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Rare 1956 Bristol 405 for $500!


It may not look like much in the photo, but this is a 1956 Bristol 405. Don’t feel bad if you have never heard of this British built grand tourer. Only a couple hundred were ever produced and very few remain today. This one is obviously in bad shape, but when new this aluminum bodied four-door was a looker with its tail-fins and unique front end. Thrust was provided by an inline-six that was powerful enough to hit 110 mph! Shifts were made through a smooth four-speed equipped with overdrive (essentially five forward gears). Some of these cars were even fitted with disk brakes. All this may not sound that impressive today, but any car so-equipped in the fifties was something special. Find this one here on craigslist out of Novato, California. Thanks goes to Robert J for the tip!


Here is an example of what the project car above may have once looked like. Obviously the color is different, but this appears to the same year and model. This one was a little shabby when it sold back in 2011, but it still went for £16,775. Bristol started out in the aeroplane industry so there are many aviation inspired styling cues here. The fins are an obvious nod to the plane, but there are other aspects of the car that seem more fighter jet than automobile. Can you spot them? You can view more photos here on H&H.


Unfortunately, the seller does not provide enough to determine what all is going on here. Is there an engine in there? Is that crash damage in the back? So many questions to answer, but the price seems right even if it is just to use for parts to save other Bristols. The seller suggests that it could make a great Lemons car. The idea may seem fun, but I truly hope that the next owner appreciates this car for what it was and doesn’t finish destroying it on the track. I’m sure there are plenty of 405 owners out there who would love to get their hands on some spare parts in order to keep their own cars on the road. So, what do you think will happen to it?


  1. steve

    Can’t imagine the engine is still with the car for $500.00 but if it is…..!!!

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  2. Jamie Palmer tr6driver Staff

    I race in LeMons (Austin Powerless Racing, 1975 Austin Marina) and I’d never put a Bristol in there…man, wish this was East Coast!

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  3. Derek F

    This could be the basis of an amazing custom build- the nose is quite interesting in itself.

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  4. Robert J

    If it was a two door, the first picture here would be of it sitting in my driveway. Bristols are very cool cars and we rarely see them here.

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  5. Dan h

    Wow.The hood is worth more than $500. Someone better be on en-route with a car hauler!!

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  6. Dolphin Member

    Forget the Lemons stuff. Not only would this aluminum body be unlikely to stand up well to a Lemons event, but it would be both a real bad way to treat this scarce vintage car and a real stupid way to treat the value in what’s left of this car. I think Dan is right. If the panels are as good as they look in the two photos, there’s a lot more than $500 in this car, even if the trunk surround looks bodged. The seller doesn’t seem to +know much about this car, so I hope someone who does steps up and saves it.

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  7. jim s

    it does need saved. should be sold already but it is not. great find

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  8. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    I emailed the seller yesterday asking for more photos, but never heard back. If anyone actually makes contact with them, please let us know!

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  9. Bryan Cohn

    Not only is this too rare to LeMons, its too cool not too turn into the coolest rat rod of all time.

    Obviously glass and fixing the body are the two big problems, but lets assume both can be solved for less than the GDP of Sri Lanka, maybe a roughed in fix for say $10k.

    The driveline could be huge fun! Think of the possibilities, such a Chevy or Ford Straight 6 w/downdraft or even side draft carbs and a header, or more modern a Ford Essex 2.8 V6 (the engine used in Capri’s and other Fords) or even more modern, a complete driveline from the Merkur XR4Ti. For some reason the Straight 6 is calling to me…..

    Transmission options are many. Since its a GT an automatic is acceptable but it should be a period correct unit. The US built 3 spd used in Jags, Jensen’s and lots of other cars would be perfect in that regard (sorry I cannot for the life of me remember what that trans is named). Or go all mod with a GM or Ford automatic with a lock up torque converter. Add a B&M shifter (minus the ugly shift gate and T handle) so you can use it properly and you have yourself a properly good GT car.

    For a manual the only option really is something like a T5 or T56. I guess you could go old school with a 3 spd that would have been OEM to the Chevy or Ford Straight 6 but that’s just a little too primitive, even for me.

    Things like the seats, interior, door panels, that can all be custom made to the new owners taste. Front seats are off the shelf or a pair of old Recaro’s recovered in period colors. Or not. Rear seating would be made from scratch or fitment of something that was dimensionally close. The dash was just a slice of burl wood or the like, so since this is an American build a nice slice of Redwood would do nicely.

    Sadly all this just came rolling off the top of my head, its not like I had to think long and hard about any of it.

    What is wrong with me? I know there is no cure……. :)

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  10. Julian

    The Bristol 6 cylinder engine is valuable in any condition. It was a BMW engine built under license and went in the AC Ace Bristol the AC Aceca and some AC Greyhounds as an improvement on the old AC engine . Its a good powerful engine and won lots of UK sports car races in the 60s. The engines get grabbed to replace the original AC 6 cylinder engine which wasn’t very pokey and you find some old Bristols with 6 cylinder Vauxhall engines which go well but have no value.

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  11. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Based on the Lemons comment, and that he hasn’t gotten back to any inquiries leads me to believe that this is one of those times where he is thinking:
    “Man, I didn’t know I had such a rare car, I’m getting inquiries from all over the place! I better hold out to see what I really can get this junk just sitting in my back yard.”

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  12. Tritone

    Rest easy people, posting deleted. Should be hearing from the flipper soon enough though!

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  13. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    I just spoke with the seller and he said that someone bought it who is already restoring another Bristol. Sounds like it went to a good home! Hopefully they will check in and give us an update.

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    • Paul

      Does anyone know the new owner or have the prior owners phone number? I might have a couple of pieces for that very car which are of no use to me. Thanks

      thejaws1 “at” sbcglobal “dot” net

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  14. Ken Nelson

    Paul, I bought this 405, as I had very recently acquired a ’64 408 Mk I with the Canadian Chrsler 313 cu. in. V8 and Torqueflite pushbutton automatic in amazingly original running condition, and love the handmade ally bodywork even if the stying isn’t as interesting as the swoopy styling of its predecessors – hence the interest in the 405, and I like that it’s got 4 doors for friends. I bought it as the steel box chassis is in very decent condition for its age, even being exposed outside in N. Ca. for who knows how long. The collapsed area between back glass hole and trunk is not crash damage, but just a downward collapse of the original ally as the wood support for it is gone – it pops right back up when you lift it, and there is no damage to the rear end. I didn’t know at the time that these early cars used a wood body support structure like a Morgan, and the wood is shot, but the body countours are still there and the floorpan only has one small hole in it. As the original engine and trans are near unobtainium and ridiculously expensive, I managed to grab a ’64 3.8 L jag engine, complete with 4 speed and overdrive, which I figure is the closest thing to a proper Brit engine for trying to put this car back on the road. And who needs a a V8, as the Jag should be good for about 250 hp, while the original 6 is only good for near 140. Acording to the Bristol owners club, the 408 is good for 122 mph – not too shabby! I’d be interested in finding out what parts you have as this one is clearly gutted. One good thing is – Bristol hardly changed the dash, steering wheel and other bits from one model to another over the yrs, so some parts are available with some searching. I’m not a flipper – I just enjoy learning about and doing what restoring I can myself in order to own interesting cars. I’ll try your email – thanks!

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