Bristol gets a clue to its future

| 15 Jul 2011

The future of the Bristol marque became clearer this week after its new owner, Frazer-Nash, discussed its plans for the car company while hosting a gathering of two-dozen Bristols at its Surrey HQ.Frazer-Nash’s chairman, Kamal Siddiqi (below) spoke about his intentions for the famous firm for the first time since FN acquired it in April, after Bristol went into administration. The new boss indicated that future Bristol models are likely to feature a hybrid electric platform, something FN has been pioneering for the past 20 years.

The 13 July event kicked off with a celebratory run of 24 models from Bristol’s High Street Kensington showroom to FN’s Mytchett Place base and was attended by several noted Bristol enthusiasts including, previous company owner Toby Silverton and Sir George White, son of the marque’s founder.

Every Bristol model from a 1948 400 to the latest Fighter was represented - with the exception of the 402, Arnolt-Bristol and 408 - and owners and enthusiasts saw it as a show of appreciation for the badge’s 60-plus year heritage. Highlights of the day included a parade of all 24 Bristols (below) on FN's test track.

FN – which has historical links to Bristol’s early days, when its products were jointly developed with Aldington Frazer Nash – is a pioneer in electric and hybrid power train technology and recently developed the prototype electric Namir supercar.The company has also developed a digital differential and Wankel engine-driven range extender as part of its quest to improve transport efficiency and jointly won the Best Range Extender Electric Vehicle category with Proton, in last year’s inaugural Brighton to London Future Car Challenge.FN hasn’t revealed precisely what a new Bristol might look like, but Siddiqi confirmed that it won’t enjoy conventional four-stroke power: “The internal-combustion engine is only about 23% efficient yet electric motors are 97.6% efficient. And we have to move forward – we can’t go back – the laws are such today that you can’t develop a new car with existing technology and expect it to comply unless the volumes are tiny."He was able to explain that whatever shape or form future Bristols take, the cars will continue to be made in Britain but not necessarily in Bristol: “The existing factory is a brilliant museum but to convert it to a modern facility will be difficult. So we’re looking for the right site.”And there was good news for Bristol owners as Siddiqi emphasised that FN is committed to supplying parts and servicing for existing models while respecting the Bristol brand’s heritage and values in its future products: “The only reason the name has lasted so long despite such low production is that it gave quality and pleasure to a lot of people and we have to keep doing that."The Bristol Owners’ Club welcomed FN’s intentions. “Anybody who loves classic cars knows that the future moves on and we need technology like they’re showing us if the Bristol name is to survive,” said chairman Geoff Hawkins (below), who was impressed with the appreciation for the marque shown by FN staff. “Our passion is wearing off and they’re becoming enthused as they realise what they’ve bought.”