The automotive world has been short on positive news in the past few months, at least after the sugar high of not one but two new Ford Bronco models had worn off somewhat, which is why the glimmer of hope for the return of Bristol Cars from the graveyard of British sports car cottage industry seems so auspicious. The historic marque, launched on the back of Bristol’s WWII aviation heritage with the help of BMW tooling, had long been a secret menu item even among hand-built British cars rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic, while making cars such as Bentleys seem like commonplace commuters.
After getting bogged down in a period of stagnation in the 1980s and 1990s, Bristol Cars attempted a return to form with the futuristic Fighter coupe, but entered bankruptcy in 2011, cheating death for a while before closing its doors in March of last year and beginning a liquidation process. That seemed to be the end of the 75-year-old automaker, sometimes described as one of the most enigmatic in the U.K.
The glimmer of hope now promised for Bristol Cars is the following: Autocar reports that Essex-based real estate developer and Bristol car owner Jason Wharton plans to revive the marque, starting to offering restorations of older Bristols at the company’s original home city of Filton, near Bristol. Wharton first plans to offer “remastered” Bristol models starting in 2022, with performance and interior upgrades, before launching an all-new Buccaneer grand tourer a few years later. Wharton has already bought the intellectual property rights to the Bristol Cars name, in addition to some of the company’s tooling and parts which were auctioned off months ago.
The first models that the new Bristol plans to remaster are planned to be the 411 and the Fighter, Autocar notes, with the 411 expected to receive such upgrades as a fully independent rear suspension in place of the live rear axle. When it comes to performance upgrades, the remastered Bristols will stay true to the tradition of using Chrysler powerplants, 6.4-liter Hemi V8s paired with eight-speed automatics. That’s right: the old 411 is about to get a Hemi, which sounds like it would be equal parts exciting and terrifying to drive. Wharton wants to have prototypes of each remastered model performing road tests by the end of this year.
If the concept of remastered models sounds strange, the fact is that Bristol has had a long history of updating its cars, so this wouldn’t be a new direction per se. The recent Fighter and the much older 411 would be catching up to the more modern tech and power outputs, of course.
When it comes to the all-new Buccaneer plans, Autocar says that Wharton’s Bristol would probably use Chrysler powertrains, just like Bristol models had in decades past.
Another historical feature that Bristol is also likely to keep are high prices, with each car being handmade to order over a period of months. But attracting a new and younger owner base could be an even bigger challenge than launching new models with Chrysler power underhood. Perhaps that will be an even bigger feat than upgrading older Bristol cars.
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