Aerospace Bristol has welcomed a 1953 Bristol 403 saloon car home to Filton - the place where the historic Bristol Car was designed, tested and manufactured by the Bristol Aeroplane Company over 60 years ago.
The Bristol Aeroplane Company diversified into car design and manufacture at the end of the Second World War and their automobile division went on to become Bristol Cars. Thanks to the knowledge and expertise of aviation engineers, and the manufacturing techniques of the aviation industry, Bristol Cars were able to achieve higher levels of performance and the company became world famous for quality and luxury.
Linda Coode, Collections Manager at Aerospace Bristol, said: “The Bristol 403 was actually tested in The Bristol Aeroplane Company’s wind tunnel and this aviation heritage can be clearly seen in the aerodynamic body design. The bonnet, doors, fuel filler cap and boot all open from the inside, to remove the wind resistance that would be caused by external handles. It’s a fine example of high performance engineering to come out of Filton and we’re thrilled to feature it in the Aerospace Bristol exhibition.”
The Bristol 403 that will be displayed in the museum was discovered in a barn in South West England, where it had been stored for over 30 years and had fallen into disrepair. The classic car was rescued by the Bristol Owners Heritage Trust and carefully restored to its former glory by volunteer apprentices from restoration experts Spencer Lane Jones. Now restored and ready for public display, the luxury vehicle has been delivered to Hangar 16S: the grade II listed WWI hangar that will house the Aerospace Bristol exhibition when the £19m industrial heritage museum opens this summer.
Stefan Cembrowicz, Chair of the Bristol Owners Heritage Trust, said: “I would like to thank all of the dedicated volunteers who prepared the Bristol 403 to such a high standard. Hundreds of hours of work and an incredible level of care and attention have gone into restoring this beautiful car, with over 30 hours spent on preparation of the bonnet panel alone. I am truly delighted to see her arrive safely at Aerospace Bristol and very much look forward to seeing this wonderful vehicle on public display alongside other remarkable examples of Bristol engineering.”
The Bristol 403 was known as a “fighter pilots delight” due to its aviation heritage, a “businessman’s express” due to its combination of speed and luxury, and a “hushabout rushabout” due to its combination of speed and quiet running. Fitted with a 100bhp, 2 litre, 6 cylinder engine, developed from the pre-war BMW 328 Sports/racing engine, it could reach a top speed of 104mph in standard trim. A total of 287 were built, each costing just under £3,000 (the equivalent of around £61,000 today),
Taking off this summer, Aerospace Bristol will bring together a varied collection of nationally-significant exhibits and hidden archive records to tell over one hundred years of aviation history for the very first time. The museum’s iconic centrepiece will be Concorde 216; designed, tested and built in Bristol, she was the last Concorde to be built and the last to fly.