A little history

Several people have emailed wanting to know some background about the car, and particularly why I chose a 410 over a 411. Well, it’s been a quiet week so here we go. I’ve had this 410 since December 2003. It is my first Bristol. I’d long been aware of Bristol Cars, chiefly in the context of being the rare car that I didn’t really know anything about, beyond the fact that they were always in the lists of the most expensive cars on the market, but I knew relatively little about them until reading a comparison article between a 411, a Mercedes 6.3, and a Silver Shadow (I think) in one of the classic car magazines some years ago. The 411 immediately struck me a being a great looking car, and the fact that they were rare, understated and very fast all appealed to me. Over the next few years I did a lot more research and read up on all Bristols – I have a very well-thumbed copy of the Brooklands Portfolio book of road tests. When circumstances put me in a position where I thought I might able to afford one, I decided that getting a good car was more important than getting any specific model, and looked at several V8s.

I was looking above all for a sound car, that would not need major expenditure in the forseeable future, but nothing so shiny that I would be afraid to drive it regularly. If I’m honest I was really after a 411, but realising that a good 411 would be out of my budget I went out to see what I could find in the right price bracket. A tired 412 on a general second-hand car dealer’s forecourt was the first Bristol I drove, and despite cutting my hand on a jagged screwhead in the engine bay I was not put off Bristol ownership at the first hurdle. After looking at another fairly tired 603 elsewhere, I went to see Andrew Blow, not very far from me in Wiltshire, as the magazine articles about Bristols all cited him as being a good source of used cars. He was very helpful, let me drive a couple of 411s that were clearly out of my price bracket but were very useful in showing me how a good car should drive, and what sort of condition to expect at different prices.

I’d in fact originally called to ask about a the cheaper of two 410s that he had at the time – a silver one – that I though would be ideal for me. However, while sound, it was clearly in need of some tlc, and a quick look at the other 410, for not much more money, made me discount it straight away. This other 410 was a much better bet. The previous keeper was a retired ambassador in Dorset, who had had the car for about 10 years. He’d used it regularly to start with, but the MoT certificates showed a steady decrease each year in the mileage covered, until the last one which was only about 4o miles on from the previous year. However, it had been serviced pretty regularly, and significantly the keeper before him was a certain Lt. Col. Spencer Lane-Jones.

Spencer had owned the car for 8 years from 1986, and had undertaken a complete restoration, and was class winner in the BOC concours in 1992. The car was a beautiful combination of dark Oxford blue, a Rolls-Royce colour, with red leather interior, in good condition, drove beautifully and was very quick. I did have it inspected by Spencer and his team again, as it had been a couple of years since they had last worked on it, and top SLJ engineer Nick Cooper went through the whole car with me, drove it and left me under no illusion that this was anything other than a good car. However, this left me in a slight dilemma. Did I really want a 410 over a 411? It didn’t take long to decide! Although I thought the double trim lines on the side a bit fiddly (still do sometimes), the 410 was a great car and I was smitten with it. I definitely preferred the more ‘classic’ interior of the 410 over the clunkier, ’70s switchgear in the 411 onwards, it had been given a no-expense-spared restoration by a renowned marque expert, and it was several thousand pounds cheaper than a 411 in comparable condition. It was, as they say, a no-brainer.

So I didn’t so much choose a 410 over a 411, but simply found one first. I didn’t want to spend ages looking for a specific car, I’d rather just get on with it. Maybe I was just lucky to find a good car quickly, but looking back, not only do I have no regrets whatsoever, I am in fact very glad that I didn’t get a 411. While I do still prefer the clean lines of the late 411 s4 and s5 (I am a child of the 70s after all…), 410 ownership is very satisfying. People often say to me at club meets, in almost conspiratorial tones as though it is a great secret, “ah, the 410. Always was the nicest V8 wasn’t it?” I am told that the handling is better than the 411 thanks to the smaller, lighter engine, but I haven’t driven a 411 enough to speak authoritatively on that. While the performance of the 411 might be greater, I have never found this car lacking in urge, and the big-block 411 is quite a bit thirstier I believe. I get well over 20mpg if I’m careful, although about 17 is more normal. And of course it’s far more exclusive – less than 80 410s on the BOC lists, compared with over 250 411s.

And that’s how I got here. I haven’t had to do a great deal to it beyond regular maintenance; there’s been a few issues now and then, but nothing too terrible, and all in keeping with a 40-year-old car suddenly being put into regular use again. I’ll fill in some of these tales in the future.

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