Bristol occupies a unique spot in British motor history. Founded by the Bristol Aeroplane Company after World War II, it manufactured hand-built luxury cars. Not as well known as Aston Martin or Jensen, its early cars are extremely rare today. That’s why it’s unlikely to see one turn up in a barn, especially an early 1960s Bristol 408.
Built from 1963 to 1965, the Bristol 408 was motivated by a 5.1-liter Chrysler V8 engine and push-button automatic transmission. According to Jonny Smith of the Late Brake Show YouTube channel, 83 cars were produced, and less than 10 remain worldwide.
This Bristol 408 is entirely original except for a repaint in the 1990s. Like many old cars owned by amateur hobbyists, it sat neglected while other priorities like work and raising a family occupied its owner’s time. Eventually, like most classic car owners, he reached a crossroads. Faced with deciding to sell their car or keep it and get it back on the road, this Bristol’s owner is determined to see it resurrected in its former splendor.
Even though it’s spent 40 years in storage, the Bristol is in relatively good shape. The black and maroon paint is distinctive and looks like it will shine again with a good bath. Inside, the light tan leather upholstery and wood paneling on the dash look in good condition.
The Chrysler A series V8 used in the Bristol is a stout, overbuilt motor with poly-spherical combustion chambers. Unrelated to the Hemi engines of the time, it was used in a variety of Dodge and Plymouth cars as well as serving as an export engine for other markets. In the Bristol, it displaces 5.1 liters and produces in the neighborhood of 250 horsepower. But the real question is, will it run?
The Late Brake Show team had difficulty overcoming the long dormancy of the V8, but the 60-year-old Chrysler powerplant eventually fired up. The Bristol 408 is still a ways from hitting the road but has taken a big first step towards that goal.
Regarding rare barn finds, we’ve recently seen a 1969 Oldsmobile 442 W-32 and a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 LS6. But in terms of rare cars from obscure car manufacturers, this Bristol 408 takes the prize.