Rare and beautiful Superleggera construction from Touring of Milan;
the genesis of the 401 models; an important car for the International
HJ Aldington, owner and driving force behind Frazer-Nash, was deeply involved in car development at Bristol. His experience and contacts at BMW from before the war influenced the thinking and direction of car manufacture at Bristol at a time when they were working out how to scale their business which so recently had been at full tilt making fighting aircraft.
Various directions were considered, including a radial engined car using experience gained from their aircraft engines. In the end, Aldington's suggestion of using the terrific pre-war BMW 328 engine (or a derivative of) and a chassis closely based on the BMW 326 was clearly the way to go. The ex-head of BMW design worked on the new car, which to Aldington's frustration still had a body built on pre-war principles - aluminium panels over an ash frame - not as cutting edge its underpinnings.
During a trip to the first post-war Motorshow in Geneva, Aldington got excited about the new Superleggera construction by Touring of Milan - a metal frame clothed in aluminium - both stiff and lightweight - and very beautiful.
He tried to persuade Bristol to adopt this form of body construction, and although they closely mirrored the Touring shape on their updated 401, they resolutely stuck with ash as the frame material.
Which is where this splendid 401 Touring comes in. A late 1948 chasssis, it was invoiced to AFN Ltd (Archie Frazer Nash Ltd) and shipped aboard the ULV JARL to be sent to Touring for one of their SuperLeggera constructions.
The transpiring shape went on to influcence the Alfa Romeo Freccia d'Oro (Golden Arrow) and has the distinctive duck tail with gorgeous sculpted rear lights. The Touring design was closely mirrored in the production 401, 402 and 403 models.
The old style V5C on file shows it was first registered TMX 542 in March 1949 (a pretty quick turnaround) and came into Brian's hands in the early 1980s. We know nothing of the intervening years.
The car was in a sorry state so it was comprehensively stripped and restored, photos on file from 2004 showing the Superleggera shell stripped and primed ready for reassembly.
The car is almost at the stage of completion and we hope that it will be up and running by the time of the sale. There are some finishing jobs to do, but this super-rare Superleggera is thought to be one of just 10 produced of which less than a handful have survived.
Supremely elegant and ultimately sporting, Touring of Milan can be seen as the pinnacle of Italian coachbuilding, which of course, is saying a great deal!
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