1972 Bristol 411 Series
Current owner 22 years; impeccably maintained with various useful upgrades; one of only 287 made
By the dawn of the 1960s, Bristol’s long-running BMW-derived 2-litre engine cold no longer cut the mustard against rival offerings from the likes of Aston Martin, Jaguar and Bentley.
Although the 407 of 1961 looked outwardly similar to the preceding six-cylinder 406, under the bonnet lurked a Chrysler 5.2 V8 which gave the car a 125mph top speed and re-established the Bristol as a true high-performance car. Over the following years the chassis was updated, the engines grew larger and the styling was periodically revised, culminating in the 411 of 1969 which combined the elegance of the early cars with a decade of development under the aluminium skin and is widely regarded as the finest Bristol of all.
Going through five series between 1969 and 1976, the 411 initially had a high compression 6.3 Chrysler V8 that produced 340bhp and 425lb/ft and could launch the car to 60mph in 7.2 seconds on its way to a top speed of 140mph. Hooked up to Torqueflite three-speed transmission, twin-servo brakes and power-assisted steering, it all made for a relaxed high-speed cruiser with one of the finest cabins around.
"Almost accidentally, the Bristol 411 has become the fastest genuine touring saloon, beating the Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3, both for maximum speed and acceleration," said John Bolster in Autosport. "On the road it’s the steering that is one of the Bristol’s most impressive features," wrote Classic & Sportscar. "The wheel never fights in your hands, even when the 411’s fat Avons bump over imperfections in the road surface or splash through pools of standing water, and there’s constant subtle feedback through the rim, the big Bristol steering with a delicacy and precision that belies its size.
"Good balance and relatively light weight help: the 411 has less mass to shift than contemporary rivals like the Jensen Interceptor, Aston Martin V8 and Rolls-Royce Corniche. It will hustle down a twisty road with aplomb, the gearbox locked in second and the V8 using its mountain of mid-range torque to haul the 411 out of the corners. Performance is brisk rather than bellicose, the Bristol doesn’t do anything so uncouth as ‘accelerate’ - it merely surges forward until it reaches cruising velocity, before oozing into the long-striding top gear. Its real forte is sweeping A-roads or along motorways, where it eats up miles in comfort."
First registered in June 1972, this 411 Series 3 retains the original 6,277cc V8 that was enlarged but detuned for subsequent models to meet increasingly stringent emissions requirements. It also has the distinctive quad headlamps, quad exhausts and chrome side trims of the later models.
From 1996 to 1999 it was owned by a classic car hire company, Bespokes of Bushey Heath, who naturally kept it in tip-top running order, their customers covering some 18k miles during this period, as evidenced by old MOTs and invoices. They also fitted a Clifford alarm system with remote central locking, the security being later enhanced by a more sophisticated alarm system and a Tracker recovery device which remains on the car although the new owner will need to re-register it and keep up the annual subscription.
Our vendor acquired the car from Bespokes in 1999 and has continued to use it regularly, adding another 50k miles during his 22-year ownership, including several tours of the Continent, the odometer now showing 134,700 miles. Serviced every year at MOT time regardless of the mileage covered, it comes with an impressive file of invoices, much of the work being carried out by Bristol themselves.
Various sensible upgrades have been carried out over the years, including a large capacity alloy radiator with uprated cooling fans to ensure reliable performance in even the hottest European conditions. It also benefits from later alloy wheels as fitted to the Series 6 which Bristol briefly offered as a modernised version of the 411 in the 2010s and which were found to enhance the stability of the car at high speeds and on tramlined road surfaces.
The rear inner wheelarches have been strengthened to address one of the few weak spots of the original design, while a new Edelbrock carburettor with manual choke was fitted shortly after the vendor acquired the car. A smaller diameter MotaLita steering wheel has been fitted to sharpen up the car’s responses, although the original steering wheel is also included. Electrically adjustable chrome door mirrors have also been fitted, along with air conditioning.
The bumpers were rechromed in 2002, the suspension was overhauled by Bristol in 2009, the whole car was repainted in 2012, the interior was re-Connolised at the same time and a new heated rear screen and most of the exhaust system was renewed in 2015. The eagle-eyed will have spotted that the trim strip on the passenger door is not quite straight but it appears to be the strip that is misaligned while the door itself fits perfectly.
Although it no longer needs one, it gets MOTd every year, the current ticket running until July 2022 with just a couple of advisories for a minor oil leak and for ‘o/s/f outer floor strengthening rail corroded’, the latter issue having been attended to just before the auction. The history file also includes 32 old MOTs back to 1982 and the original owner’s handbook is also present.
Religiously maintained by the current long-term owner and said to drive as well as it looks, this impressive 411 is fighting fit and cruises happily at the legal limit and beyond, leaving that sonorous V8 burble echoing in its wake. One of only 287 made, it is on offer here at a very attractive guide price and now only needs an enthusiastic new owner who can continue to cherish it in the manner to which it has become accustomed.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email email@example.com
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