Sunday, 11 December 2011

It's going to be a cold, cold Christmas

5 Bristol cars - a 407, a 409 and 3 410s were parked in front of Ravenwood Hall near Bury St. Edmunds while 17 club members sat down for a sumptuous lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. There was also a 401 and a 603 in the car park making a record 7 cars turning up for the East Anglian section’s Christmas lunch.

The record attendance was in no small part due to the excellent weather, which allowed the cars’ paintwork to stay shiny, and gave their ancient heaters a fighting chance at keeping their occupants warm.

The efficiency of our respective heating systems was a popular topic of conversation with the conclusion that drivers of 50 years ago were a much hardier bunch. Neil had blanked off part of my radiator to the extent that some warmth was discernable in the cabin with the temperature gauge reading a steady 75°C when cruising on the A14. I like to run hotter than that so some more experimentation is going to be required to ensure that I’m running at my best and Neil continues to take me out through the winter to stop me getting bored.

Winter running temperatures never used to be such a problem until Neil fitted me with a new radiator core 2 years ago in preparation for a trip to the south of France. However English winters, even mild ones, are another matter entirely.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Banners at Battlesbridge

The East Anglian section managed to muster two cars for the Battlesbridge Grand Motorbillia Day in September. I went along with Neil and was joined by Gwynneth and John Hogger, and Gwynneth's aunt in their 401.

Neil decided that this was enough to constitute a club display so he erected the Owners Club banner. 

Raising our profile with the banner must have worked because it attracted the attention of the judges who awarded 'Highly Commended' to Gwynneth's splendid 401. She then had to take the car into the main ring where it was in the running for best car in show.
Unfortunately it didn't scoop that prize but very well done for being one of only half a dozen cars singled out from amongst a field of several hundred.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Lions go from Strength to Strength

Colchester's Castle Park is designated Grade II on the register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. The gently sloping Lower Castle Park offers the perfect venue for fairs, festivals, open air concerts and displays and even has a section of the town's roman wall running through it.

This year's classic vehicle show which is organised by Colchester Lions was by all accounts the best so far. We spent the day parked beside a lovely pre-war MG which had been brought to the show by the original owner's son. Owned by his father since new, the car had never been restored and had acquired a remarkably beautiful patina to its metallic grey paint. 

In the afternoon Neil was approached by one of the organisers to see if he would take me into the ring. As the only Bristol in the show Neil was happy to take the opportunity to show me off and take his turn on the PA to increase the awareness of Bristol cars. 

This prompted more people to come along and look at me once I was parked up again. It also produced the most touching moment of the day when a man came up to Neil to say that the Bristol, and the 410 in particular was his favourite ever car.  Neil offered him a seat behind the wheel but he declined and appeared quite overwhelmed with actually seeing one for real!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Bertie and Beer in Burnham Market

We have just been in North Norfolk again for a week’s holiday burbling around the coast of this very special part of East Anglia. We were last here in 2010 when we took part in a rally that started from the Sandringham estate. This time we made Burnham Market our base and had a very comfortable stay at the Hoste Arms.

Although we stayed dry for most of the holiday, a gale came through the village on the first night that left me looking the worse for wear in the morning. Neil on the other hand looked the worse for wear because the hotel served 2 varieties of Woodforde’s in the bar; Wherry and Nelson’s Revenge.

Both bitter style beers, Wherry is fresh and zesty with crisp floral flavours while Nelson’s Revenge has a background of sweet malt and a hoppy bitter finish reminiscent of grapefruit. It also packs a punch being a special bitter with an alcohol by volume of 4.5% compared to Wherry’s 3.8.

Anyway, while he was cleaning me of all the rain, leaves and other assorted debris he fell into conversation with a fan of the marque. He remembered that his father, who worked for a retail bank, had helped Tony Crook with the finance of Bristol Cars. He was pleased to learn that Mr Crook was still going strong, and that Bristol Cars future seemed to be secure after its recent acquisition by Frazer Nash Research.

