Why AROnline needs to buy Bristol Cars

Keith Adams  

Bristol Fighter

Bristol Fighter: With your help, we can introduce the AROnline edition.

Okay, so we have a week or so to get our bids in for Bristol Cars and help save it from a horrific break-up. Back in 2000, John Towers and his chums stumped up some pin money and sweet talked BMW into selling Rover for the nominal sum of £10. We know that ended up in heartache, but we also know that given a few more pragmatic decisions, it could have worked…  

Today, Bristol Cars is in an even more perilous position. The Administrators are looking to break up the company and sell its component parts to the highest bidder – no doubt with a number of souvenir hunters looking to pick over the carcass of a once great company, leaving great swathes of it up for auction in an undignified fire sale.  

For me, that is a fate that should never befall a company as important as Bristol Cars. The cars remain beautifully-built reminders of a manufacturer that took quality to a new level and tailored its cars to a tasteful clientèle which new exactly what it wanted from its cars. Bristol was forward thinking, too – it produced LPG powered cars from 1976 and embraced turbocharging in 1982. Unlike Bentley and Aston Martin, Bristol would only sell its cars to suitable patrons, denying ‘celebrities’ their chance to own one of these glorious anachronisms. Marvellous…  

That’s why I’m looking to launch the AROnline Bristol Cars rescue plan in the hope that together we can stop it sinking into oblivion. We just need to obtain financial backing to underwrite my business plan so the company can live and we can continue building these Great British luxury cars.  

Let’s save the company and ensure that the Fighter and Speedster live on for future generations of buyers to enjoy.  

AROnline‘s Bristol Cars Recovery Plan  

A clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the marque will be essential in order to ensure that the Bristol Cars’ business can flourish in the future.  

Strengths  

1) Quality – the cars are built to aviation standards, and are envied around the world for this.
2) Individuality – Bristol Cars are bespoke built for hand-picked and faithful customers
3) Engineering – Conventional powertrains sourced from the USA, all available with LPG.
4) Customers – Bristol customers know what they want, and the company delivers this.
5) Reputation – Bristol Cars is an established marque known across the world.  

Weaknesses  

1) Style and design – Bristol Cars’ current model line-up not designed to attract new customers.
2) Distribution – it’s Kensington or nothing.
3) International presence – European and RoW buyers either don’t know or understand Bristol.  

Bristol Cars is effectively split into two separate entities: the well-known Kensington showroom and the production/restoration plant in Bristol. AROnline‘s plan to revitalise and focus Bristol’s business is to transfer all of Filton’s new car manufacturing into the restoration business and close the West Kensington premises.  

Initially, new car production will be suspended, with all new business to be concentrated on the restoration of classic Bristols, which is a thriving and profitable business. New Fighters will be made only to order, following the completion of existing orders, and the Speedster and Blenheim will be immediately discontinued pending an analysis of future potential sales – and development of an all-new hybrid luxury car.  

We will be approaching Trevor J Binyon and Thomas C Maclennan of RSM Tenon Recovery, the  Joint Administrators of Bristol Cars Limited, with our business proposal to co-operatively take posssession of the Bristol Cars business once we have received satisfactory backing from a number of high-profile investors, who value the continued production of British luxury cars by a wholly British-owned company.  

Leave your feedback or get in touch if you’d like to know more information.

Posted in: AROnline Blogs
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

55 Comments on "Why AROnline needs to buy Bristol Cars"

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  1. Magnus says:

    Ooh dear, it’s a bit empty in this thread, Keith – I wonder why?! Perhaps there’s a recession on…

    I fear the single most valuable asset left at Bristol is the property value of their High Street Kensington showroom.

    However, as I wrote elsewhere, anyone who has a few million and is bonkers enough to take on Bristol could do worse than adopt the design of the Bertone/Jaguar B99.

  2. Wilko says:

    I thought you were joking on the forum Keith!

    I’d definitely invest if I had the cash. Sadly, I don’t quite have the resources of the Duncan Bannatynes of this world (yet). Mind you, if we can get it Phoenix-style for a tenner though…

  3. Simon Woodward says:

    Well, in a word Jensen and in another AC…

    OK, sod it you only live once, it’s worth a punt, yes I’m in!

