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1953 Bristol 401 Sports Coupe

1953 Bristol 401 Sports Coupe


With the introduction of the 401 - the first of its exquisitely styled Aerodynes - Bristol began to move away from the pre-war design the company had inherited from BMW. Carrozzeria Touring provided the Superleggera method of body construction that overlaid alloy panels on a tubular-steel framework, while the low-drag shape was honed in Bristol's wind tunnel. It had been intended that the Milan-based carrozzeria would build the first 200 cars, but this idea was abandoned after a mere handful of prototypes.

The 401 continued to use the BMW-based, 2.0-litre, six-cylinder engine with its ingeniously arranged, pushrod-operated inclined valves, paired to a 4-speed gearbox. The 401's aircraft standard of construction did not come cheap however - at £2,270 it cost as much as an Aston Martin DB2 - and only 611 of these exclusive cars found customers between 1948 and 1953.

Bristol's select clientele reached around the world, as evidenced by the fact that this early 401 model was delivered new to Portugal where, as a late example, it arrived in 1953. In fact, the Bristol would remain in that country for most of its life, later passing into the hands of one of the better-known collectors in that country, Ricardo Sáragga. Its delivery within this European country likely accounts for its left-hand drive steering and the odometer in kilometers.

Viewed today the Bristol had a light refurbishment of its cosmetics, including a repaint in black and renewal of the interior in tan leather, while it appears to retain all its hallmark features from the 'batman' steering wheel to instruments and a radio including Foxson speaker to its interior roof. Its exterior is nicely accented with chrome trims and white walled tires.

A rare find in America, these cars represent terrific value for their looks and quality and the design is underpinned by their legendary powerplant pushrod six.

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