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AndrewA 24-03-20 02:07 PM

Advice opinions please
Good afternoon. I haven't got a Bristol at the moment and am in an interesting position of wanting to acquire one but not being sure which model I want - 410 or early 411 certainly appeals to me looks wise. Probably as importantly - I have no idea of the feel between a good one and a bad un and how they should actually drive!
All roads seem to lead to Hacketts who have kindly agreed to let me drive some of each and later models to help me make up my mind. I'm after a car that's good driver quality, needs nothing major for a while and will cope with pottering around the New Forest and about 6,000 miles of relatively high speed and spirited motoring on the continent as and when that becomes an option again. I'm reasonably mechanically minded if needs be but don't particularly enjoy it as a hobby. I'm hoping to pick up some opinions from the forum about which car might suit best and what to look out for. Previous cars have been an eclectic bunch and have included a chain driven Edwardian racer, 1962 Ford Thunderbird, Model A Speedster (a keeper), assorted Austins of various ages, Porsches, TVR's, and Alfa's to name but a few. Logic now is keep the speedster for a bit of inexpensive fun and acquire classic gentleman's express for car rallies (by which I mean organised tours most of the time) and continental and UK touring. Budget is £35k-£50k - but am not desperate to spend it all if no need.
As visiting cars is restricted at moment am gathering info mainly at this stage.

Stefan 24-03-20 06:08 PM

Choice of Bristol
Yes - good choice and good price range. Cheaper by far to get a really good one (at the upper end of your ££range) than one needing new coachwork and paint - price these out first from a quality restorer if you consider buying one needing these, you may have a shock. Wing edges, for example, are a particular area which deteriorates over the years. Get an engineers report if you are buying privately.
Engines on the other hand are common to so many US cars, so cheap as chips compared to any comparable performance car. And useful gearbox upgrades are also readily available.
How do they drive? They handle as if on rails and are capable of massive yet discreet performance. A gentleman's express indeed.
Every Bristol is a car to drive fast and far; especially these 2 models.

AndrewA 25-03-20 11:30 AM

Thanks for that Stefan - appreciated.

Geoff Kingston 02-04-20 01:41 PM

Having owned both a 410 and 411/3 the most noticeable difference in the way that they drive is that the 411 has far more power and is more planted on the road due to the wider wheels and tyres, having said that the 410 was a very satisfying car both for fun and general use. Both are quite capable of being an only car.
I found that both were better on Koni rather than Spax shock absorbers but my current 603 has koni on the front spax on the back and that works well.
If you can live with the looks the 603, Britannia and Brigand are also worth considering, very good cars and often available in the price range you are considering. My 603 is only an E with the 5.2 engine but it has a quicker response and more urge on kick down than a 410, though obviously not as much as a 411.
As Stefan said the most important thing is structural condition and the edges of the body work, often above the front wing bays . Inspect the inner rear wheel arches at the back, the shock absorber and seat belt mounts and the bump stop mounting. We repaired this on both my cars and it had already been done on my 603 before I bought it. I would personally not pass up a car needing work in this area as if you know a good welder repairs are no where near as difficult or expensive as some people make out.

AndrewA 02-04-20 03:03 PM

Geoff - thanks for the very helpful advice and feedback. By nature I'd incline towards more power rather than less given the choice and it's useful to know the difference is marked between the two cars. That said the 410 I'm looking at has a slightly breathed on engine and is sporting a 4 speed auto which may go someway to improving things! It's impossible to view anything at the moment but this time doing desk research is proving useful.

Geoff Kingston 02-04-20 09:36 PM

Andrew, What's been done on the car you are considering could make quite a difference and level the playing field a bit, the 318 can be modified to improve out put or rebuilt/converted to produce a lot more power and increase capacity, if memory serves me right this is called a stroker or stoker conversion, something I would consider if the unit in my 603 ever needs extensive work.
The engine in the first three series of 411 is not noticeably any thirstier than the 410 but a few friends who had a series 4 and 5 said they were a lot heavier on fuel driven hard.
I changed the carb on my 411 to an edlebrock performer with a manual choke, for the size of engine I found it good on fuel and with the manual choke much easier to start when cold with the old carter with electric choke.
There are no workshop manuals available for these cars but quite a few good American tech books on both the engines and gearboxes.
Now with the demise of Bristol Cars you will find firms like US Automotive, Ultimate Spares of America or Real Steel can supply most of your needs for engine gearbox power steering pumps etc but I also buy stuff direct from the states as it often works out cheaper even after delivery and duty.

AndrewA 02-04-20 10:45 PM

Thanks Geoff - will investigate but think it's had slightly warmer cams and an Eldebrock but will check. The stroker kit seems the way to go for a serious jump in power and torque.My main concern on the car I'm considering is that apparently both outer sills are corroded and holed & what are described as hockey sticks are missing from the wing bay floors. The chassis edge in front of the battery bay and spare wheel bay is pulling apart. I'm assuming sills are sills so nothing too much to worry about there, not sure what they mean about jolly hockey sticks and I guess the other bit means water has got into the leading edge of the chassis and it's starting to pull apart - again nothing too horrendous unless it's gone too far?

PEU186F 12-04-20 05:44 AM

One generality to beware of is that when you are new to them the V8 Bristols, even if they are actually in quite a bad state, have so much torque that they cannot help but impress somebody who is used to lesser vehicles. So beware, even though one might seem great at first acquaintance, there may be a long way to go before it is actually up to the mark.

I speak from experience

If you look at the contemporary tests there is actually not a lot of difference in the speed vs time acceleration tests for the 410 and the 411. There isn't a lot of difference in top speed either.

