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Bristol type 400
Bristol type 401 saloon
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Bristol 400 series (1946 - 1950)

our thanks to the Bristol owners club


First Series prototypes were introduced to the Motoring Press in the summer of 1946. First Production models were leaving the factory in volume late in 1946 and early 1947. Second Series was introduced in 1948. Production ceased in 1950.

First Series

The First Series of this type has a top hung smooth boot lid, the spare wheel being contained within the Boot. The bumpers were chromed tubular steel and shaped to follow the body contours. There were curved overriders front and rear. 

The prototype Type 400 saloon, chassis number 1, was built in 1946. Note the original tubular bumper bar style. It also has additional air vent flaps in the bonnet lids which were not provided on the production models.

This model is built on a timber frame mounted upon a massive steel box section open 'A' frame chassis. Unlike all of the later factory built Bristols, the body main hull is steel, as are the front and the rear wings, but the door skins, bonnet and boot lid are aluminium, as are the spare wheel cover and bumper aprons on the second series model.

Second Series

Second series Type 400 saloon built in 1948. First series cars had smaller headlamp units, as can be seen from the picture of the prototype above. This car has modern trafficators fitted below the front bumpers to improve upon the original semaphore or flipper type units retained mounted behind the doors.

Interior of the Type 400 saloon was nearly always brown and beige leather and wool cloth, or all leather with a wool cloth headlining. Note the neo 'art deco' treatment to the trim. Sculpted door frames allow greater shoulder/elbow room than the pre-war BMW from which it was derived, and the handy door pockets. The button type attachments are not door pulls but Ash Trays; these are also fitted into both armrests of the rear seat. The door windows on this type are sliding, not wind-down.

Rear view of Type 400 saloon, showing the aluminium cover to the spare wheel mounted on top of the boot lid. Export cars often were fitted with top hung opening rear windows glazed in perspex. These were also available to specification on the home market. The example pictured has a flush glazed fixed rear window. Rear lamp lens glasses were originally sandblasted internally to present a white light because the composite lamps also house the reversing lights, which operate only when the sidelights are in operation. On this car the lenses have been changed to red, to improve effectiveness in modern traffic, along with discrete flashing trafficator lamps mounted below the bumper to supplement the semaphore or flipper type units mounted behind the doors. On the original lamps, in order to display a red side/stop light, the side/stop bulbs themselves were fitted with a rather ineffective red coloured glass cover.

Wheelbase 2896 mm 114 in  
Track front 1321 mm 52 in  
rear 1372 mm 54 in  
Length 4648 mm 183 in  
Width 1626 mm 64 in  
Height 1499 mm 59 in  
Ground clearance 178 mm 7 in  
Kerb weight 1170 kg 2579 lb  
Fuel capacity 54.6
UK Gal
US Gal
Code 85A
Type S-6
12 valves total
2 valves per cylinder
Bore stroke 66.00mm 96.00mm
2.6 in 3.78 in
Bore/Stroke ratio 0.69
Displacement 1971 cc
(120.278 cu in)
Unitary capacity 328.5 cc/cylinder
Compression ratio 7.50:1
Fuel system 3 SU D2 carbs
Aspiration Normal
Max. output 81.1 PS (80.0 bhp) (59.7 kW)
@4200 rpm
Coolant Water
Specific output 40.6 bhp/litre
0.67 bhp/cu in
0-50mph (80 km/h) 10.30s
0-Quarter-mile 19.70s 
Top speed 153 km/h
Power-to-weight 68.38 bhp/ton
Engine location Front
Engine alignment Longitudinal
Turning circle 11.40 m
Suspension Front I.TL.
Rear LA.TB.
Tyres F 5.50 x 16
Tyres R 5.50 x 16
Brakes F/R Dr/Dr
Brake ∅ F/R 279/279 mm
Transmission 4M
Drive RWD
Top gear ratio 1.00
Final drive ratio 3.90