The iconic Bristol car brand is to be revived and manufacturing of its ultra-expensive vehicles returned to the city in an ambitious plan unveiled today.
Select models from the classic Bristol Cars range will be remastered following the acquisition of intellectual property rights for the historic manufacturer by Essex-based real estate developer Jason Wharton.
The Bristol Cars owner and enthusiast said he intends to revive the marque sustainably for the 21st century.
His plans include creating an ‘atelier’ style final assembly and brand centre in Filton, close to the original production site – although no other details of this have so far been disclosed.
He also intends to open a new London showroom – the original Bristol Cars had a highly exclusive outlet in Kensington where it showcased its collection of refined grand tourers.
While the first Bristol cars to be produced under its new ownership will be remastered version of its classic models, an entirely new car will be launched later. Mr Wharton, pictured below, also plans to make electric-powered versions of the cars.
The cars will each be hand built to order over a period of months and will come with an eye-watering price tag of around £495,000.
Bristol Cars was originally established in 1945 as a vehicle division of the British Aeroplane Company, with the cars built in a workshop on what was then Filton Aerodrome. The first model, the Bristol 400 saloon, was produced a year later.
The business became renowned for creating a series of premium, elegant two-door, four-seat saloon models, including the Bristol Blenheim, before a radical departure with the two-seater Bristol Fighter supercar, unveiled in 2004. Just nine were sold, including one to Mr Wharton, who also owns a Bristol 411, pictured above.
The company went into administration in 2011 with the loss of 22 jobs and the closure of the Filton factory and Kensington showroom.
Within a month it had been bought by another company. However, for nearly decade the marque remained largely inactive and Bristol Cars was officially wound up in March last year.
In January this year Bristol Manufacturing Limited, a company set up by Mr Wharton, acquired the intellectual property rights to the business along with certain chassis jigs and patterns and a new worldwide domain, for undisclosed sum,
He now plans to use his Bristol Fighter, pictured below, and Bristol 411 to build remastered prototypes and re-engineer the distinctive vehicles on a build-to-order basis – with the creation of a new battery electric vehicle among his plans.
Mr Wharton said: “Bristol is a quintessentially British brand that was renowned for creating luxurious and distinctive vehicles. We want to revive and reinvigorate this iconic marque, preserving its heritage, while fully remastering it for the 21st century.
“This country has a remarkable tradition of creating low-volume, hand-manufactured vehicles and Bristol Cars has for far too long been unable to fulfil its potential. We want to change that.
“I see myself as a long-term investor in this iconic British brand, so part of my role is to take it forward and develop it so it can finally become sustainable as a premium automotive business, hence our need to move with the times, and introduce a fully battery electric model.”
A chief executive, head of engineering and two non-executive directors will be appointed in spring next year when Mr Wharton said significant capital will also be raised.
The aim is to attract enough investment to revive the marque into a leading British electric vehicle (EV) company by the time it marks its 80th anniversary in 2026, said Mr Wharton.
Externally, the remastered vehicles will benefit from a mild facelift, but under the bonnet they will be re-engineered to 21st century homologation standards, he added.
Each car will be fitted with a new 6.4-litre naturally aspirated Hemi Chrysler V8 powertrain, eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, while suspension, electrical architecture and interiors will be newly updated.
Initially, three limited-edition series of eight remastered cars will be produced – the Bristol 411 Series 8, the Bristol Fighter and the Bristol Speedster.
These will be the final internal combustion engine produced by Bristol Cars as production of an entirely new model, the battery electric vehicle (BEV) Bristol Buccaneer, is scheduled to start in Filton in 2025.
Work is due to begin on the first remastered vehicles this year, with road homologated prototypes likely to be ready towards the end of 2021, when an extensive testing regime will be undertaken.
Orders are being taken now for the remastered series of vehicles, which will be delivered to customers in 2022 and 2023.