Petrol stations were few and far between, but there was one in the village that sold a brand of fuel called Power. Neil had never heard of it and hesitantly put some in my tank but he need not have worried – it was a worthy substitute for my normal diet of Shell. It also gave him an opportunity to discuss the finer points of Bristol design after the mechanic engaged him in conversation about the only other Bristol he could recall visiting their forecourt.

Unsure of the model or year he simply referred to it as “the boxy looking one”. Further probing from Neil established that it was likely to have been a 603 or one of its derivatives. He soon put the mechanic right and informed him that although the cars’ looks may seem controversial to some, it all makes perfect sense once behind the wheel with excellent visibility and the ability to accurately place the car on the road; the design of all Bristols having started from the position of the driver.

When we visited Blakeney, the car park attendant at the quay let us stay free of charge because he was so excited about seeing me. Bristol had apparently been his favourite make of car since childhood but he had never seen one on the road. So excited was he that he had a good look inside my cabin, under my bonnet and even inside my wing lockers. He said to Neil “you made my day, boy” and gave us a cheery wave as we left.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wide Load at West Bergholt

One of the great things about the shows I go to are the eclectic mix of vehicles I meet and their eccentric owners. Throw in the setting of an English village and a Summer’s day and you can sometimes get photo opportunities that are simply too good to miss, like this one taken at West Bergholt near Colchester earlier this year. 

This miniature traction engine certainly has its work cut out hauling its cargo around the showground but it’s the sign on the back of the trailer that says it all!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Greenwich Means Time for Bristol Cars

The Bristol Owners Club annual Concours d’Elegance took place in the historic setting of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, London. A world heritage site, the college is a baroque masterpiece of English architecture set in landscaped grounds on the river Thames juxtaposed by magnificent views of the Canary Warf skyline.

Cars from the 1939 Frazer-Nash-BMW Type 321 to the one-off 2009 Blenheim 4 were on show to the world. The overall standard of the cars presented was so high it felt as if any of them could have entered the Concours competition.

Neil spoke to owners of other cars including 410s like me to compare this and that, and I saw one of my previous owners. He was interested to see my new electric windows and is now thinking of having them installed on another 410 he has recently acquired.

It turned out to be a very popular venue with all the amenities of the museum and Greenwich town within easy reach. It was a delight to see visitors from all over the world happening upon the cars by chance and being caught up in the enthusiasm of their owners. Many photographs were taken of people posing beside their favorite cars and even of some who were delighted to have been invited to sit behind the wheel.

Drip trays were de-rigueur in order to preserve the ancient cobbles and I’m glad to say I only soiled mine very slightly (well I am 44 years old you know).

The journey in to and out of London was just as enjoyable and Neil exchanged several friendly gestures with other motorists as we made easy progress through the Sunday traffic.

The only upset for me was first thing in the morning when Neil made a hasty diversion to a Sainsbury’s petrol station when I started to run on vapour. He knew I was already low on fuel before setting off, but after finding that his local Shell garage was still closed pressed on thinking he could make the next one. A tank full of Sainsbury’s super unleaded later and we were back on the A12 but I felt slightly queasy for the rest of the trip.

But at least we know my fuel reserve switch still works and the man at Sainsbury’s who moved the cones was delighted with his first customer of the day!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Does my boot look big in this?

On wedding duty again, I was honored to transport Neil’s sister and her groom from St. Nicholas Church in Harwich to the reception at a country house hotel just outside Colchester. I even made the effort to co-ordinate with the Bride’s accessories by departing from normal etiquette and wearing leopard-print ribbons, which were set off nicely by my dark green paintwork. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Layer Marney Tower

Layer Marney Tower's annual classic car show saw a record attendance this year. As you can see, Neil was less interested in climbing the tower for the commanding views of the River Blackwater and beyond but was rather more keen on the sight of 2 Bristols in the car park. Also present on the day were a 401, 405DH and a Britannia.  

