Bristol is back! The Bullet is the first car from the British marque for 10 years. And this V8-engined roadster marks 70 years since the birth of Bristol Cars in 1947. Only 70 will be made, at a price of ‘less than £250,000’.
Return of the tailfin
Designed in Britain, with help from an unnamed ‘Italian styling house’, the Bullet bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconic AC Cobra. Bristol’s traditional tailfins make an appearance at the rear, along with speedster-style humps behind the seats.
Muscle from Munich
The Bullet’s heart is a 375 hp 4.8-litre BMW V8. In a car weighing just 1,250 kg, it provides 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. As our brief ride in the Bullet proved, it also sounds like a TVR that’s had elocution lessons. Fantastic.
Carbon fibre composites
Bristols were traditionally made from aluminium, but the Bullet is carbon fibre composite. This provides high strength and low weight – and the panel gaps and paint finish on this ‘near production’ prototype look excellent. No visible carbon fibre weave here…
The interior of the Bullet mixes traditional materials with up-to-date technology. Bristol describes it as ‘perfectly suited to the modern age’. Apart from, er… the complete absence of a roof. We’ll come to that shortly.
The seats are trimmed in soft British-sourced leather and are said to be ‘contoured for support and comfort over long distances’. The car’s suspension has also been tuned for road-biased comfort, rather than ultimate track-day agility.
Space for a case
In keeping with its ‘grand touring’ premise, the Bullet has a leather-lined boot big enough for a couple of small suitcases. Note the beautifully-scripted Bristol badge.
No premium car is complete without an LED light signature, and the Bristol doesn’t disappoint. But why not a single spotlamp in the middle of the grille – in trad Bristol style?
Slippery when wet
As noted previously, the Bullet is somewhat lacking in rain protection. There isn’t even a tonneau cover for when the car is parked. This half-height windscreen is optional, too. Owners can have no ’screen at all if they prefer.
An eight-inch touchscreen controls ‘infotainment’ functions, with smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth or wi-fi. It can mirror your phone screen for instant familiarity, and even has a button to contact the Bristol showroom in Kensington, London.
Some of the detailing on the Bullet is exquisite, such as these flush-fitting door handles that pop out from the bodywork when the button is pressed.
Bristol started life building buses in 1908, then moved on to aircraft engines and finally – in 1947 – cars. The first Bullets should reach customers in January 2017, marking 70 years since the original Bristol 400 left the factory.
On sale now
However, you can place your order now. We were quoted a price of ‘less than £250,000’, although the final figure depends on personalisation options – such as custom paintwork or interior trim. If you can afford it, the factory in Chichester will tailor the Bullet to your individual taste.
We attended the UK unveiling of the Bristol Bullet at Coworth Park, near Ascot. The car was displayed alongside several of the high-points from Bristol’s history – including one of the first 400s.
This isn’t quite the finished article, but it’s not far off. Bristol is still fine-tuning some details to meet production regulations. Thankfully, despite ominous grey clouds overhead, the rain steered clear of Bristol’s priceless prototype.
Won’t get fuelled again
That prominent fuel filler is one of the details that will be changed. In production cars, it will sit flush with the bodywork. Thankfully, the voluptuous curves and twin exhausts are staying.
Traditional meets modern
Here’s another glimpse of the Bristol’s rather inviting interior. Note the exposed carbon fibre on the dashboard. ‘Classic wood’ is also an option.
The Bullet was swarmed all over by the UK press, before being shipped off to London’s famous Dorchester hotel for a formal premiere. Today, the car really is the star.
Ready to rumble
We had a very brief passenger ride in the Bullet around the Coworth Park estate. The engine’s ample torque was obvious – along with its great soundtrack. The ride felt well-damped over various speed humps.
Here’s the car that started it all: the Bristol 400. It’s essentially a licence-built BMW 328, hence the oddly familiar kidney grille.
The link between Bristol and BMW persists to this day, as evidenced by the Bavarian V8 in the new Bullet. The 400 was no slouch, though – it’s engine actually came from the racing version of the 328.
The dials in the the 400 are scattered – seemingly at random – across the dashboard. Later Bristols would take their cues from the company’s aircraft heritage, with a more structured and ergonomic ‘cockpit’.
Built between 1953 and 1955, the 404 was known as the ‘Gentleman’s Express’. This stylish two-door coupe was impressively aerodynamic for its day – again, influenced by aircraft design.
The 404 was powered by a free-revving 2.0-litre Bristol engine. It’s a beguiling, and uniquely British, alternative to Italian grand tourers of the day. Spot the tailfins, also seen on the new Bullet.
The 404’s dashboard is much closer to what you’d find in a modern car, with clear, white-on-black dials. And the classic wood-and-leather combo never goes out of fashion.
Bristol 405 Drophead Coupe
Wow. This soft-top 405 really is something special. One of just 43 built, its sleek bodywork was designed by Abbotts of Farnham and looks resplendent in deep blue.
Bristol 405 Drophead Coupe
The 405 was first launched as a saloon, which remains the only four-door Bristol ever made. The Drophead boasted an extra 21 hp from its 2.0-litre, six-cylinder engine – bringing its grand total to 126 hp.
Bristol 405 Drophead Coupe
How inviting does that soft red leather look? The 405’s thin-rimmed steering wheel is still rather bus-like, but its short gear lever offers snappy shifting. Front disc brakes were an option.
Lastly, here is the car that inspired the new Bullet. This one-off Speedster was discovered under covers in a dusty corner of the Bristol factory. Details of its past are sketchy, but the ‘Bullet’ nickname has stuck.
Looking at the original Bullet, it’s easy to see where the new car got its looks. It’s simple, sleek and utterly gorgeous.
The Bullet might look like a racing car, but its well-appointed interior suggests otherwise. Like the modern car, the half-height windscreen wraps around into the front half of the doors. Good luck getting a replacement from Autoglass for that one.
Best of British
The 2017 Bullet is a confident return for a once-great British brand. We’re not totally sold on the styling, but quality seems very good – and the driving experience promises much. Motoring Research will be getting behind the wheel later this year, so stay tuned for more Bristol news soon.