Bristol Cars' heritage in safe hands BY RICHARD GUNN
A rare cache of Bristol Cars parts and documents, dating back to 1946, has been saved by the new owner of the company after fears they could just be thrown away.
When the low volume specialist manufacturer went into administration last year, the Bristol Heritage Trust was afforded a rare opportunity to glimpse inside its factory, at Patchway near Filton, Bristol. There, the group found an extraordinary amount of material – in terms of spares and literature - stretching right back to the earliest days of the firm, which was formed after the end of World War Two by the Bristol Aeroplane Company to utilise excess labour capacity. However, with the future of the car maker uncertain and the Bristol Heritage Trust having had to sign a non-disclosure disagreement with the administrators, the Trust was genuinely concerned that these items would simply be regarded as worthless and chucked out.
“We found 5000 feet of spares going right back to the 1940s, all sorts of types,” Dr Stefan Cembrowicz of the trust told Classic Cars for Sale. “The parts were catalogued – but not all. There were also a lot of secondhand bits, plus mahogany and hardwood body bucks from the 401/402/403 models onwards.” The trust immediately started formulating plans to try and save them, but, Stefan admitted, “This would have presented a huge challenge for a small heritage trust.” It is also unlikely that either of the clubs – the Bristol Owners’ Club (BOC) with about 800 members and the Bristol Owners and Drivers Association(BODA) with around 100 – would have had the resources to save them either. “Raising the capital would have been a serious business. But it would have been a disaster if these parts just went.”
The trust also found vast quantities of paperwork; “Bristol was a company that never threw anything away. It wasn’t really a company that embraced modern technology, so it was all manual.” said Stefan. Among these items were all the service records plus “a dozen or so chests with the original plans and blueprints going back to 1946.” This archive was viewed as being much more manageable to save, with the trust receiving a number of offers of help.
Fortunately, the lock, stock and barrel purchase of Bristol Cars by the Kamkorp Group – which also owns Frazer Nash Research – has secured the future of all the spares and documentation. “The new owner appreciates the importance of Bristol’s history,” said Stefan. Indeed, it was with AFN Ltd – the maker of Frazer Nash cars and British importer of BMWs – that the Bristol Aeroplane Company started working when its car division was set-up in the 1940s. There are now plans to archive the paper material and make it available online, as well as sell provenance certificates for vehicles. “We are looking forward to co-operating with them over this,” stated Stefan. Sir George White, the president of the trust, has already been taken on as a consultant to advise on the heritage side.
The trust is also maintaining its own separate literature and video archives and is keen to hear from anybody associated with Bristol Cars, or who may have documents, pamphlets or magazine articles that could compliment what it already has. Can you help? Get in touch with the CCfS editorial team at firstname.lastname@example.org