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Dino Eisele
Bristol 412 SII Zagato
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W what speaks for a Bristol? A question that every car connoisseur asks at some point. Other groups of people do not even notice it. Its public image at the gas station and in the supermarket parking lot is disappointing. We had hoped for a lot more from the bizarre charm of this exotic. Have been waiting for questions like: 'Is this a do-it-yourself?' or 'How ugly is it?', or even better: 'Is the plastic kit from Kamei or from Zender?

Dino Eisele
The line of the Bristol 412 is strongly reminiscent of the Lancia Beta Spider.

Radical individualism in the car world

Nothing like that. The Bristol 412 sank completely into the anonymity of its neutral white paint. Only two car connoisseurs have outed it on the way and expressed their enthusiasm: 'Bristol? Zagato, isn't it?' But only because it's rare and so incredibly bizarre. Maybe also because they were proud to have recognized the record D headlights. The question of what kind of Bristol would speak, apart from radical individualism garnished with snobbery, they could not answer either. 'Nothing' would be obvious if you had to think about it for so long.

Later, in its final years from 1980 to 1983, as S3, the Bristol 412 was called 'Beaufighter'. Beau means beautiful. A monstrous euphemism for both the car and the fighter plane of the same name. After all, Bristol was a royal aircraft manufacturer, only bare necessity and a handful of freely usable BMW patents caused the company to divert itself in the 1950s.

Cars were Bristol's lifeline, only some came on BMW-327 /28 base, was based on the Bristol 407 in 1961Chrysler drive technology changed: V8 engines, Torqueflite automatic. The Bristol mutated into a luxury car, the chassis remained with a box frame. Nothing about the Bristol deserves the name 'technical delicacy'. Bristol impresario Tony Crook knew how to position the brand among the automotive nobility.

A feeling of landaulet

We are cruising with the Beaufighter, sorry Bristol 412 SII through Munich. It's sunny and warm, the targa roof is stuck behind the front seats, the teasing vent windows in the roll bar are open, the folded rear folding roof carries the stately car like a casually thrown scarf, as befits an extroverted Zagato bohemian.

The now open, opulent body suggests the aristocratic touch of a landaulet. The lush, nappa-soft Connolly seats contribute to this, as does the princely sense of space. The Bristol 412 is a large car that can easily be used as a four-seater. The delightful Smiths instruments arranged in front of the driver are also appealing, as is the root-nut-veneered instrument panel.

Wildly scattered switches

The switches are scattered around, you have to guess their function, but it's not difficult. The flap of the glove compartment is most beautiful, it is decorated with a braided leather strap. Beautiful details are the exception with the Bristol 412, most of it looks gathered and carved into it.

The steering wheel of the Bristol 412 comes from the Triumph Stag, the selector lever with the recessed lock button wobbles and collides with the carelessly nailed air vents underneath , and hook the door opener. Every Opel is better made than the shirt-sleeved Bristol, and every half as expensive Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow exudes the aura of true craftsmanship. Despite moderate talent, the Bristol remains arrogant, its price was a differentiation price as in expensive hotels or clubs: Members only.

The wild hodgepodge of clocks and switches looks as if whatever was on the shelf has been built.

Bristol 412with Lancia Beta Spider Line

Tom Wolfe, the great writing dandy, would drive the Bristol 412. Already for the sake of Ugo Zagato, this design eccentric who, in addition to his illustrious strangeness, sometimes indulged in graceful beauty, see Aston Martin DB 4 GT. The Bristol 412 was unmistakably the inspiration for the Lancia Beta Spider, a product at the same time by Carrozzeria Zagato.

The roof construction and the rear section including the taillights are identical. The consistently angular body of the Bristol 412 is also reminiscent of the Beta, which is reinforced in the Bristol by the built-in snow hood at the front. There is also a lack of proportions. Too much wheelbase because of the spare wheel compartment between the driver's door and front axle, but also far too much rear overhang.

The tender 'cheapest large-scale steel rim 'goes to the 412

The wheels, like pretty shoes for women, eye-catchers and amplifiers of enchanting beauty, are a total failure of the Bristol 412. You won the tender for the 'cheapest large-scale steel rim', and the Jaguar hubcaps do nothing to change that. So it's consoling that the Bristol drives far better than it looks.

The 360 ​​Chrysler V8 with almost six liters of displacement always delivers enough torque from the basement. As a result, the nominally disappointing 172 hp are pushed powerfully, they feel like 200. 'Lean Fuel Electronic' is written on the air filter of the Bristol 412, an indication of a rather illusory reduction in fuel consumption through transistor ignition.

A casual cruiser So is it, the Bristol 412, the Torqueflite automatic shifts smoothly and sluggishly - hasty does not go with the blue British blood. At 3,000 tours the V8 babbles contentedly, the four exhaust pipes give it a pleasantly low voice, it never thunders vulgarly. Its driving comfort is also surprising, the fairly simple rigid axle chassis is extremely velvety, supported by the high weight and long wheelbase. It is probably also a Bristol mystery that the aluminum body amazes at 1,630 kilos.

A Bristol is just a Bristol

Another trump card of the Bristol 412 is its handiness, it practically turns on the spot and one wonders why. We haven't tried the roadholding, it's somehow inappropriate. We guess good-natured understeer, by no means curvy.

So what are the advantages of the Bristol 412? Nothing, as already assumed at the beginning. A Jensen Interceptor beguiles in comparison, and the aforementioned Silver Shadow can do everything much better. The Bristol is just a Bristol and remains a mystery: How can such a mediocre car be so expensive? Perhaps because the phrase 'I'm driving a Bristol' is still followed by a minute of awe among car connoisseurs.

Dino Eisele
Extravagance that somewhat justifies the high prices: the spare wheel can be found behind a flap in the fender - no problem with a wheelbase of 2.9 m.

That's how much a Bristol 412 costs, of which only 62 were made

But in spite of everything there are still some Bristol friends who consider the prices for the only 62 times built 412 quite h hold up. According to Classic Analytics, a Bristol 412 in state 2 costs around 59,000 euros. For moderately preserved condition 4 copies, around 18,500 euros are due. But be careful: the spare parts prices are very high.


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