To Bristol aficionados, the most
important of these development projects is the Type 450. The Company Team
Racing cars were fabricated for the seasons of 1953 to 1955 inclusive, and
contested top ranking endurance events in the 2 litre class – at the Le
Mans (24 hours) race and at the Rheims (12 hours) race, often achieving
wins in their Class and also winning Team prizes.
In 1953 the first series was
introduced – a rather ungainly twin-finned fixed head coupé style, with
lights attached almost as an afterthought to the surface of the body. Many
engineering and aerodynamic lessons were learned.
By 1954 the body shape had been
refined, the twin tail fins toned down and a smoother look, lights fared
into the body, though the design was still a closed saloon.
the final version take the track. The roof with its twin fins had been
removed, creating an open top car with a single fin projecting behind the
driver's position and extending to the rear of the car, not unlike the
Jaguar D-type. The car has outboard disc brakes at the front, inboard rear
disc brakes and gearbox at the rear, with wheel hubs designed to allow
replacement of drive shafts without removing the wheels and brake
assemblies. Speedy Wheel Rim and Tyre switches were made possible at the
pits using a multi-barrelled powered spanner designed by the Bristol
Engineering Workshops — which removed all of the wheel nuts at once,
retained them whilst the rims plus tyres were switched, then ran up all of
the nuts on to their threads simultaneously, applying the correct amount
of torque. The spanner was reported to be a bit heavy to handle but ran
like a Swiss Watch. The engine was fitted with a six port cylinder head
fully gas flow treated and the Carburetors were fitted with Kemish
Straighteners to improve the entry air velocity as well. It was reported
to have achieved a top speed, on the Mulsanne straight, of nearly 150 mph
Rear detail of 450 Le Mans Team car
After the horrendous Levegh crash
at the 1955 Le Mans, despite not having been involved in the
accident, and continuing on to win their Class finishing in line astern
formation 1-2-3 as they took the chequered flag, the company
decided not to continue racing their cars, believing, perhaps rightly,
that it presented the wrong image to their customers.
Only one of these cars survives. Its
companions were deliberately dismantled at the factory so they would not
fall into unscrupulous hands and dishonour the name. The sole survivor was
kept for many years by the Owner (and Managing Director) of Bristol Cars
Ltd, that well known and acclaimed post WW2 racing driver Anthony Crook.
In the early 90s, this unique piece of British motor racing heritage
passed into the hands of a long time Bristol enthusiast, competitor and
collector. It is kept well maintained, in good order, and is still
occasionally displayed in road and selected track events. Naturally its
very high gearing does not lend itself to effective use in competition in
today's short track Historic Racing events.