Monday, 24 December 2012

A Christmas card from Bristol Cars

It was a nice surprise to find a Christmas card from Bristol Cars included with the Club’s December newsletter.

This is yet another welcome sign of the manufacturer forging closer links with the club and the owners of their cars. This started shortly after their acquisition of the company in April 2011 with a stunning parade of Bristol cars from throughout the marque’s history, spanning almost every model ever built. Since then they have taken great care to preserve everything of historic interest from the old factory including spares, specialists tools and the bucks used to shape the bodies. Regular features in the club’s Bulletin and sponsorship of a fully catered marquee at the Club’s concours are further signs of their support.

The card depicts the cover for the 1948 Christmas issue of the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s in-house magazine, the ‘Bristol Review’. The watercolour painting shows the company’s headquarters at Filton with an array of its products; piston and jet aero-engines, aeroplanes (Brabazon, Britannia and Freighter), the Type 171 helicopter, aluminium pre-fabricated schools and housing, and of course, 3 Bristol cars; Type 400, 401 and 402.

Bristol’s ambition is to design and manufacture a new car, capable of equalling the quality and exceeding the performance of the cars that built the marque’s reputation. The car is being developed in great secrecy so little is known of the design, but what is certain is that it will combine Frazer-Nash’s advanced hybrid drive-train technology with the styling cues that have always made Bristol Cars so distinctive.

So on that note I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and I look forward to what 2013 may bring.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bristol Owners' Christmas Lunch

A bright, crisp first Sunday in December was the perfect backdrop to the East Anglian section of the Bristol Owners’ Christmas lunch at the Ravenwood Hall Hotel in Suffolk.

Driving there along the A14 a familiar shape appeared in my rear-view mirror as Churchill the 411 closed in behind. As we made our way up the drive to the hotel we saw several other cars had beaten us to it and were making an impressive statement parked right outside the entrance.

I parked next to Churchill and the above photo shows the Chairman’s 410 nearest the camera alongside Warwick Banks’ 404, Nick Challacombe’s 407 and Richard Phillips’ 411 - recently the runner-up in Classic Car Weekly’s Classic Car of the Year competition.

The roads on the way back home were dry but the temperature was falling and after we had turned off the A14 onto the A137, bound for Manningtree, we encountered one of Essex County Council’s gritters coming in the opposite direction. There was an awful racket as it sprayed my bonnet with grit and rock salt but thankfully there was nothing that Neil couldn’t polish out.

The good weather had certainly encouraged a good turn-out with 23 club members arriving in 10 Bristol cars, ranging from a 1948 400 through to a 1979 603. A few more next year and we will be able to take over an entire room in the hotel!

Here’s to a very happy Christmas and a Bristolling new year.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Hunstanton Show Hits the Spot

Classic car owners from across the east of England descended upon a blustery Hunstanton on Sunday 30th September as part of a day of activities raising money for the Stroke Association and the Friends of the Stroke Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn. The classic car show, which was sponsored by CUP Classic Cars, attracted an eclectic mix of cars to the green in the centre of the town. This inaugural event was organised by Richard Phillips, a member of the East Anglian section and a Director of CUP Classics.

The day started with an early rendezvous with Churchill in a supermarket car park in Ipswich. We then set off up the A14 to Bury St. Edmunds where we took the A134 through Thetford, then around King’s Lynn and on to Hunstanton. Fresh from his Bristol Owners’ Club concours win in his 411, Richard welcomed us to the site, which is situated between the town of Hunstanton and the sea, and showed us to our position which he had already marked out with an Owners’ Club banner.

Once parked drivers and passengers immediately sought refuge in the Tamworth Tearooms overlooking the green where coffee and very good egg and bacon baps hit the spot as a succession of classic car owners from the show followed suit.

Back to the show and we were delighted to see that Charles and Pat Nelson had also made the trip to Hunstanton in their 409. The group of 4 cars made a strong presence that kept the owners busy for most of the day, with the V8 engines and spare wheel storage promoting the most interest from visitors.

Mid-morning and it was still blowing a gale so The Golden Lion Hotel at the top of the green looked like a good bet for coffee. Disappointingly the hotel staff ignored the 4 visitors as they made their way to the lounge and took their seats, but desperately in need of a pick-me-up the group decided on Café Lattes with an added shot of Baileys Irish Cream liqueur.

More inattentive service prompted a trip to the bar where the request for 4 Baileys Lattes was met with a response of “we don’t do Baileys Lattes”, so an order duly went in for 4 Lattes and 4 Baileys – you can guess the rest. Suffice to say the recipe wasn’t complicated. The drinks having hit the spot, departure was as memorable as the arrival. It turns out the experience was far from unique and I would recommend seeking out the reviews on tripadvisor for more of the same and a laugh or two.

