1961 Bristol 406 £85,000
This finely engineered gentleman’s express is one of just 174 built, and it’s in ready-to-enjoy condition, says Rob Scorah.
The general condition of this Bristol’s deep maroon paint is very good – no bubbles or fading, though there are small chips near the filler cap and to the edge of the bonnet and doors, and light scratches to the top coat on the nearside wing. Alloy body panels look to be in fine shape – symmetrical side-to- side with consistent panel gaps. The opening wing laps that allow access to the spare tyre and battery sit completely lush when closed. Door jambs are clean and the underside of the car is very sound.
Chrome is largely up to the standard of the paint, though that on the bonnet vent is dull and weathered. Also, the rubbers and brightwork of the windscreen and rear window surround show light cracks and a little distress. There’s rust in a couple of the screws of the radiator grille, though the deep surround itself, as well as the bumpers, look in fine fettle. There’s a little surface rust in the steel wheels’ recesses.
Inside, the coupé again gives a good impression, looking generally well cared-for and maintaining a good balance between authenticity and ongoing upkeep.
The grey leather is supple and retains its colour, and the maroon piping looks tidy. The sides of the front seats and headrests show some scuffing. Though handsome, the Moto-Lita steering wheel is not original. However, a correct-type example (not as good-looking) will also be supplied with the car.
The wood trim, while largely intact and showing good grain, has lost its colour and lacquer in some places. This is mainly under the windscreen and around the rear edges of the quarterlights where the window opens. There are no signs of damage in the surrounding material. The dashboard itself is a deep rich brown. Floors are solid and interior fittings feel firm and function as they should.
The engine bay has a workmanlike tidiness with everything in the right place and no signs of leaks or overheating. The comprehensive service history attests to five owners’ worth of diligent care. It includes handwritten letters from a garage (1976), many hefty invoices from Bristol specialist Spencer Lane Jones, plus records of a rear axle rebuild and an overhaul of the ‘one-shot’ lubrication system. Confirmed mileage now sits at 66,193.
The clutch is light enough for one of these and, though the steering is heavy at parking speeds, it drives without sloppy tolerances in steering or suspension.
The 2.2-litre pulls from low enough in the revs so as not to make town driving a rowing exercise, while cruising remains relaxed but flexible. Overdrive pops in and out very smoothly and decent acceleration is only a crisp gear throw away. Water temperature sits in the lower half of the gauge and oil pressure is on 60psi.
There may be some negotiating room given those untidy details mentioned, but considering this example’s solid history, strong mechanicals and the scarcity of these cars, don’t expect to come too far south of the asking price.
CHOOSE YOUR BRISTOL 404-407
404 introduces hole-in-the-wall grille in 1953. Engine is a 1971cc six; 52 made. Longer wheelbase four-dour 405 Saloon arrives in 1954 – 265 of which are made – along with 43 405 Drophead Coupés, now highly collectable.
Taking over from the 405 in 1957, the heavier 406 raised engine capacity to 2216cc. Body now steel rather than wood-framed; four-wheel disc brakes are standard it. In total 174 are built.
1959 Earl’s Court Motor Show sees launch of quirkily styled, triple-carb 406 Zagato. Much lighter than regular 406s, only seven were made and now command double the price of the regular factory offering.
406 replaced in 1961 by the Bristol 407, which looked similar but had a 5130cc Chrysler V8.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #1961-Bristol-406
Contact Old Timer Manchester (oldtimermanchester.com, 01944 758000)
Engine 2216 inline-six, ohv
Power 105bhp @ 4700rpm
Torque 129lb ft @ 3000rpm
Performance Top speed: 107mph; 0-60mph: 14sec
Fuel consumption 15mpg
Length 4978mm (196in)
Width 1727mm (68in)
Non-original wheel is well-matched to dashboard.
Bristol six quickly settles into an even, rattle-free tickover.
Some details require attention but all panels fit flush.