1958-1961 Bristol 406
The Bristol 406 is a five-seater saloon produced from 1958 to 1961.
The 406 was the final Bristol to use a BMW-based S6 OHV engine, although this was now enlarged to 2.2 litres. There was new 2-door steel-framed alloy-bodied coachwork, servo-assisted Dunlop disc braking on all four wheels and in place of the A-bracket of previous models, a Watts linkage for the rear suspension – a first. The rack-and-pinion steering and front transverse leaf springs and anti-roll bar remained the same as on the Bristol 405.
The Bristol 406 premiered at Earls Court in the autumn of 1957 with a body by the Swiss coachbuilder Beutler; there were plans for this to enter production but it was ultimately decided that the quality was not to Bristol's standards. In the following year, the 406 sported in-house styling which was 'designed to meet the exacting requirements of the mature enthusiast' - although said enthusiast would have to be pretty affluent to afford £4.494 17s back in October 1958. There was much interest in how the engine's bore and stroke had been increased, resulting in the same power – 105 bhp – as on the 405 but more torque and improved acceleration – 0-60 in 13 seconds. The styling made the 406 look contemporary without comprising its status as a Bristol, the top speed was 107 mph and overdrive, front head restraints and electric washers were standard equipment.
In 1959 Anthony Crook, then Bristol's largest dealer and the UK concessionaire for Zagato, commissioned the 406Z, which was five inches lower and nearly a foot shorter than the 406 - and weighed almost 600lbs less. 'The Bristol Zagato Grand Touring model is designed to cater for those who desire an even faster car than the standard type 406 saloon' stated the company and indeed the 406Z was fitted with a modified 130bhp engine that produced a top speed of 125 mph.
After the collaboration agreement between the Bristol Aeroplane Company and the Hawker Siddeley Group, a prototype 406 powered by the 3-litre engine from the Star Sapphire (q.v.) was made in 1959; happily, it survives. In 1960 Bristol made two short-chassis 406s, one with a factory body and the other with Zagato three-door coachwork.
The 407 replaced the 406 in October 1961.
Power for the 406 was from the 'Type 110' 2,216cc engine with a four-speed all synchromesh gearbox and Laycock de Normanville overdrive.
The 406 was the last Bristol to convey a sense of 1930s BMWs. It may have lacked the engine capacity of its rivals but it came with a unique form of integrity. It remains a practical Grand Tourer that still provides 'Dignified travelling for four six-feet persons'.
The s wheel arches and spare wheel floor of the 406 are the points of the body where steel and aluminium meet so special attention should be paid to these areas. The engine's aluminium head is known to corrode.
The last six-cylinder Bristol and the first with a body that the company would use for more than two decades. For many enthusiasts, this is a very beguiling combination.
The Bristol 406 might have been considered instead of the Jensen 541R or 541S, the AC Greyhound, the Jaguar XK150 coupe, the Aston Martin DB4 or the Bentley S1/S2 Continental.
|Year||Make||Model||Submodel||Body Type||Average value|
|1958||Bristol||406||Base||2dr Saloon||£ 18,800 30,700 40,600 62,600|
|1958||Bristol||406||Zagato||2dr Saloon||£ 63,200 103,400 139,100 178,500|