Back to the show again, and the four awards that were given out during the course of the day; Most Original Car went to a very well preserved Delahaye, Best Car in Show went to a Lotus Elan +2S which had been the subject of a total restoration, the prize for the Most Appropriately Attired Owners went to a couple dressed as gangsters in their Excalibur Phantom, and Furthest Travelled On The Day went to a surprised Neil Turnbull who together with his wife Karen had travelled 103 miles from their home on the Essex-Suffolk border.

Final refreshments at Hunstanton were taken at The Coffee Pot where tea, cheese on toast and toasted tea-cakes were ordered from the friendly staff and enjoyed for a very reasonable sum.

Returning to the green cars had started to drift away and so final thanks were made and goodbyes said before I led the way back towards Suffolk and then Essex. There was however time for one more food stop and the Foldgate Inn at Stradsett turned out to be a real find. Adnams bitter and Abbot Ale from the cask and home-cooked roast dinners and desserts that were too tempting for some!

Churchill led the way on the final leg home and we parted company on the A14 at Ipswich. Final thanks to the Stroke Association and Richard Phillips for organising a great day and I hope that it will become a regular fixture on the classic car calendar.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Concours d’Elegance

“Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”. Sir George White imparted this little rhyme to us as he was giving out the trophies at the Bristol Owners’ Club Concours d’Elegance, which took place recently in the grounds of one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England.

Now owned by the National Trust Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, and is found at the end of one of the longest drives I’ve ever seen. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was still a luxury.

The Club’s Concours is the major annual gathering of Bristol cars and their owners and is centered around the judging of cars in various categories. This year Neil was press-ganged into being a judge by Events Coordinator Turplin Dixon. This was done in the nicest way possible – no pound coin found in the bottom his latte – and Neil found himself judging 2 classes under the welcome guidance of experienced judge Richard Baines – the Anthony Crook Trophy for Types 400, 402, 403 and the Elite Trophy for previous Concours winners - won by Kenneth Andren with his Arnolt Bristol (pictured).

We travelled up to Derbyshire the day before and I was grateful that Neil kept the speed to about 60mph to run-in my newly rebuilt engine. We met Churchill and his owners, Stuart and Tracey, at our hotel and parked a discrete distance from the other cars in the car park. Stuart was up at the crack of dawn polishing and Neil joined him at a more civilized hour but still managed a good hour’s polishing before breakfast.

Bristol Cars, now owned by the Frazer-Nash group, played an active part by providing a marquee with high-quality catering laid on throughout the day. As well as being a very generous gesture, this was taken as a welcome indication of Bristol Cars’ desire to become more closely involved with the Club. Indeed a brief conversation Neil had with Julian Ramshaw, General Manager of Bristol Cars, confirmed their strong commitment to the company’s heritage.

Whether this almost literal ‘buttering up’ of Bristol owners translates to more work for the service centre, or purchases of the yet to be announced new model remains to be seen!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Cars, Planes and Trains

A glorious first Sunday in September and the East Anglian Section of the Bristol Owners’ Club held its summer barbecue.

The day started at Wattisham airfield for a tour of the heritage museum which was opened early especially for the club. The museum contains many interesting exhibits including details of the Bristol Blenheim and Beaufighter aircraft that were stationed there in the early years of the Second World War.

The cars, 4 Bristols and an Aston Martin, were then escorted to the other side of the base (it is still operational with an active fleet of Apache helicopters) for a scene straight out of the cold war. The cars were parked outside one of the hardened Quick Reaction Alert Sheds where during the 1950s and 60s live armed English Electric Lightnings were on standby at all times before being replaced by McDonnell Douglas Phantoms in the 1970s. After the massive doors were slid apart we were allowed inside and found a Phantom and Hawker Hunter undergoing restoration.

We then drove through the Suffolk countryside to Battisford near Stowmarket where John and Gwynneth Hogger hosted a Barbeque in the grounds of their beautifully restored farmhouse. John’s impressive Barbecue cooked the food with wood smoke, which was helped on its way by a heater fan from a Bristol car rigged up to a 12v battery.

A door led though to their neighbour’s garden revealing an extensive scale steam railway – the smell of the coal smoke and rhythm of the trains over the tracks transporting everyone back to their childhood as they rode on the various trains all afternoon.

