Even by the high standards of eccentricity set by Britain’s small sports-car makers, Bristol was always in a class of its own. This is the carmaker that made Morgan look like Mitsubishi.
Bristol’s former boss, Tony Crook, refused to let journalists drive its cars for many years on the (possibly reasonable) grounds that they “wouldn’t understand them.” The company last published production figures in 1981, when it built 104 cars, and the leisurely pace at which the carmaker operated in its later years was demonstrated when thieves stole several body presses from its Filton factory and it took several days for the theft to be noticed.
So there was sadness, but little surprise, when Bristol folded in 2011.
Now it’s coming back. The Bristol brand was bought by a subsidiary of the Frazer Nash engineering consultancy (itself evolved from an only slightly less-eccentric British sports-car maker), which has now announced plans for an all-new Bristol model next year.
Bristol began as an aircraft company in 1910 and built its first car in 1946, in association with Frazer Nash. The bad news today is that Bristol’s former recipe of lightweight, aerodynamically efficient bodies propelled by large, American-sourced engines has been abandoned, for now at least. We’re told the new car definitely won’t owe anything to previous models such as the Beaufighter, Blenheim, or the spectacular Fighter—the most recent Bristol, which used a Viper V-10 engine. Instead, the new car—currently being developed in the U.K. under the code name of Project Pinnacle—will be a “range-extended electric grand tourer.” Beyond that, and a single teaser image (shown above) that reveals little more than some leather hood straps, we’ve got to use our imagination.
Frazer Nash’s involvement means we should certainly take the project seriously. The company now specializes in engineering electric drivetrains—it put one under the Giugiaro Namir concept back in 2009—and has also developed a new electric London taxi that’s slightly less ugly than Nissan’s NV-based version. The fact that Bristol is both renovating its traditional showroom in Kensington, London—one of Europe’s most expensive areas—and planning to expand to another unit on the same streets proves there’s some serious investment behind the prelaunch. The company also confirms that the new car will be designed for every major market, including the United States.