The Bristol Fighter might be the coolest car you've never heard of
I wanted to drive a Fighter for the longest time.
I remember catching one in a magazine article years ago, and I fell in love with three things.
It's enormous engine, the turbo's potential for over 1,000 horsepower, and it's looks.
It looks unlike anything else on the road.
Old school, but also pleasingly futuristic all rolled into one pretty exciting package.
The Bristol [UNKNOWN]
might be the coolest car you've never heard of.
Hell, Bristol might be the coolest car manufacturer you've never heard of.
What started as a company making trams and planes ended up making some of the most exclusive cars on the planet.
Bristol used to make, amongst other things, airplanes.
But as they discovered after World War One, if your primary business model requires there to be a war To drive.
But when the war stopped, you were a little bit stuck.
However, the company managed to survive.
But during World War II when it was once again making planes for the war effort, plans were drawn up for an automotive rebirth once the conflict Had stopped.
Bristol joined forces with Fraiser-Nash nd released the Bristol 400 shortly after the war ended.
It was an interesting amalgamation of BMW bit, the plans of which I believe were borrowed.
From BMW's factory in postwar Germany.
They have the chassis of a 326, the body of a 327, and the engine from a 328.
Bristol did well, it's cars found a number or high Profiled fans over the years and people liked what the company did.
However, it being a British firm it's not without some quirky stories.
It's time to introduce you to the former owner of Bristol, Tony Crook, possibly the coolest auto exec, again you've never heard of.
Man, Bristol's really secretive.
Crook was a fascinating man.
He was in the R.A.F.
during World War II and then after the war ended, he became a motor racer.
A bloody good one at that.
He was known to tussle with Sterling Lock He became a Bristol dealer and in the 70s turned his love of Bristol cars not only from selling them but to owning the entire company.
And then he became the kind of auto exec that you and I really love to hope exists.
He once paid a hobo to sit on the Rolls Royce stand during a motor show to put off any prospective clients.
He also dressed as a [UNKNOWN] When service to the frays and nest done, and pretended to buy all of the product they had.
He was fantastic.
Crook was also the type to relive his past glories loudly, and with self made sound effects in his office, an odd chap if ever there was one.
A choosy guy as well.
He famously didn't like the motoring press.
The only way into a Bristol was to buy one or become mates with someone who had.
If you said something remotely negative about a Bristol you would get a letter from Crook himself.
They were according to one source Properly angry, slightly mad, but normally very funny.
He was also picky about who he sold cars to.
You had to meet his approval before getting in.
He once saw film director Michael Winner looking through the window of the Bristol dealership, and then marched up to the door and flipped the sign from Open to Closed Brook sold haf the company in 1997, the other half in 2001 to new owner Tony Silverton.
Shortly after that the fighter was announced.
It was set to be all new, all shiny.
It was the first new Bristol in years.
Apparently at one point the company was saying they were producing 30 a week.
That turned out to be not true, because I have been chatting with some people who know about these things.
One source says there's 14, another says there's 11.
Yet the common number is nine, nine have been built and apparently only four of them are running, possibly that some are Either way, these are incredibly rare.
Between 2002 and 2011, when Fighter production was suspended There were three versions of the car.
The fighter, this one, a 525 rate horsepower base car.
The fighter S, which came with 660 rate horsepower and the aforementioned 1,012 rate horsepower Fighter T. The Fighter gets it's name from the company's past.
The original Bristol Fighter was a plane.
I was expecting this to be a cumbersome son of The big drive.
I really was because it looks quite heavy.
But actually [INAUDIBLE] the steerings nice and light.
So you get a fairy slope of feedback from it.
And there's quite a bit of weight because of course it has an 8 liter v10 engine as a design [INAUDIBLE].
Who doesn't like a v10?
If you don't like a v10 there's something wrong with you.
It just tickles nicely.
You can leave it in second gear in jaunts around town or even in the countryside and it won't really make that much of a fuss cuz it has that much torque.
The suspension is when the road's lovely, it's lovely.
Put it like that, but when [UNKNOWN] get's a bit bummed he can be a bit jarring.
But then again, this is a hand made British sports car, and this thing is bloody quick.
It's over 500 horsepower, we know that, but the way it puts it on the road, it just it does it, it does it remarkably well.
The doors are also [UNKNOWN] [UNKNOWN]
Unlike say a delorian anther car with gelding doors there's not just a little strap hanging down that you have to reach for.
This is a little grab [UNKNOWN] and there's a real belt on it.
The windows have these little things because of course this can't go down into the the door.
The door opens up and that is one of the downsides of Gelvines, but it means if you want to talk to somebody, you have to kinda stick your face out but cuz I've got quite a big head, it won't get all the way through the hole.
Still, no matter.
Once you're in here, admittedly, it does start to show that it was a car developed in the early nineties.
It's still remarkably fresh but it But it's not, as we are now, 2015-ish.
But, it looks good, it's all functional, and because the deck back there is made all of glass there really isn't that much of a visibility issue in this as you would get with other super cars.
When you get in, look up and you'll see a hark back to Bristol's aeronautical past.
There's switches and buttons that do thing like open the fuel fillers and what have you.
There's so many cool touched to this car that make you really appreciate where it came from.
I can't think of anything to compare the fighter to.
Today you'd be looking at the likes of the Merc SL and the Aston DB9 and what have you.
But the Fighter has a more, how do I put this delicately?
Hand-built feel to it.
This is a hand-built British DT, so I'll leave it to your imagination whether anything came off in my hand while I was driving.
And I will tell you that no two are entirely alike.
The Fighter is a wonderful oddity.
It's a novel experience to drive, a privilege as well.
It makes me wonder what Bristol would've been like had it made more of them, had is been a bigger presence rather than the exclusive club it was in the end.
Bristol's fighter was an approach to modernism from a firm that was very much rooted in its own past.
It has presence, power, and makes you feel a bit special, even if some of the bits of it are a bit wonky.
It's a crying shame more people don't get to enjoy this.
However, if they did would it have been so special?
I don't think so.
So here's to the [UNKNOWN] Bristol and Tony Crook.
A combination that left the world, a bit better off.