With the introduction of the 401 – the first of its exquisitely styled Aerodynes – Bristol began to move away from the pre-war design the company had inherited from BMW. Carrozzeria Touring provided the Superleggera method of body construction that overlaid alloy panels on a lightweight tubular-steel framework, while the low-drag shape was achieved after hours of experimentation in Bristol’s wind tunnel. It had been intended that the Milan-based carrozzeria would build the first 200 cars, but this idea was abandoned after a mere handful of prototypes had been completed. The 401 continued to use its predecessor’s running gear and BMW-based, 2.0-litre, six-cylinder engine with its ingeniously arranged, pushrod-operated inclined valves. The gearbox remained a manual four-speed unit with first-gear freewheel. The 401’s aircraft-industry standard of construction did not come cheap however – at £2,270 it cost as much as an Aston Martin DB2 – and only 611 of these exclusive cars found customers between 1948 and 1953.
The Bristol 401 offered here was first registered in Ireland and benefits from being fitted with a 406 2.2-litre engine and gearbox with electric overdrive. Since 2010 the current vendor has embarked on an extensive restoration program which includes bodywork and paint, radiator re-cored, all wheel cylinders and brake shoes renewed, carburettors overhauled, petrol pump reconditioned and oil cooler fitted, and much more. This is a car which has had all the mechanicals and body well cared for and we understand there is a history file with documents going back to the 1960’s.