One of my favorite car companies is the quirky UK outfit Bristol Motors. I admit, the styling hasn’t always been for everyone, but I adore all their clever aerospace-inspired touches.
Five years ago, things were looking bleak for a company many thought a relic of bygone times. The Fighter—a 200mph GT with the V10 from of a Dodge Viper in the nose—failed to find much of an audience in the 21st century, leading to insolvency. But new owners took over, and the past two years have seen occasional, tantalizing announcements about a new car—Project Pinnacle. Now, the wraps are off: meet the Bristol Bullet.
Before we get to the Bullet, a little history: originally a division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, merger after merger turned Bristol Cars into some percentage of BAE Systems. Bristol started building cars after World War II—powered by BMW’s 328 racing engine thanks to post-war reparations—and spun off the business in 1960 once the UK’s aviation industry began to condense on government orders.
For most of its existence, Bristol was owned and run by the irascible Tony Crook, who built Grand Touring cars in small numbers for a discerning clientele (which is another way of saying Crook wouldn’t sell you a car if you annoyed him). Hand-built to aviation standards, the cars have always been idiosyncratic. Aerodynamics was considered important a long time before most of its peers got into the game. The front wings concealed the battery on one side and spare tire on the other, accessible thanks to convenient access panels. And so on.
Bristol will build 70 Bullets before getting on with the hybrid Grand Tourer it promised us in 2014. Bullets will be constructed from an all-carbon composite which the company is quick to point out is the same as modern aircraft. Under the hood, power derives from BMW’s 4.8L V8; a nice wink at the marque’s history. The styling, as with almost all of Bristol’s previous cars, will be divisive. The nose is reminiscent of the Bristol 404 (1953-55), while the fins on the rear wings shout 405 Drophead Coupe. I happen to like it, although I’m willing to bet many in the comments will disagree.
With a curb weight of just 2,425lbs (1,100kg) the Bullet should go like its namesake. But with no roof to speak of—the cockpit features a lot of waterproof leather—it will be a car for sunny day drives, not long-distance touring. Production starts in 2017, and we’re told the price will be less than $328,000 (£250,000).