, I 'compromise' all the time. If a car is truly valuable, it is sometimes foolhardy to even consider a respray, and the 'tattered' look can be quite attractive to some. This is what makes the hobby so fascinating and why it attracts such a diverse number of people. Like yourself, I truly enjoy working on my prizes, up to my level of competence. It has taken many years to reach the point where I can admit my limitations, but I have reached it. It is obvious you like the cars, and sending them away would leave a big hole in your life. Not quite like losing a dear friend, but very close. Good luck.
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Old 15-09-11, 03:35 PM
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Default A Bristol 409 'almost for sale'

As luck would have it, a Bristol has come into my life. Not yet mine, it is as near an abandoned vehicle as one could imagine. After sitting outside, under an oak tree for some twenty years, it has fallen into the hands of a high-school boy through inheritance. I have been advising him on where to start, and at this point, he and a friend are attempting to get it running. Thus far, they have not even sought shelter for the car, as it still sits outside in the weather. I have not learned if there is an emotional attachment to the car, and that will be a big factor in the car's future. It is a heartbreaker, as the son has no means to store the car or any funds to work on it. He knows the car is rare and valuable, but it is a Number 5 car at this point, and I don't think he understands that or what it is going to take to bring the car up to a decent standard. Thus far, I have hesitated to ask him if he would consider a sale, but I have visions of the car languishing there, and at some point being sold to someone. What would any of you do in such circumstances? I would appreciate your input. My email is jagster911@bellsouth.net
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Old 15-09-11, 07:14 PM
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Tell him to try eBay with a reserve
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Old 15-09-11, 09:24 PM
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Or, you could put him in touch with someone that has some knowledge of cars, better still Bristol Cars. How about Bristol Cars LTD , Spencer L Jones , A.Blow or ACCS.

A pile of photo's sent to any of the above should be able to get him a ball park figure of value.

It is certainly rare but not likely to be very valuable if it's in a poorly state.
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Old 16-09-11, 04:22 PM
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Default The Abandoned Bristol

Those are excellent suggestions, but at this point, it would be hard to encourage him to approach the idea of disposing of the car. I do believe he has done some research, as he has a fair idea of the value of the car. But, like so many people these days, they take their cue from what they see going across the block at auctions for fabulous prices on cars that have had the luxury of having tons of money spent on them. I see it all the time on American 'muscle' cars, which were cheap items sold to millions of people back in the day. An old car, regardless of make, is an old car. To take the sow's ear and make it into a silk purse can and is done all the time in this hobby. It does not have to make any sense.
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Old 16-09-11, 05:52 PM
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yes , agreed !
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Old 03-07-12, 02:00 AM
Des Des is offline
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10 months on and things are looking good, the underside anyway. Workshop is to go imminently and I'm now well into borrowed time.
I've spent the last 3 weeks telling my clients that I'm fully booked when I've really been spannering, this deceit seems likely to continue. I did think 2 weeks would suffice to get to the MOT-able stage but spent a whole week derusting and treating the floor and chassis alone. A horrid job. I carried this out with the car on its side, after many hours contemplation I've decided these cars are closer in design to that of a modern monocoque than a traditional chassis, the members which span front to rear are large and of a thin gauge, far more similar to sill members than any archaic conventional frame, and with the body permanently attached, well kind of indirectly sort of. Most car design jumped straight from chassis to mono many years ago, the Bristol looks a missing link from that evolutionary leap.

My dilemma now is if I should MOT, exempt from November but meantime it needs to be moved around, and will inhabit garage in a location impossible to reach by tow truck or trailer so has to travel under its own steam, legally would be a bonus now that our movements seem closely monitored. I have no fear of the MOT, but, while I've always known this car has been off the road since before I was born, have just realised that it was laid up before it would have been due for its first MOT, which would have been the 10 year test of the earliest MOTs.
The thing has never seen the inside of a testing bay, never been bounced across gritty brake rollers nor had to twirl front wheels on filthy greasy swivel plates, and if I can hang on for 4 Months it will never have to, as a bonus I wouldn't have to stress over where to place reflectors or drill holes for washer jets, ( I actually shall, but will be my choice).
It's a shame I didn't get around to the bodywork, and while I'm not too fussed that it looks a state I would have enjoyed painting it.
Here are some pics of the progress, much of the rust from the first pic is now in my lungs.
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Old 03-07-12, 05:18 PM
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Default Restoration, rehabilitation, tons of work

