Many tales are told of the model 402 as the “Hollywood Special”, but the true virtues of the only series-built convertible body by the Car Division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company have never been disclosed.
I have owned my car, nicknamed “The Blue Dutchess”, for 15 years now and enjoyed every mile, despite the usual hiccups any classic car owner is prone to suffer.
The “Blue Dutchess” started life in Paris, France in Cambridge Grey livery at the hands of a dedicated driver of (Waterman) fountain pen fame , who campaigned the car in rallies in France and Italy. Consequently (?) after three years she was in need of her second engine, which is still in the car.
Later, Godric Bader used the car in the mid-fifties at a more leisurely pace, touring the UK and Continental Europe with his family, only to replace it with another Bristol, a 403, when the family expanded and the kids grew taller. After all, the 402 is just 2+2 coachwork with limited space for additional passengers.
Bader tells me that he took the 402 on journeys on the Continent and thoroughly enjoyed her open top driving and ability to cover long distances at leisure.
The next time MHW 310 shows up in BOC literature is in a story told by Angus Fraser, who bought her in 1974. His son found her, stored in a glasshouse, more or less complete, where she had spent some time off the road. Under Fraser’s care the 402 was rejuvenated and received her current blue colour, supposedly a Ferrari shade. When admirers ask me now whether the car had a respray, I reply: “Yes , it received a new coat of paint….. 40 years ago !”.
Fraser sold the car in the late seventies to Dutchman Koen de Bruin, then owner of several other Bristol cars, a 401 and a 403. De Bruin took the 402 to the BOC Concours and won a Trophy, but subsequently moved to Portugal, leaving her in storage with a friend in The Netherlands. There is where I discovered the car. Ultimately I was allowed to buy it in 2001.
My first encounter driving the 402 was an unforgettable experience, since, as it had been laid up for several years, the brakes refused to work and I found myself in an unstoppable vehicle. No damage was done, but the next journey was towards a thorough & urgent recommissioning of the mechanical parts. This work had to be done anyway, because I wanted the car to be formally registered in The Netherlands, for which it needed to get the Dutch equivalent of a MOT. Former owner De Bruin had never bothered to do so.
Following the Dutch road-clearance, my first serious outing in the Blue Dutchess was a family wedding in Italy, a journey during which she was applauded along our route by the italian autofiosi, who, likely confused by the looks of a Touring design, were in great admiration of the sleek body travelling their roads. Other trips on the Continent and in the UK followed. Time and time again, I was confirmed that my decision to buy this exeptional vehicle has been a very good one.
The Blue Dutchess drives beautifully and feels at ease, both on the winding local roads as on the motorways. An overdrive-kit was added and as a result, cruising leisurely at a pace of some 80 miles at 2700 RPM, the engine produces a gentle hum and still has ample power to climb. The low seating position in the car invites the owner to open top driving, well tucked away behind the low unframed front screen, giving ample pleasure. However, in the rain, with the roof up, you discover that the sealing is not as watertight as you would wish … probably it never was … still not enough to ruin the run.
Together with a group of other Bristols the 402 was RECENTLY displayed at the “Goodwood of the Continent” at Schloss Dyck in Germany, where we were among the Jewels of the Park, the main exhibition of this event.