Treasures from the archives

Among Tony Crook’s papers very kindly donated to  the Heritage Trust by his executors I came across this yellowing  contemporary advertising feature reprinted from the Motor, 25 September  1963  (yes, Bristol Cars did advertise at one time, as they have indeed resumed doing  lately)

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 17.22.46

As you can see it compares  performance figures for several high end saloon cars of the day. The Rolls Royce, Mercedes 300SE, Vanden Plas 4 litre and Daimler Majestic Major are compared with the Bristol 407 regarding top speed, fuel consumption, and acceleration. And it is implied that the new 408 must be  superior …

The Bristol 407, not surprisingly,  is one of the leaders in this test. Its 5.2 L engine and alloy body must’ve given it a considerable advantage. Mercedes’ top end   W112 model, the   300SE (twice the price of its predecessor the  220SE)  on the other hand is carrying around a considerable amount of steel (and chrome) with a much smaller 3 Litre engine developing 160 bhp.

The “Vanden Plas  4 litre” , – presumably the ponderous  Princess,  the  Austin engined limo, beloved of mayors and undertakers  is hardly in the running here and  lags well behind with its top speed  recorded at a measly 87 mph, and 16 seconds for the 0-50 dash.  No use at all for a speedy getaway . Far better was the next year’s smaller Vanden Plas 4 litre R with its 175 bhp short stroke version of Rolls’ B40-B60-B80 range, as used in the Austin Champ and larger military vehicles.

I was however surprised – and  impressed –  by the Daimler Majestic Major’s figures,  produced by an ungainly-looking  sub-limousine hiding  V8  power under its. bonnet. It was powered by a Turner- designed 4.5 litre powerplant turning out some 220 bhp,  probably as much as the Mark X Jag of the day (power outputs were notoriously vague in those days and Bristol, like Rolls-Royce, didn’t deign to specify BHP output other than saying it was “adequate”. )  The Daimler would indeed  out-accelerate and outrun its Jaguar Mk X stablemate . Turner , its engine designer , had come from a motorcycling background and was also responsible for the Ariel Square Four,  Triumph’s Speed Twin, Thunderbird and Bonneville models, and Daimler’s neat 2.5 litre V8 as used in the Dart and SP250.

But despite the Daimler’s potent background, the 407 beat it on top speed, just nosing past the 125 mph line, on  acceleration ( 0-50 in under 7 seconds,) and on touring  (though not overall) fuel consumption, at just better than 17 mpg.

Stefan Cembrowicz