The summer barbeque is also the section’s fundraising event and it does not need to look very far for its nominated charity as one of its members is a Lymphoma Association Buddy. The buddy scheme puts people affected by lymphoma in telephone or email contact with volunteers who have had a similar experience of lymphoma. Well deserved recipients of the £235 raised on the day.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Helmingham Festival of Classic & Sports Cars

31 years of Bristol Cars were represented at the Helmingham Festival of Classic & Sports Cars today. From a 1948 type 400 to a 1979 603 Series 2, 8 cars showed off 7 of Filton’s different models.

This year’s show attracted the largest ever entry of car clubs, and this was the first year that the Bristol Owners’ Club had entered. 7 of the cars were from the East Anglian section, with one car travelling 120 miles from Rugby in Warwickshire.

The show took place in the grounds of Lord Tollemache’s magnificent moated Helmingham Hall in Suffolk with its ancient deer park and grade 1 listed gardens. As in previous years the event raised money for EACH – East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice (last year’s donation paid for the drugs and oxygen at the Ipswich Hospice for over a year).

The full line-up was as follows:
  • ·       1948 400
  • ·       1951 401
  • ·       1951 401
  • ·       1955 405
  • ·       1967 409
  • ·       1967 410
  • ·       1970 411 Series 1
  • ·       1979 603 Series 2

Monday, 7 May 2012

411s and Fire Engines

Unable to attend this year’s Ipswich to Felixstowe rally due to an engine rebuild, I was delighted that 2 other Bristols were able to represent the marque. Neil went along for the chance to ride in a fire engine (and dress up as a fireman) and saw the 2 411’s lined up in the park; Stuart Risebrow’s newly acquired Series 1 and Martin Bennett’s Series 4 (pictured).

The cold and wet day did nothing to deter people’s enthusiasm for the event and even those in open tourers made it all the way to Felixstowe promenade. The number of spectators on the route was generally down this year but the roundabouts were packed – giving the fire engine an excuse to spin round a couple of times while letting rip with its lights and sirens.

As for the engine rebuild – I should be back in action in a few weeks and I’ll let you know how I feel once I’ve had the chance to gulp in a few cylinder-fulls of air and petrol.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bristols in Brandeston

I met up with Winston yesterday. Winston is a 1970 411 Series 1, liberated from the Bristol Cars showroom in Kensington and brought to Suffolk. We met up at the Queens Head Inn, at Brandeston in Suffolk, where our drivers and their partners had a very enjoyable lunch.

Winston sports smart British Racing Green paintwork with a red leather interior, and at first glance the 411’s body is very similar to the 410’s. Most obvious is the radiator grille that is less rounded with inner driving lamps that protrude from the radiator grille in chromed shrouds. It also houses a Bristol nameplate instead of the 410’s bonnet badge.

At the rear the style of the boot is simplified being squared off with the loss of the 410’s vestigial fins. There are slimmer bumpers front and rear and a neater single trim line applied to the flanks. Door kick plates are narrower than on the 410. All in all less fussy perhaps but in my opinion it is at the loss of a certain amount of character.

Inside a smaller 3-spoke leather-trimmed wheel with a Bristol badge set into its central boss has replaced the traditional twin-spoke Bluemels steering wheel. The dashboard has also been updated with large rocker switches replacing the 410’s toggle switches all set within a lighter wood veneer.

Perhaps the biggest change is under the bonnet with the Chrysler engine being up rated from 318 to 383 cu in – that’s 6.3 litres! This results in stunning performance but to the detriment of fuel economy, which is typically around 13 mpg.

Hopefully that won’t stop Winston getting out and about and I look forward to seeing him at shows over the coming year.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Caught on Camera

Motor Books have produced a DVD “Bristol Cars on Film” based on 2 16mm films shot by the late Ted Ashman, Chief Photographer of the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the mid-1950s.
The first film follows a Bristol 403 travelling by road and Bristol Freighter from London to Paris in 1954 to demonstrate how comfortable and pleasant such a journey could be. While the second film shows the Bristol team at Le Mans in 1955 finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in their class.
As a bonus, footage of the Bristol Aeroplane Company’s Centenary celebrations at Filton in September 2010 is included. This is also where that year’s Bristol Owners Club concours took place (with the largest ever assembly of Bristol cars) and this too is featured on the DVD.

This is where I come in, or rather go out – literally. Forget the aerobatic display of the Airbus A380, spectacular as it is with the massive aircraft seemingly hanging motionless in the air. The highlight for me is when I’m captured on film leaving the site at the end of the day. Neil is in the driver’s seat with Karen next to him, and Neil’s friend John Tanner is in the back. It was a great day that I previously wrote about on this blog, and with the extra films this DVD is well worth looking out for.