Bristol 404 405
|Manufacturer||Bristol Aeroplane Co.|
|Production||1953–1958 52 Bristol 404 units 308 Bristol 405 units|
|Body style||Saloon Coupe|
|Engine||1,971 cc ohv I6 2,216 cc ohv I6|
The Bristol 404 of 1953 was received with rapture by the technical press at the time of its announcement, but it was a commercial failure. Except that its styling gave rise to the much more successful 405 saloon which was to follow, the 404 made little impact on the motoring scene. For a car which looked so sensational and performed so well, this was a little puzzling. The fact was, however, that the 404 made very little sense, even in the rarified bespoke GT market.
It was at once the smallest and one of the most exclusive Bristols only 40 would be built in rather less than three years ever built which seemed to be neither exclusive enough, fast enough, or spacious enough.
Dubbed the 'Businessman's Express', the 404 was built up on a short-wheelbase chassis derivative of the existing 403 frame (8ft. Oin. instead of 9ft. 6in.), and had only two seats inside a sleek fixed-head coupe style by Bristol themselves, in which the plain engine intake was modelled on the leading-edge intakes of the Brabazon airliner. All of which was fair enough, except that, in Britain, it sold for a basic price of 2500 while a Jaguar XK120 coupe was priced at El 140 and an Aston Martin DB2/4 at E1850. This, however, was inevitable due to the handbuilt nature of the machine, especially of its bodyshell, which had no connection with any previous Bristol. The 404's shell was a clever mixture of steel, light-alloy and wooden internal framing, and introduced that famous Bristol feature to the world that of housing the spare wheel behind the front wheel, in a hatch inside the front wing, and balancing this by housing
the battery and most of the other electrical gear on shelves inside the other front wing.
The well-known Bristol engine and transmission was used in the 404, but yet another power increase was made available, the car being available with a 105bhp (net) tune, or an even more broadchested 125bhp (net) motor which was only specified by a handful of customers. A 105bhp Bristol 404 could reach well over 110mph. At the time of announcement, in the autumn of 1953.
It is interesting to note that although the 404 was the least popular of all Bristols, the surviving examples are now the most desirable models among Bristol 'classic car' enthusiasts. In many respects, of course, the 404 resembles the 405, which has made maintenance and restoration somewhat easier.
BRISTOL 405 CABRIOLET drophead coupé
The 405 itself was seen in two versions. The more common (265 of 308 built) is a four-door saloon built on the standard chassis of the previous Bristols, whilst the 405 Drophead or 405D (43 built) had a coupé body by Abbotts of Farnham and most built had a highly tuned (through advanced valve timing) version of the 2 litre six-cylinder engine called the 100C which developed 125 bhp (93 kW) as against the 105 bhp (78 kW) of the standard 100B 405 engine. All engines for the 404 and 405 had higher compression ratios than previous Bristols — 8.5:1 as against 7.5:1.
The 405, though not the 404, had overdrive as standard apart from the earliest models, and front disc brakes became an option apart from the earliest models, and were fitted to almost all 405 Dropheads. A few late 405s were fitted with the torquier 2.2 litre engine introduced in the later 406.The 405, although the only four-door car ever built by Bristol, had styling that the company was later to refine for many years on their later Chrysler V8-engined cars during the 1960s.
Another notable feature was the innovative provision of sizable lockers in the front wings accessed externally by gullwing doors. The locker on the nearside held the spare wheel and jack, whilst that on the offside housed the battery and fuse panel.
A pristine maroon 405 is featured prominently, almost as a character itself, in the 2009 independent film An Education, directed by Lone Scherfig, which is a period film set in 1961 in the London suburbs.
Engine and transmission: Six-cylinders, in-line, with pushrod and cross pushrod overhead valve cylinder head. Bore, stroke and capacity 66 x 96mm., 197 ICC. Maximum power 105bhp (net) at 5000rpm.; maximum torque 1231b.ft. at 37500m. Four-speed manual gearbox in unit with engine. Spiral bevel final drive. (Optional engine 125bhp (net) at 5500rpm.; maximum torque 1281b.ft. at 4200rpm.).
Chassis: Front engine, rear drive. Separate pressed-steel and fabricated platform chassis frame, with box-section sidemembers. Independent front suspension by transverse leaf spring and wishbones. Rack and pinion steering. Suspension of rear live axle by longitudinal torsion bars, radius arms and A-bracket. Front and rear drum brakes.
Bodywork: Coachbuilt, with composite framing, parts of wood, parts of steel, parts of light-alloy, with light-alloy skin panelling, in two-door two-seater fastback coupe style by Bristol. Length 14ft. 3.25in.; width 5ft. 8in.; height 4ft. 7.5in. Unladen weight 22651b.
Performance: (Estimated) Maximum speed with 105bhp engine, 110mph or more; with 125bhp engine, more than 120mph.