  4. Rhyds says:

    What amazes me is how Bristol lasted as long as it did. There is no argument that the cars are well-engineered and built but, if you were going to spend the kind of money Bristol were charging, you’d expect such trivialities as styling to be reasonably spot on. It seems that many owners actually went for the classic models and Bristol were unbeatable in their support for their older models. Surely, if any part of the business can make a go of it, that is the one.

  5. Jack Yan Jack Yan says:

    Put me down as the marketing and branding strategist!

  6. Simon Woodward says:

    Jack Yan :
    Put me down as the marketing and branding strategist!

    I’ll make the tea and wooden dashboards.

  7. Jonathan Carling Jonathan Carling says:

    Is there any chance of a dowry including several hundred thoudand pounds’ worth of unsold cars, in return for the £10 investment? If so, I might be in. Otherwise, I’ll just have to offer good luck on this one.

  8. Simon Woodward says:

    You could start a fundraiser on AROnline’s Facebook page – that needs livening up a bit!

  9. Andrew Elphick says:

    Keith, this is what Nick Mason and his chums should be investing their money in (Nick is the figurehead of a car investment portfolio which is not quite in keeping with the classic car ethos…). Keep the Service Department, get Filton to knock out twenty sets of body/ chassis for the Fighter, shut Filton, then move the Service Department to a Slough Trading Estate (half an hour from the Kensington High Street showroom) and become a Red Triangle-type outfit.

    Who’s in? I’m giving Tony his momentoes back too…

  10. Tony says:

    Well, if I had the money I would go for it. Any chance of Bristol being sold for £10 then?

  11. Simon Woodward says:

    Well, 931 AROnline Facebook members x £10.00 = £9310. That’s a start… After all, a tenner’s only a round of three pints!

  12. John Towers says:

    Can I look after the Pension Fund?

  13. Wilko says:

    Simon Woodward :
    Well, 931 AROnline Facebook members x £10.00 = £9310. That’s a start… After all, a tenner’s only a round of three pints!

    Never mind that – according to Keith’s boast on the forum the other night, AROnline had 188,403 unique users in February. That’s a lot of tenners…

  14. Keith B says:

    I’m in for a tenner!

  15. Keith B says:

    @John Towers
    Yes, of course John!

  16. Lord Sward says:

    Cor Keith, what an idea. Sadly, a few of us tried to buy the remains of MG-Rover back in 2005 and it proved fruitless, despite a lot of us pledging hard cash.

    I have been doing some digging on the idea, but it appears that the Fighter has never turned a penny profit going by how intensive the (high quality) manufacture is. The man hours in the body is staggering and every switch costs over £60 to manufacture. Sadly, I feel Bristol Cars’ days as a viable concern are over. It really, desperately pains me to say that.

    Still, I’m the man who only played the lottery (heavily) when Beans/Reliant went under so I could use my lottery win to save the Reliant Robin.

  17. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Now here’s a serious idea: seeing how well the new Morgan’s doing, now is perhaps the time for a BOND BUG revival…

    /K

  18. Ajax Soixantedix says:

    @Keith Adams
    I think you might be right there, Keith – but why stop with a simple revival?

    A thought occurred to me while watching a recent repeat of the Wheeler Dealers episode featuring a Bond Bug: given the problems of the environment, congestion, peak oil, the economy, etc. compromising personal mobility, small light cars are becoming increasingly relevant. Cars like the Bug are an answer to such problems, especially in an increasingly urbanised future. What better car, therefore, to symbolise and lead a resurgent ‘Cool – and green – Britannia’ than an ELECTRIC 21st Century Bond Bug! Possibly even with a fourth wheel…

    Perhaps the Bond Bug was more ahead of its time than even Tom Karen realised! How about an electric Bond Bug going head-to-head with Renault’s Twizy?

  19. James C says:

    Hi, what sort of numbers are we talking in order to bankroll this idea? Any numbers would have to include enough for future investment etc.

  20. Ryan says:

    Oh my god… Well, I hope that this comes about for you mate. I just worry what kind of mess you will inherit if you do manage to get hold of the company.

    Unfortunately, I am at the stage of needing to borrow money to put petrol in the car so I can’t invest… Unless, of course, it was just a tenner.