My 410, which runs on the wider 411 wheels, was quite capable of snaking its rear wheels at 60 when passing another vehicle under acceleration on a wet road, even though at that time I wondered about its breathing. I finally got fed up with broken manifolds and caused SLJ to fit their free flow exhaust manifolds. It now fairly romps away - I haven't met a damp road since for various other reasons but one knows ones got there when a member of SLJ's staff comes back with a broad smile on his face and the comment "goes well, doesn't she"

There is, or there should be, a very considerable amount of steel in the sills. I recently had to had my nearside sill cut out and replaced and I was quite reassured by how much metal there is there to protect occupants from a side impact.

I would be rather cautious of a car with lots of bolt ons and a poor structure, it seems to me that money may have been spent in the wrong place. At the very least get a price for the work that might need to be done. After all, once you're hooked, you're hooked and you'll then be on the line for a very long time

AndrewA 12-04-20 09:26 AM

Thank you for the advice which I will keep in mind. As you suggest, it is easy for heart to rule head on first acquaintance!
Are there any downsides to the free flow manifolds in terms of noise or are they as quiet as the standard item?

PEU186F 12-04-20 10:01 AM

Having done three quarters of an alpine tour, including the Stelvio, with a one broken manifold and the other blowing I am hardly qualified to judge the comparison. By the time we left her at SLJ the broken manifold was completely detached so the noise was horrendous. But I can confirm that I am entirely happy with the free flow manifolds, they don't seem noisy to me, honest.

The original 410 front exhaust hangings were far too rigid, engine torque then making the manifolds extremely vulnerable as most of the torque ended up being taken by the manifolds. The much improved 411 system is now adopted.

Another piece of advice: the Stelvio, a 410 and a stiff neck don't mix. There is also only loads of tatty stalls and dirty snow at the top. As for the bloody cyclists!!! They CYCLE up it. I was so discombobulated I could only drink a bottle of cold water at the top. See photo in my earlier posting 411 front disc brakes.


AndrewA 12-04-20 11:20 AM

Noted re Stelvio!
Thanks for clearing that up about the manifolds and the point about the exhausts mountings/hangings.

stovo 12-04-20 08:16 PM

some 410 pics
hoping this link will work for you. Some 410 pics for your contemplation in isolation..

My 410 is the former Claude Lewenz left hand drive 'Gantt' car. Restored by the factory and lightly breathed upon. Lovely car to drive. Swift and quiet with a nice growl when extended. One thing I'd change if I did it again would be to go to a 4-speed box but it's ok for most uses in the USA.

I also had a Brigand for a while. 5.9 liters and turbo made for swift progress but it didn't get enough use to stay in tune. When it had been in the tender care of Bristol Cars it ran superbly but the 360 injected engine is a way better long term proposition.

A 410 / early 411 still carries a lot of the charm of the earlier generation and fewer of the parts-bin interior bits. Best of all worlds imho :-)

Wishing you the best with your search.

AndrewA 13-04-20 07:38 AM

Morning Steve - what a stunning car and the colour suits it very well. Love the "London Meat Company" shot - excellent!
Appreciate the feedback on the driving experience, and the useful comment about the 4 speed.

Kevin H 17-04-20 08:39 AM


Originally Posted by stovo (Post 10192)
Some 410 pics for your contemplation in isolation..

Steve, it appears you have plumbed in a new fuel line directly into the bottom of the reserve section of the tank, and is that an inline electric fuel pump?

Kevin H 17-04-20 09:03 AM

In my humble opinion, if you are going to make any compromises it should not be on the structure of the car and the interior. Both can be far more expensive to restore than any issues with the engine and transmission.

I suspect the 383 and 400 engines in the 411s have better parts availablity than the 318 engine in the 410, but not enough difference to warrant avoiding the 410.

Another thing to pay attention to is the front suspension. There's a bit of information on the potential problem here

The distance between the bottom of the front crossmember and the road should be about 5 inches on a 411 (this does vary a little depending on the tyres fitted).

If a car has been standing for a long time or has no record of the brakes being overhauled, then that is also a likely requirement, although that could be said for almost any 50+ yo car.

Also, lift the vinyl cover on heater box and check for rust in the tray beneath the Smiths heater box.

AndrewA 17-04-20 09:30 AM

Thanks Kevin - that's really useful info & timely (!) - much appreciated.

AndrewA 24-04-20 11:30 AM

Well the deal has been done and I've agreed to purchase SPG 603F - a 410 - apparently well known as it's the one that had its fins removed early on in its life! It's at Spencer Lane Jones at the moment having a few bits attended to - or it would be having them attended to if they weren't locked down! Will have to just be patient but very much looking forward to taking delivery....whenever that will be.
Thanks for the advice and pointers - I'm pretty sure I followed most of them!


Xseries 25-04-20 04:20 PM

Congratulations! I too am looking forward to rescuing my car from Spencer Lane Jones when this is all over. Dark blue suits these cars (as do other colours!).

AndrewA 28-04-20 08:25 AM

Can't help but agree! The other classic comment from the guy at SLJ was along the lines of whatever you do keep it away from salt...I then explained I lived 400 yards from the sea! So I imagine a good clean underneath, a very good dry off and lots of waxoyl are on the cards.

stovo 03-05-20 04:07 PM

410 fuel pump

Originally Posted by Kevin H (Post 10199)
Steve, it appears you have plumbed in a new fuel line directly into the bottom of the reserve section of the tank, and is that an inline electric fuel pump?

Yes - (and sorry for the slow reply) - the fuel system is now under (mild) pressure with a pressure relief valve under the bonnet and a return line to the tank. Along with liberal insulation on the pipes it seems to have cured the hot starting/fuel vaporization problem that was a headache in the US summers.

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