Snails, mice, spiders

Well, I’ve just spent an interesting couple of days stripping as much as possible off the 411. There’s still more to come and some useful stuff is being saved. Andrew Mitchell has already taken the front bodywork off, and the car’s now at Spencer Lane-Jones‘s workshop as he’s been tasked with making sure the 383 engine runs OK and then swapping it into another 411 with a broken engine. While they’re doing that, I thought I’d take advantage of the car being undercover for a few days to strip as much as possible off while it’s in the warm and dry. Stripping the car, and seeing it up on the lift has revealed exactly how rotten it is. Part of the problem was the sunroof, which has clearly been leaking for years. The interior is in very poor condition, and filled with snails who have clearly been enjoying a damp, bird-free life (unless the rodents which have made several nests throughout the car predate upon snails?). Although the seats might just about be able to be reupholstered and retrimmed, the dash woodwork is probably only good as patterns to mark new ply to be cut. However, the dash switches work, and the drivers electric window still wound its way up and down when battery was hooked up (carefully – there’s not much in the way of floor in the wing bay!).

The real killer however, is the chassis rot. When it was first raised on the lift, there was apparently quite a lurch as the little remaining good metal buckled under one of the front lift arms of the two-column lift as it took the weight. Looking at it, you can see where the box-section has bent inwards and is deformed. The rear cross-member is also rusting away nicely. However, although a few of the common rot spots are not too bad (relatively), most of the usual places are very bad – the sills, in front and behind the rear wheels especially, boot floor, wing bay and inner wing structure are all full of holes and crumble to the touch. Despite this, the bodywork is actually very good, with little or no bubbling on any arch, and generally straight panels. This is presumably because the rot has set in through spending several years in a field, and not while being used and having water and salt thrown up under it. Once through the rot, there are some useful things to remove, and although some will obviously need overhauling, some parts are in excellent condition and ready to bolt straight onto other cars. I’ll post an advert soon of what I have available, once I’m sure what’s needed for the 410. Do drop me a line if there’s anything you need though.

In theory of course, this 411 could have been restored if someone was keen enough, but with a complete retrim required, new woodwork, paint, some chroming and enough welding to keep a skilled person busy from now until the end of time, you’d face an enormous bill, massively exceeding the car’s restored value. Instead, its front wings will keep my 410 on the road, the rear axle and suspension assembly has been found a willing home and will get another Bristol back on the road, and the engine is keeping yet another 411 alive. Other useful parts will go to other cars I’m sure, helping their owners keep mobile too. While it’s not ideal to have to dismantle a rare car like a Bristol, in this case the car had become less than the sum of its parts, but in giving those parts will live on.

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