Dep-O Magazine

Brabazon: A Flying Visit

Simon Charlesworth September 12, 2012 No Comments on Brabazon: A Flying Visit

Brabazon's Bristol 401/403 project

Hearing that Brabazon Motors had taken on board our comments following Dep-O’s test of their cracking 411 Series 6 – www.dep-o.co.uk/features/brabazon-motors-411/ – I knew I had to stop by for a swift shufty.

The only trivial criticism which had bubbled up was the central logo detailing of the 18 inch Team Dynamics alloy wheels; so we can’t lay claim to having imparted great insight and wisdom which have consequently transformed the Brabazon 411.

Brabazon Bristol 411 S6 with new 18 inch wheels

The Team Dynamics legend has gone, which has had the effect of tidying up the focal point of the wheel, and whilst they were at it, the wheels now boast smart Bristol badging too and the calipers are monogrammed with the Brabazon ‘B’. Given it’s such a handsome yet understated machine, it’s nice to see it wearing more suitable footwear, because before it did stray close to looking like a bridgegroom wearing retina-troubling trainers.

Brabazon monogrammed six-pot caliper

In the overall scheme of this splendid machine, it is certainly a triviality, but it’s nice to know that someone listens.

After a chat with manager Jeff Marsh about the business and future Brabazon projects, it turns out that the company’s stand at the mercilessly exclusive Salon Privé – near the champagne and lobster tents – went down incredibly well with the punters. Joining ‘our’ 411 Series 6 was another project fresh out of the Eastville Works, the ex-Sir George White 410 – a car which has been restored to factory specification. Demonstrating that Brabazon really can do whatever customers desire – be it original or modified.

Indeed, whilst prowling around the 1968 410 – leaving puddles of drool – Jeff asked if I’d like to take it out for a spin. No sooner had I answered in the affirmative than both Charlesworth buttocks were planted behind the Bristol’s distinctive Bluemels wheel. A twist of the key and the Chrysler 5211cc V8 boomed into life, seeming far louder than the 411 and akin to a cheesed-off grizzly growling in the Rockies.

Freshly restored Ex-Sir George White Bristol 410

The drive was quite short, and I have to confess to not really paying overly much attention to the dynamic feedback. Suffice to say, that its OE suspension induces more roll than the Brabazon 411, the brakes (are great for 1968) but not as effective, and there are fewer ratios in the Torqueflite’s complement of ratios (three). Yet it is refined and cruises with great ease, stability and charisma, with each flex of the throttle filling the cabin with that unmistakable offbeat V8 groove. Plus its assisted ZF steering box shames contemporary PAS set-ups and a great number of today’s half-baked EPAS variable-rack contraptions.

No, what was occupying my thoughts was the historical legacy of this very 410. It was whilst sitting in traffic that Sir George was struck by a van, he subsequently lost consciousness and the force of the impact jerked his foot from the brake to the throttle… Although thankfully he did survive, his injuries were so severe that he had to retire from Bristol Cars Ltd, selling his holding to partner Anthony Crook. Although throughout the Crook era Bristol Cars could not have had a better custodian, one can’t help but wonder what might have happened if that accident hadn’t occurred…

Trickling back through the Ikea traffic, keeping clear of any psychotically driven vans, I once again find myself thinking about how well-suited these cars are to today’s shambolic traffic, because you almost have the height of a soft-roader, but none of the swollen girth. They also have an incredibly calming influence too.

It also dawned on me why I’ve been such an immense Dithering Doris when trying to find a replacement for the daily hack – and it’s best summarised by the hackneyed nugget, ‘champagne taste on a lemonade budget’.

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