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After owning a 1977 Chevrolet Corvette for more than 20 years, I was getting to an age whereby the ‘rolling out’ of the car – as opposed to the more elegant ‘stepping out’ – was proving rather embarrassing in pub car parks.
It was time to find a replacement, then, but it had to be a right-hand-drive classic with a V8, an automatic gearbox and power steering.
After looking at various Gordon-Keebles and Jensens I decided on the Bristol 410.
It has a 5.2-litre Chrysler V8 and met my other criteria, too. When my wife, Pat (whose Sunbeam Tiger has also featured in Your classic), saw it she said it was “an old man’s car”, to which I said: “I am an old man!”
My Bristol was purchased from a chap in Kent. The trip home, between snowstorms and along A-roads, was troublesome in that the automatic ceased to engage when trying to exit a lay-by on the A303 (according to the supplied invoices, the car had received a rebuilt ’box six months earlier).
The RAC resolved the problem within 10 minutes: a split-pin at the base of the gearlever hadn’t been replaced correctly and was lying atop the gearbox.
The car came with little history so I tried contacting various previous owners, albeit without much luck.
That said, one guy, who had owned the car between 1989 and 2005, sent me an original owner’s handbook and Motorola radio operator’s manual.
We used the car for a year and attended various classic shows, but I couldn’t live with the state (and dark-green colour) of the bodywork, which had numerous issues around the doors, wings and wheelarches with corrosion of the aluminium.
Following recommendations from friends, I took it to a bodyshop in Somerset, a one-man enterprise who could not only weld aluminium but was also an excellent painter.
He had the car for a year, during which time he cut out all the rot and welded in new metal, plus he replaced the headlining.
I had sourced a number of replacement parts, including a new windscreen and rubbers (this was particularly challenging because Bristol went bust a few months after I bought the car).
Numerous items were rechromed, including both bumpers; the dash went to a guy in Wales for new burr walnut and burr oak veneers.
The decision on body colour was difficult. It had to be red, but which red?
Finally we espied a Chrysler PT Cruiser in a local garage and enquired after its colour: it was Chrysler Inferno Red Pearlescent, so we chose that. (I had no qualms about changing the car’s colour – it was silver when new, then painted green in 1977.)
Upon the car’s return home it was decided that the carpets were past their best, so an order was placed with Woolies for a light-grey replacement.
Pat cut and laid the carpet, sewing-matching leather binding to the edges. She also trimmed and carpeted the boot area.
One weekend later the car looked absolutely first-class, with its newly sprayed bodywork and new carpets. Pat also treated the original seats and door trims with leather food.
At this point the only thing letting the car down was the engine bay, so this was duly detailed over the course of a week.
Having committed to a large financial outlay on the 410, we decided we should try entering the Bristol Owners’ Club Concours.
This was a diversion for us because we normally use our cars rather than show them. However, we were not disappointed when we won our class in 2014 and then took the Master class in 2015.
We have now ceased with the concours side of things and will continue to enjoy our motoring in the Bristol – we have taken it on tours of North Wales and joined the BOC Round Britain Coastal Run.
We particularly like the way the car wafts along in comfort and near silence, which is quite the opposite to Pat’s Sunbeam Tiger!
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- Owned by Harry Crowther
- First classic Standard Vanguard
- Dream classic Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Roadster
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