I think I was on the Autocar forums. It was one of the perennial “Fantasy Garage” discussions which crop up wherever car nerds gather. That day my choices were a Bentley 3 litre Speed, a Jaguar C-type, a Land Rover Defender 90 station wagon, a Renaultsport Clio Cup 197 and a Bristol Fighter S. The list changes almost every day but I remember this one.
This is the Bentley I wanted. It was ordered new by Forrest Lycett, a founder member of the Bentley Drivers’ Club and the owner of a succession of rather quick Bentleys. This is the car which another owner complained was too slow. Lycett sold it to a Mrs de Vries who took it to Bentley’s service centre with her complaint. The lads in the shop fettled it and checked it and could find no fault with it. In desperation they advanced the speedometer by 5mph and she went away quite happy.
The bronze coloured C-type in the photograph once belonged to Fangio. That Fangio. The one who was Formula 1 world champion five times. The one who was kidnapped by revolutionaries in Cuba. Yes, that Juan-Manuel Fangio. It was built in 1952 and will you look at it? It retains the proportions of the XK120 – it was originally the XC120C, after all – but has been lovingly tended and smoothed and aerodynamified by Malcolm Sayer. Yes, I know aerodynamified isn’t a real word but this is my blog and I’ll make words up if I want to. So there. Any C-type is going to be a special car, but who wouldn’t want one which had belonged to Fangio?
I don’t have any huge preference for the Landie or the Clio Cup. I’d like a red Defender on steel wheels and proper off-road tyres and I prefer the look of the Clio 197 to the new 200. The only one of the five cars I would want to order new is the Bristol and the news I read in today’s Autocar means that particular fantasy just became slightly less likely: Bristol Cars has gone into administration. I know that a lottery win sufficient to purchase Forrest Lycett’s Bentley and Fangio’s old Jag was on the tenuous side of unlikely anyway, but let me have my dream. I wanted to go into Bristol’s showroom on Kensington High Street, chat about this and that over a cup of Lady Grey for a while and commission them to build me a Fighter S in Ferrari TdF blu with tan leather upholstery and Fighter T wheels. Side-exit exhausts would have been nice too but would not have been essential. It’s possible that I might have ordered a Blenheim 3S instead. I wouldn’t have wanted to shout about having come into a lot of money and Bristols are nothing if not discreet.
The factory in Filton has been closed and the craftsmen there laid off. Autocar reported that they had been spending nearly all their time on restoration work instead of building new cars. The service department moved last year from Chiswick to Brentford and I would imagine that that will remain in operation. Toby Silverton, Bristol’s chairman says he is confident that they will be able to find a way forward for the business. I really hope they do. Bristol is never going to play a major role in the car industry of the 21st century but we need manufacturers of quiet, confident and idiosyncratic cars like the Blenheim and Fighter.