A mysterious car manufacturer that handcrafts its vehicles, operates a solitary showroom, and carefully selects its clientele to exclude fleeting celebrities, had planned to launch the Bullet, a highly anticipated car that was supposed to revive the brand in 2020. However, the release did not go as planned.
The Bristol Cars showroom on Kensington High Street, London, has a basement that contains a wealth of archival material. Only a select few individuals have been granted access to this space, which contains the complete history of the Bristol brand. It includes more than 70 years’ worth of drawings for new models, blueprints, construction sheets, brochures, shipping notes, sales receipts, and various other memorabilia.
The majority of this collection was owned by Tony Crook, a former Bristol manager, salesperson, and racing driver who resided in the basement.
One man, one brand
In 1960, Antony Crook took over Bristol Cars and became the exclusive distributor of the brand. The company only had one showroom, located in Kensington High Street. Crook then introduced a new range of cars featuring Chrysler V8 engines. These Bristols were known for their refinement, sportiness, elegance, and unique character.
The clientele of Bristol Cars is famous but carefully selected, including notable figures such as King Hussein of Jordan, Sir Richard Branson, and Noel Gallagher. Crook remained in control of Bristol until his retirement in 2007 and his death in 2014. Upon retiring, he predicted the near demise of the company, which ultimately only survived for six years without releasing any new models. Sadly, this unique and idiosyncratic slice of British motoring culture has come to an end.
We rarely have the right to several second chances
In 2007, after the retirement of the iconic leader Crook, a commando operation removed ten presses from the Bristol Cars factory in Filton. These presses, valued at several hundred thousand pounds, were then resold under obscure conditions. These presses were crucial for the production of the upcoming Blenheim Speedster and their loss meant the model could never be released. In 2011, Bristol was forced into bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of 22 jobs. The company was eventually acquired by Kamkorp Autokraft, a subsidiary of Frazer Nash.
A new start
In 2016, Bristol revealed the Bullet at the Goodwood Hill Festival, marking the first new model in 12 years since the release of the Fighter. The Bullet’s unique combination of vintage aesthetics and modern technology sets it apart from other cars. It features a hybrid platform, advanced engineering, and a carbon fiber chassis, making it a true representation of the Bristol brand.
The Bullet boasts an interior that reflects the brand’s luxury image with leather seats and a wood-covered dashboard. However, modern technology is also incorporated with a screen and connectivity features that were previously unseen in Bristol models.
Bristol Cars has made a comeback, as the leaders of the unique English brand announced the release of 70 units in 2017, to celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary, priced at £250,000 each. The brand’s iconic showroom on High Street Kensington was also renovated during this time. However, the release of the Bullet was delayed. The latest version no longer uses a hybrid platform but instead is equipped with a 4.8-liter V8 engine sourced from BMW, which generates 375 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds.
The boxes are empty
Regrettably, at the same time, the parent company of Bristol Cars, Frazer Nash Research Ltd, is declared bankrupt. Bristol, a company already known for its lack of communication, goes completely silent. For three years, there is no activity. The company claims to still be working on the release of the Bullet, but behind the scenes, it is struggling to stay afloat. There is no money left in the company’s accounts.
The future of Bristol is being determined in court, as is common in such situations. Originally established as part of the Bristol Airplane Company in 1945, the company is now being liquidated and all its assets will be put up for sale.
The end of Bristol Cars
Despite its prestige and unique heritage, no potential buyer came forward to acquire Bristol Cars Ltd. The Bristol Owners’ Club (BOC) expressed its sadness on Twitter, stating that their thoughts are with the dedicated employees of the company, who have produced nearly 3,000 magnificent cars over the years. Unfortunately, despite all its qualities, the Bullet will never be produced, as this marks the end of Bristol.