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Bristol Cars may live again

Meanwhile the Bristol Owners Club of Australia is very active with its base in Melbourne and branches in most capital cities.

It marked the end of Britain's last luxury bespoke automotive marquee.

Within a couple of months Kamkorp Autokraft announced that it had acquired the assets and goodwill of Bristol Cars. So maybe the handmade and very expensive cars have gained a reprieve.

Bristol Cars history began in 1945. Having unused factory and labour capacity after World War II the Bristol Aeroplane Company (BAC) decided to create a car division using war reparation plans and the rights to pre-war BMW car and engine designs, including the BMW's 326, 327 and 328.

The first car out the door was the 1947 Bristol 400. The body resembled a BMW 327. The 6 cylinder engine was a refinement of what was in the BMW 328, and if the grille looked familiar, yes, the famous double-kidney BMW grille was carried over almost intact.

In 1961 the 6 cylinder engines were replaced with V8's made by Chrysler. Handmade to customer order, Bristol Cars Ltd had no dealers. They sold direct to aficionados from their up market London address in High Street Kensington. Bristol always said it has no interest in slavishly copying automotive fashion. Instead, they sought integrity of purpose and an unmatched level of engineering perfection.

Quite simply, they built a luxury car for two people and their luggage for a pleasant and fast excursion across the European continent. For that they charged Rolls Royce prices and until the GFC that level of cost had not deterred collectors and owners from buying them.

Indeed, new and used Bristols enjoy a level of customer confidence and loyalty which can only be described as tribal. The most recent incarnation of the marque was a 700kW twin turbocharged V10 called the Fighter, boasting a top speed of 450kph, though that's limited to a mere 350kph by technology. But no air bags should you stray too far from the road at warp speed..

Trouble was the competition in this super luxury GT end of the market really surged ahead of Bristol. Mercedes AMG rolled out their SLSs and SLRs, Bugatti debuted its Veyron and so many Aston Martin and Bentley models hit the market you started to lose count. Customers were spoilt with quality choice and voted with wallets. Bristol was just left behind.

Opinions differ about Bristols. Some motoring writers eulogize them while others consider them too olde worlde. Meanwhile the Bristol Owners Club of Australia is very active with its base in Melbourne and branches in most capital cities. Cars change hands very rarely, and most are never advertised.

www.retroautos.com.au