2017 The Automobile photo shoot at the Brabazon hangar
This month’s Automobile magazine contains a lovely article by Simon Charlesworth on the Michael Barton 406S and Peter Mann’s 406 Zagato. And the Zagato has pride of place as a cover photograph.
After some months of investigation. I was able to find out who to ask for permission to use the historic apron outside the Brabazon hangar. This is not a simple matter as BAE Systems, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and other firms’ sites are aggregated together in this part of Filton.
The Brabazon hangar (which was the world’s biggest building when it was built, in terms of volume– a million cubic metres has been mentioned) and its 2 mile long runway are now managed by Wessex Water, who are in turn owned by YTL., a Malaysian infrastructure conglomerate. Permission was generously granted by the new owners, for which we are very grateful.
We assembled on a bright frosty morning and were immediately made aware that aircraft runways and hangers are not subject to the Factories Act ,in terms of ambient temperature for the workforce! Had it rained, we were going to need to ask for the hangar doors to be opened so that we could have continued the photo shoot inside. Fortunately, this did not happen as opening one of the three 100 m wide front doors is no simple matter.
My 400 also came along as a humble backup vehicle for such august company (my excuse being that it always photographs well, particularly at a distance).
The crisp morning light was absolutely ideal and the white, Art Deco frontage of the hangar acted as a 300 m wide reflector, bathing our cars in the soft clear light.
Photo shoots take assiduous attention to detail in terms of light, setting, background and perspective. This is why my holiday snaps don’t turn out like Henri Cartier Bresson’s. We lined the cars up into every different combination in front of sundry airfield installations, such as the fire reservoir, fuel storage outlets and, of course, those iconic hangar doors.
After the static shots, Scribe Simon Charlesworth took the wheel of both the 406S and the Zagato,(which had been previously owned by Harry Wareham) to judge the ride, handling, and (yes) performance for his writeup. It seems a shame to waste some good visual opportunities so we pursued the the Zagato round the perimeter, interested to see whether my 400 with its recammed 110 engine could keep up. (I say it could.) Security then appeared and sucked their teeth disapprovingly, perhaps alerted by the tiniest hint of tyre squeal at this stage.
Finally, the driving shots: Simon’s photographer strapped himself in the back of the Saab estate, and tried for some wide-angle neck and neck driving shots, with two of the rarest Bristols edging perilously close to his bumper at speed, inches apart.
I would love to recreate the factory shots taken I think in the 60s of every then model from the 400 onwards, including the 450, lined up outside the corrugated hangar doors. Maybe next time?