This 406 is a unique Bristol in that it’s fitted with the Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire engine. In the late 1950s The Bristol Aeroplane Company and the Hawker Siddeley Group had agreed to co-ordinate their activities in order to win a contract from the government to build the Olympus aero engine. The combination of their engine divisions, Bristol Aero Engines and Armstrong Siddeley Motors, resulted in Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd. This company, and later on Rolls-Royce Aero Engines eventually developed the Pegasus engine which was seen some twenty years later in the Harrier ‘jump jet’.
Bristol Cars Ltd became a subsidiary of Bristol Siddeley. The new board expressed interest in increasing the number of Bristol cars produced, and the Siddeley engines could have proved useful to reach their targets. With Siddeley three and four litre V8 engines in the pipeline they decided that the natural starting point was the three litre straight six: the Star Sapphire. It was a large engine, which resulted in the front part of the 406 bulkhead being removed in order to squeeze it in to the engine compartment, and was mated to the automatic three speed DG Borg Warner ‘box with gear changes controlled from the steering column. The automatic gearbox marks this car out as a first of a new breed for Bristol and as such it’s an intriguing machine.
The car never went in to production and by early 1960 the new board considered scaling down the production of Bristol Cars. Sir George White, who was not on the board of Bristol Siddeley Engines Ltd., bought Bristol for the sum of £145,000, becoming the sole proprietor. By late 1960 he had sold a forty percent share to Tony Crook who by then had become the largest distributer of Bristol cars. The rest, as they say, is history.
The car comes complete with various trim items with the interior finished in grey and the body in pale green which have the look of being original. The chassis and transmission are described as being in good order.
This 406 development car represents a poignant part of the Bristol Cars Ltd story, and is unique and features in Christopher Balfour’s book Bristol Cars: A Very British Story. Owning a factory development car is a rare treat for collectors of any marque with this Bristol requiring restoration and as a collectors’ item is, undoubtedly, a very rare machine and is offered at No Reserve. View 1959 Bristol 406 Factory Development Car on www.coys.co.uk for further details.