I can honestly say that I feel your pain. Having been down the restoration road many times, it is a sure-fire way to disappoint, and the glory we hope to have upon completion is not there. if we would just listen to people in the business of restoring old cars, we would be way ahead, finanacially and mentally. My last great project involved two Chryslers out of the 50's. My friend in the business told me to sit down and listen to what he had to say. First; get rid of both of them and find a decent car with little rust, that runs, and perhaps still has a shine to the old paint. It is less money, and you can enjoy your prize from the outset. Of course, I did not listen. Now sitting in my shop is still another 50's car, a large one that needs it all. I did take his advice and sold the other two, but this one now stares at me daily, and I have begun to work on it. I have little hope of ever finishing it to a standard that would be barely acceptable. Welcome to the old car hobby.
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Old 14-07-12, 12:40 AM
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I'm feeling more frustration than pain, I'm working on the car almost every day but time just flies past. It all looks straightforward, I've been gathering parts for many years so there's nothing I have to drop everything to go in search of, yet progress is still slow. Engine is now running well, but took a while to get there. I've run it fairly regularly to move in and out of workshop, and it has always been spluttering, farting and popping. Modern petrol had been dissolving all the muck from the fuel system and clogging the carbs so I cleaned everything up, found TDC and made timing marks, new points condenser rotor cap leads, clean slate time. Fired her up and it was barely any better, running on 4 1/2 cyls at best, pulled the coil lead slightly out from the cap, make the coil work harder and up the spark, this helped, so I threw in a set of new plugs although the originals were barely used I don't trust the little buggers, now running on 6 but way too rich at idle, spitting viciously at me, I played around with float levels for only a very slight improvement, bloody thing had me stumped, whipped the carbs apart and found all 3 idle jets have been overtightened and distorted the seatings, the jets have hex as well as slotted heads inviting a good tightening with a spanner rather than nipping with a screwdriver, this abuse most likely occured 50-ish years ago. Easy enough to fix though, popping a small O ring on each jet made a perfect seal, actually an improvement on original.
Now it goes and stops, just lights, wipers and horn and it's back on the road.
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Old 14-07-12, 05:25 PM
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Default All the fun to be had from an old car-all makes

Des is apparently into the delights of owning an old car, and discovering that some problems go back a long way. I had a good chuckle on the carburetor settings, and will relate a short history on the new E-type I purchased back in the day. The car ran beautifully, but did not seem to have all the power one would expect from such a fabulous car. Tune up time came around at about 10,000 miles, and I expected a plug(candle) and points change would do the trick. I then read the part about carburetor adjustment. Well, it seems that the last SU in the row had been closed down tight. I had been running on two carbs. Simple adjustment of the jet and the idle screws, and it was a different car. And this, a car from the local Jaguar dealer who supposedly prepped it before delivery! So, it is best to assume nothing when you purchase a car, new or used. And that goes for everything about the car. I admire your tenacity and just know you will get there in time. Good luck, and all the best. ron
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Old 21-01-13, 02:55 AM
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Time for another installment. On the 30th September 2012 the car passed it's first MOT, the run from Harrow to the station in Watford was its first drive on the public highway in 50-ish years, on 50 year old crossply tyres, and I couldn't resist but give it some beans when I found Oxhey Lane unusually clear. Did surprise me at how well it went, very lively even on hills, it seemed to crave speed. In the days prior I busied myself getting the little things up to scratch, wipers, lights, etc. The horn push didn't work and had in ancient times been rewired to a big Bakelite button on the dash underside, a wire had been pulled inside the steering column and once resoldered was working again. Screenwashers are the vacuum powered big glass jar type, lots of perished rubber piping running to and from a push button valve under the dash, for speed I borrowed a bag type washer bottle with inbuilt electric pump from a Nissan van, and dropped it in the under bonnet cubby next to the wiper motor then wired it to the big Bakelite button I'd just liberated, plumbed it in and found the jets to be clear and aligned. All lights worked on replacement, just a bit of headlamp alignment needed. There was no charge from the dynamo, or rather the control box wasn't, I decided the quickest way would be to pop on an alternator, had a good one from an old VW van, but the Bristols engine mount fouls the short mounting bracket spacing that goes with an alternators fat, dumpy physique, so had to weld a little extender piece on, I rushed this a bit and finished with it just running out of adjustment before the belt was quite tight, didn't have time to go hunting a smaller belt, luckily the VW alternator has a split pulley so a little filing saw it right if messy, maybe I'll re-do it neatly.
The car has since sat in a lockup, my garage at home is too short sadly, I stashed it away for winter and will decide what to do next in the spring. I can continue working on my drive, again, too short but can go in at a right angle and I'll have privacy. The bodywork will be the biggest challenge, much is in bare alluminium and while I am capable and would enjoy repainting, I don't have anywhere to do so. I'd best pull my finger out and go earn some money to pay someone else to do it.
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Old 21-01-13, 10:12 PM
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You're a brave man Des - all the best with it.
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