Bristol 401 and 403 (1949 – 1955) Review

Bristol 401 and 403 (1949 – 1955) At A Glance


+Elegant and capable high speed tourer

-Lack of shoulder room, challenging gearchange

The 401 was a logical development of the original 400 - effectively a rebody, which did away with the older car's pre-war styling, to replace it with highly unusual streamlined coachwork. And it was this stage of Bristol's development that finally saw the beginnings of the company's own identity shining through.

The 401 was introduced initially for export markets only. Its handsome styling was the result of extensive wind tunnel work, after a basic design was submitted by Superleggera Touring. It was a look way ahead of its time, and it could be argued that the 401 was merely let down by a lack of power - an expectation set because of the expansive styling.

This shortcoming was put right five years later, with the arrival of the 403 – and a welcome upgrade to 100bhp. Bristols were expensive and well crafted – the latter trait keeps them surprisingly usable today, with many owners driving them in all seasons, come rain or shine.