Bristol Is A Foreign Country …
… They Do Things Differently There.
Here at DTW, we have always held Bristol in great respect. If we haven’t written about them that much over the past couple of years, that’s because neither have they. What, if anything, will come from this silence, who knows, but if and when they re-emerge, will they maintain any of their idiosyncratic past?
Bristol, of course, made much of their aviation heritage. I’ve always felt that should be put into perspective. The Bristol Car Company was always a separate entity from the plane business and, although there might have been some synergy, it doesn’t follow. In truth the aeronautical heritage was more of a marketing tool but, to consider Bristol’s post war aeronautical output, let’s look at two planes.
First, the Bristol Britannia. This, a long haul turboprop, was, by the accounts of pilots and passengers, a fine plane. Smooth and civilised ‘The Whispering Giant’ was, however, very late to the party and, by the time it was in service, pure jets were well in the ascendancy – it was a thoroughbred out of its time. All In all, you can see a relationship to the cars.
Second is the Bristol Freighter and the grandly named Superfreighter (a bit longer), memorably described as 20,000 rivets flying in close formation. I have flown on these and they were noisy and rudimentary, if fun. They felt and looked like something you could knock up in a scrapyard challenge, a chance meeting of odd bits. All In all, you can see a relationship to the cars.
To those who don’t know, the panels behind the front wheels on both sides of many Bristol cars lift to reveal the spare wheel, tools, battery and other bits. This is a sensible piece of packaging for a car built on a separate frame and seems to reference plane construction in a vague way. For this reason, the otherwise rather graceless gaps (I can’t even think of them as shutlines) seem oddly acceptable.