Not A Beau, But Beautiful Nevertheless

The Bristol Aeroplane Company was responsible for many memorable classics, among them the WWI-era F2b fighter:

…but chief among which is one of my absolute all-time favorites, the WWII Beaufighter:

After WWII, however, the market for such aircraft understandably disappeared, whereupon Bristol set out to make beautiful, powerful touring cars, a longtime favorite of people who wanted a bespoke car not made for the mass market.  (Story later.)

One of the trailblazing moves Bristol made was that almost from the start, they eschewed the crappy and unreliable little British engines of the era, and fitted their cars with BMW 328 2-liter engines.  British cars are taxed on engine size, the bigger the higher, but as Bristol cars were never cheap anyway, nobody cared.

Then in 1961, Bristol switched to using the excellent Chrysler 5.2-liter V8, and never looked back.

Probably my favorite is the Fighter, made from 2003 to 2011:


The Fighter remained true to that earlier philosophy, using a Dodge Viper 8-liter V10 to give it, in the immortal sales pitch, “sufficient” horsepower (~550) and speed (~200), neither of which has ever been documented as Fighters are never tested because every car is different and anyway, wealthy bluebloods don’t trouble with such insignifica, “sufficient” being, well, sufficient.

And, of course, it comes with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox, which is yet another reason why I love it.

Bristol Cars went out of business in 2011, stumbled along in bankruptcy etc., but they’re planning to bounce back with… electric cars.

Thanks, but I’d rather have almost any of their earlier models with an actual engine in it, such as the drop-dead gorgeous 407 drophead from 1954:


And here’s the story, as promised.


  1. 1961 Chrysler 5.2 liter V8 ????

    I guess that would be the 318. As in 318 cubic inch V8. As in how we here in the former colony measure our engines. The 318, outside of the excellent and long lasting slant six, was at the very bottom of the pecking order for Chrysler engines. It was decent for a truck engine and did various duty for passenger cars, but was never really considered “hi performance”. Not when you had the 413 cross-ram dual carb’ed big block available. Of course that was rather, shall we say, cranky and difficult to tune and probably wouldn’t be the first pick for a luxury car. But boy howdy, it did have sufficient power.

  2. So that stunningly beautiful car had the same engine as my stunningly practical ’73 Dodge pickup. It was a good choice for both because it was reliable as a anvil.

  3. The cars look nice but the gull wing doors turn me off.

    I’m afraid I can’t offer an opinion on the engines. Definitely not going to get a glorified golf cart. I’m putting that off for as long as I can.


  4. If I was a Japanese destroyer captain one of the last things I’d want to see would be one of those Beaufighters lining up on me. It would be the last thing I would see. The solid nose B-25s with the 75mm gun were pretty good at putting ships on the bottom as well, but the Beau fighter had a certain deadly elegance. “We’re going to look really good while we kill you”

  5. An added note:
    Bristol supplied AC cars with the 328-derived engine for the wonderful AC Ace/Bristol and Aceca/Bristol cars – an engine that was supplanted by the Ford small-block in the Cobra of Shelby fame.

  6. Interesting Kim, that an old gearhead like me never heard of this car. Thanks for the entertainment!
    Small nit – “….Dodge Viper 5-liter V10..”
    IIRC, the Viper V10 was 8 liters, and an absolutely monster torque engine that followed the now outdated idea that the cheapest way to more power was more displacement.

  7. Good looking car, but that front end looks like it came off of a mid 90s Toyota Celica.

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