cars by country
UK cars
Bristol history                
Bristol type 400
Bristol type 401 saloon
Bristol Type 402
Bristol Type 403
Bristol Type 404
Arnolt Bristol 404/x                
Bristol Type 405
Bristol Type 405D
Bristol Type 406
Bristol 450 race cars
Bristol Type 410
Bristol Type 407
Bristol Type 408
Bristol Type 409
Bristol Type 410
Bristol Type 411
Bristol Type 412                
Bristol Type 603
Bristol Blenheim
Bristol statistics
Bristol photo album


Bristol Type 401 2 litre saloon (1948 - 1953)

our thanks to the Bristol owners club


Farina drophead 401

The first series of this type was introduced in 1948, and for two years was fabricated alongside the Type 400. First production models were leaving the factory in 1948. A second series was introduced in 1950. The third and final series followed in 1951. Production ceased in 1953.

Bristol Type 401

The Type 401 was the second model produced by the company. The First Series cars are easily identified by the distinctive ridge along the lower edge of the body. Where it differs principally from the Type 400 is in the form of construction and material used. It is built on a form of 'Superleggera' matrix of steel tubes mounted on the same open 'A' frame steel chassis, with different outriggers at the rear to accommodate a lower mounting position of the fuel tank. Unlike the Type 400 the body shell of the Type 401 is completely aluminium. The doors also have wind-down windows and being larger it comfortably seats five persons.

A recognition point of the Type 401 in its original trim was that the front grille inserts were painted black whilst the surrounds were chromed. Perhaps not knowing this, or preferring to change the specification, some owners have opted for silver-painted inserts, which were the style adopted for the Type 403 or even chromed inserts, which was the style adopted by the Factory for the Type 400.

Farina Drophead

In about 1947-8, a number of Type 400 driven chassis were sent to Stablimenti Farina in Italy, where various design exercises were carried out.

Touring Superleggera Saloon

As with other special design exercises being evaluated, a number of Touring Saloons were built upon early chassis. Importantly, these were delivered during the development period of the Type 401 Saloon.

The design was much admired, and though they were light and proven to be fast, they were also fairly noisy. The style was patently sound since it had appeared in many other forms, for other marques and if a little more more upright than desired at the front, unlike other styling exercises it was certain to influence the Bristol developed Type 401, and the later Type 403.

Perhaps it was not surprising that the construction favoured by styling house Touring of Milan was their patented 'super-light' or Superleggera method. This involved building a body support matrix of wire-tied tubular or lightweight metal rod frames on which to mount the body panels. In the detail, however, this did not meet the high standards of construction set by the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

Nevertheless, the benefit of the weight saving achieved from this method of construction was not lost upon the Bristol engineering design team. Thus the Touring Superleggera method was quickly refined and adapted to a more sophisticated if slightly more expensive level: first, by using proper cruciform fitted joints at all junctions, instead of a crossover of wire-tied metal rods. This formed a stronger support matrix, on to which the body shaped skin panels could be jig mounted and then neatly and uniformly welded together. This method distributed the forces applied upon the outer hull much more evenly into the matrix of the body sub-frame and into the chassis.

Another adaptation was to cover the support matrix itself with sound-muffling material before fitting the outer hull of the body. This, in conjunction with underfelt applied throughout the floor pan, greatly reduced the noise levels transmitted into the cabin. The trim cloth of the cars was replaced by quality leather and woolcloth fabric, along with Wilton carpets for the floors. This completed the cocooning of the passenger cabin and along with a slippery windcheating shape, provided the desired development of the Type 401.

Beutler Saloon

This particular car, with its chassis plated as a Type 401, is fitted with Saloon Coachwork by Gebr. Beutler AG of Thun, Switzerland. Two such cars were created and were originally painted in two tone fashion, one having a black Roof and White or Ivory coloured body, and the other a white or ivory roof and black body. At first glance, the coachwork on these two chassis was very similar, but in some details they were slightly different. For example there are a number of small porthole type vents set into the side of the front wings. The other Saloon did not have these. Some years later, in 1957, a third saloon design was to be executed by the Company, this time on a Type 406 chassis.

This example has been resprayed. It was originally the unit painted with a black roof and a white or ivory body. It went direct from Switzerland to Ceylon and spent many years there, before finally being brought for the first time to Britain. It has since been refurbished and repainted two tone with a pale grey roof and emerald green body.

Wheelbase 2896 mm 114 in  
Track front 1314 mm 51.7 in  
rear 1372 mm 54 in  
Length 4864 mm 191.5 in  
Width 1702 mm 67 in  
Height 1524 mm 60 in  
Ground clearance 165 mm 6.5 in  
Kerb weight 1225 kg 2701 lb  
Weight distribution
50.00 %
Fuel capacity 77.3
UK Gal
US Gal
Code 85C
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 So 32 BI carbs
Aspiration Normal
Coolant Water
Specific output 43.1 bhp/litre
0.71 bhp/cu in
Specific torque 73.57 Nm/litre
0-50mph (80 km/h) 10.20s
0-60mph 15.10s
0-Quarter-mile 19.90s 
Top speed 161 km/h
Power-to-weight 69.39 bhp/ton
Engine location Front
Engine alignment Longitudinal
Steering rack & pinion
Turning circle 11.40 m
Suspension Front I.TL.
Rear LA.TB.
Wheels F/R /
Tyres F 5.75 x 16
Tyres R 5.75 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