Bristol 450 Le Mans Two-seat Sports Car @ Bonhams Goodwood Auction

Bristol 450 Le Mans Two-seat Sports Car @ Bonhams Goodwood Auction

1954 Bristol 450 Le Mans Two-seat Sports Car World Championship-Racing Aerodyne Coupé Recreation   -  Estimate: £140,000 - £240,000

Goodwood Members' Meeting Auction - Goodwood, UK  -  14 April, 2024

Registration no. SIB 450
Chassis no. 406/5362
Engine no. 1192

• Astonishing twin-finned type 450 Coupé recreation
• Construction costs in excess of £270,000
• Last used in competition at Silverstone in 2021 FISCAR
• Beautifully presented with restoration invoices available
• Winner in The Le Mans 24 hour Legends Class of the Special Jury Endurance Prize in the 2022 Art et élégance à Chantilly

Any car-mad schoolboy of the early 1950s would have coveted the contemporary Dinky Toy model of this breathtakingly futuristic-looking aerodynamic Le Mans racing Coupé. At the 1954 edition of the renowned day-long French endurance race, the British factory team of three such Bristol 450s purred past the chequered flag to finish first, second and third in their 2-litre Category, and 7-8-9 overall. They were led home on distance completed only by one 3-litre class car, three 5-litres and two 8-litre runners...confirming just how much reliable efficiency had been hand-crafted into these space-age looking cars by the car division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The 1954-season works Coupés also did battle in that year's Reims 12-Hour race, and again finished in line-astern team order, on this occasion second, third and fourth in the 2-litre class and 10-11-12 overall.

Back again at Le Mans for the 1955 24-Hour challenge, the revised and updated team of Bristol 450C cars repeated their 1-2-3 clean sweep of the 2-litre class, and again took the chequered flag 7-8-9 overall.

In effect these identical back-to-back clean sweep results at Le Mans – in the world's most coveted endurance racing classic - represented 'mission accomplished' as far as the Bristol company's management was concerned, and, even though not involved in the disastrous accident during that 1955 race which causing so many spectator fatalities, the marque withdrew from further racing involvement thereafter. Only one open-bodied 450 model survived the general dismantle-and-scrap decision that followed, so every one of the original sleek, twin-finned Coupé cars was broken up – and hence became long lost to posterity.

However, here Bonhams proudly offers this magnificently hand-crafted recreation Bristol 450 Le Mans, assembled from a rare combination of original and reproduction components and beautifully bodied in the historic former factory team's most sophisticated streamlined form.

Enthusiastic French Bristol 404 owner Olivier Boré master-minded this extraordinary project, and as quoted in a 2022 'Classic & Sportscar' magazine article on it he explained:
"Initially, I was looking for an aerodynamic car...and I've always been fascinated by this kind of streamliner, like the Bugatti Atlantic. But the cars that appealed to me were either impossible to find or too costly.

The idea of recreating a coupé slowly germinated in Boré's mind, and he commissioned Andrew Mitchell of Wiltshire-based Bristol and coachwork specialist Mitchell Motors to consider such a project.

"Andrew found a 406 chassis that was close to that of the late-1953 development mule," then sought a rare team-type '12-pipe' 6-cylinder Bristol engine, so named because it could accept three twin-choke carburettors instead of the single-choke Solexes of the touring version. Amazingly the quest proved successful, and the power unit was rebuilt close to original specification. No Le Mans-type transaxle gearbox could be found, so a 4-speed Bristol gearbox with overdrive was adopted, mounting in unit with the engine. Disc brakes were adopted instead of Alfin drums, and the advanced cast-alloy wheels were painstakingly remanufactured.
After tremendous, and ingenious, research and 3D digital imaging the supremely elegant and visually startling aerodynamic bodywork was recreated over a two-year period, hand-crafted again in aluminium and finished in the closest possible shade of 'grass green' to the 1954-55 original.

The curved Plexiglas windows were remade and the windscreen recut from an MGB original – risky operation in itself which saw two screens shatter before the third survived and was thankfully mounted within the new bodyshell.

Every aspect of the car's reproduction was conducted with painstaking attention to detail. Olivier Boré unearthed various artefacts from Bristol's racing programme, including the 1954 Le Mans trophy they won, an engraved mug and even the original steering wheel from the car driven by their most prominent driver (at the time), Jack Fairman. In fact for the 1955 race Bristol's reserve driver was an ambitious Australian newcomer – named Jack Brabham, later three-time Formula 1 World Champion, no less. Other original ex-team components embodied include the rev counter and speedometer, provided by the late Jack Fairman and also included within this Lot are his personal Driver pin (1953-1954 Le Mans, his autograph with portrait, the original 1954 Le Mans pewter tankard (Bristol Team), and his driver armband. Also included are an original 1954 Le Mans programme autographed by no less than race-winning Ferrari works driver José Froilan Gonzalèz), plus original 1954 photographs, a large colour engraving showing the Bristol 450 and autographs of Jack Fairman and the Bristol team.

Acquiring the steering wheel from Jack Fairman decided M. Boré to adopt upon the car race number '33', that of Fairman and Tommy Wisdom's works entry in the 1954 race. He also added the St Christopher medal now fixed to this car's dashboard which belonged to prominent racing driver/dealer Tony Crook, the Bristol agent who took over the marque in 1973. The car is accompanied today by a sizable document collection including original invoices for construction costs, totalling £273,635,40 "for the total restoration of the Bristol 450".

This unique and supremely attractive aerodyne's active debut followed at Goodwood 2021, in a Bentley meeting at which it proved an absolutely riveting attraction. M. Boré also entered the car at Silverstone that August and at Castle Combe, before displaying it at the Paris Retromobile exhibition at which it headlined... It was also displayed at the highly regarded Art et élégance à Chantilly in 2022 featuring in the Le Mans Legends class, and winning the Special Jury Endurance Prize

A blast around the Le Mans circuit followed and at Montlhéry highly respected French writer Serge Cordey drove it, reporting how: "...the race-spec straight-six starts with a thunderous noise and, after a 68-year wait, the Bristol tiptoes out onto the historic circuit... once up into fourth, a small switch on the dash allows you to flick in and out of overdrive.

"The steering becomes lighter but remains precise as the pace increases. Attacking the banked turns, it tracks to the millimetre and holds its line faithfully. The overall feeling is of a stable and balanced true to the original that it's easy to imagine the drivers in period enjoying much the same sensations.
"For its owner, and all those who see the reborn 450 Le Mans, its extraordinary form is a key part of the accomplishment...what imaginative engineers could create at a time when the science of aerodynamics was still in its infancy."

Right here – right now – we offer this mouth-watering recreation of that startlingly futuristic early-1950s design – which we most emphatically recommend to the market. It would be wonderful to see the car grace further competition grids, paying homage to the original cars which no longer exist. Built at significant expense this is arguably as close to the real 450LM Coupe than anyone will ever get. Offered from a significant Bristol connoisseurs collection this is a car for the cognoscenti.

Interested parties should note that this Lot is sold with race equipment including: rims, tyres , roll bars, harness, cameras, circuit lap counters which will be available for collection at the buyers expense from marque specialist Andew Mitchell workshop in Wiltshire. FIA HTP papers should be applied for by the new owner.

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