Monday, 2 May 2011

Blown Away at Felixstowe

A complete contrast to last year’s event, the annual rally from Ipswich to Felixstowe drew waving crowds out into the sunshine complete with bunting fresh from the Royal Wedding celebrations. Neil had his own little Princesses in the car to wave back in the form of his Nieces Nicola and Charlotte, and of course his wife Karen.

What started off as a brisk breeze in Ipswich, had turned into a gale by the time we reached Felixstowe – the East Coast of England taking the brunt of the winds sweeping across the country. Parked right on the promenade I was glad of my aluminium bodywork as the fine seawater spray blew in. Neil and his family took shelter behind a hedge on a nice patch of lawn for their picnic.

Hats off to Martin Bennett in his 411 Series 4 for coming back this year after his first time in the rally last year resulted in a complete soaking. So just the 2 Bristols this time (not counting the 3 Bristol Buses), but thanks to club members Stuart and James for dropping by to say hello. Hopefully James will bring his Beaufighter next time and Stuart’s 409 will be ready soon after.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Fighter in me

A long-standing problem with my driver's door window has finally been resolved. Several attempts have been made over the years to fix a problem with the winding mechanism that recently resulted in the window being fixed in the closed position. Now, following my annual holiday at Bristol Cars Services, I've had both my windows replaced with electric ones!

An option when I was new, "electrically controlled windows" were only installed by special order on a very few of the 79 410s made. I’m also excited because I now have a bit of Fighter in me. Alas not the 8 litre V10 engine or twin turbochargers, but I do have its electric window switches mounted on my centre console.

The new windows have also made quite a difference to Neil's long-standing bugbear about wind noise. It seems the fit of the window glass in the top of the channel is a lot tighter and it stays there without creeping down making quite a difference at speed. I just wish he'd stop playing with them.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

South East Section Suffolk Tour

L-R: 603 Series 2, 405, 403, Britannia, 405 Drophead, 407, 410.

Last weekend the South East section of the Bristol Owners Club came up to Suffolk for the weekend. I met the 6 cars at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton – East Anglia’s aviation heritage centre.

The museum holds themed collections on the 446th Bomb Group USAAF and RAF Bomber Command. Bristol Blenheims took part in the first RAF offensive on the second day of the war flying out of Wattisham to attack German Battleships near Wilhelmshaven. Although there are no Blenheims at Flixton there is a Sycamore helicopter type HR14 that saw service with the RAF. 

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year, New Petrol

A tentative first trip out in the New Year today as the roads were dry and an errand needed to be run. A few pumps on the accelerator had me fired up after the first turn of the key and settled into a fast idle. First into Colchester then down the A12 to Ipswich before returning home via the back roads through Freston, Holbrook, Stutton and Brantham. A good mix of country and fast roads to break me in after lying idle since the BOCEA Christmas Lunch on 5 December.

While in Ipswich Neil filled me up with Shell Optimax  at the cheapest petrol station in the area, but it was still expensive at 129.9 a litre (standard unleaded was 121.9).  This brought to mind the posting Neil made on my blog on 15 August 2010 about Shell’s new Fuelsave petrol and associated publicity campaign.

You will recall that Neil took a cynical look at Shell’s claims that you could gain the equivalent of an extra litre per tank if you used their new fuel and the ‘coincidental’ timing of the launch with the school holidays when traffic is light. Neil’s Citroen XM, being equipped with some kind of device that records his fuel consumption, was measuring 28.6 miles per gallon before the school summer holidays.

2 months later in October Neil installed a new battery in the Citroen that made it forget all its calculations. It started measuring them again and has been calculating the average fuel consumption ever since, so we are now in the position of being able to make a direct comparison between fuel consumption before and after the introduction of FuelSave.

And the result of all these calculations, comparisons and cogitations? I can reveal that the difference Shell FuelSave unleaded petrol has made, in this admittedly unscientific but real-world study is … absolutely nothing. Fuel consumption is exactly the same. Whether the XM’s engine has been lubricated in parts it never knew needed lubrication before or not I’ll leave to Neil’s mechanic to decide, but as far as fuel consumption is concerned there is absolutely no difference.