    However, I do have time on my hands and a car on the driveway not doing a lot so, if you need any help at all or need somone to do some running about or somthing, then please don’t think twice about getting in touch – I would love to help out.

    Apart from that, all I can say is good luck!

  21. Marty B says:

    Keith have you been drinking fuel additive again? LOL

    I, for one, am amazed Bristol has lasted this long. It is another name that will be added to the long list of former British car makers.

    I say R.I.P Bristol.

  22. Darren, Lancs says:

    I’m not sure quite how serious you are Keith, but if every AROnline reader put £10 into your plan, approximately how much would that raise?

  23. WarrenL says:

    I agree with Marty but, for what it’s worth I’ll put up a tenner, and damn the exchange rate!

  24. Will says:

    How about a Bertone B99 body but with a Tesla/Honda Insight drivetrain?

  25. Andrew Elphick says:

    @Will
    Tesla are launching there own super saloon – just don’t go comparing its aluminium monocoque with the Rapide and a tape measure…

  26. Sam Skelton says:

    Keith, if there’s any chance of us saving Bristol count me in.

  27. Rob says:

    It’s a nice thought but a tad unrealistic. Anyone picking up a company for a tenner would normally be expected to have to take on its debts and other liabilities, which is a major undertaking. Anyway, unless you are buying it from a bankrupt position (the step after administration has failed), this is unlikely to happen.

  28. Dolomite Fan says:

    The real sadness is the loss of the skill the chaps and chappesses have at Bristol – relagated to a bygone era. I’d love to see Bristol Cars survive if only in a form to support the classics.

  29. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    I’m off to see my Bank Manager tomorrow and talk about extending my overdraft to £2m. We’ll see. 🙂

    /K

  30. Marty B says:

    Your Bank Manager will smile politely, nod a few times and then get his secretary to bring in the extra large white coat with the very long sleeves and buckles in the back. LOLOL

    Sadly, Bristol Cars is going the same way as Bristol buses – into the vaults of history.

  31. Keith, I’m glad to see that someone else is also so troubled by the passing of Bristol.

    You would need to consolidate the classic part of the business, flog off the Kensington showroom and invest the cash into Patchway. The V8s are a dead-end.

    Oh, and if you need a wheel man for the bank job, I can usually be found staring moist-eyed at Filton’s neglected Great White Bird.

  32. DaveH says:

    Buy a Euromillions ticket and cross your fingers…

  33. Marty B says:

    @DaveH
    I hear the jackpot this week is £117 million… Hmmmmm!

  34. Andrew Elphick says:

    @Keith Adams
    You’re doubling your overdraft?

  35. Johnos1984 says:

    Keith, if this goes serious give me an email with more details. A shrewd investor reviews the Business Plan first.

  36. Barney Crozier says:

    Worth asking Charlie Hungerford – sounds right up his street.

  37. Dandelion and Burdock says:

    W had plans to use our pension lump sum to buy a brand new Bristol when we finally throw in the towel – the company has to survive. We don’t know if we have anything to offer but we’d like to help in any way we can.

  38. Jack Yan Jack Yan says:

    Keith, I like your plan and it makes perfect sense. I’m still on board.

  39. Rob says:

    What plan?

  40. Andrew Elphick says:

    I’m not getting on no damn helicopter!

  41. Richard Kilpatrick Richard Kilpatrick says:

    I am very interested – it’s a shame I don’t really have the cash to throw at something like that.

    Don’t kill off the old ones though. One of the things that appeals to me about them is the slim pillared, airy glasshouse and efficient (by modern standards) body design. Make them look a bit classier, get rid of some of the determinedly “we must soften this for the 1990s” styling changes, but don’t kill the car off.

  42. Dominic Burgess says:

    I love the idea and would gladly put my tenner in – if you ditch the hypocritical and utterly useless hybrid idea. Why not swap it for a silky smooth V12 diesel designed to run on biofuel or a bioethanol engine. That would keep the eco-hippies happy and cut down on real pollution.

  43. Simon says:

    Bristols are lovely cars, but only the classics. I had a 411 until only a few weeks ago, which was a beauty to drive (when it worked) and a stunner to look at. Fabulous visibility by modern standards. The downside? 17mpg. Sad to say, but I don’t think Bristol can survive in any shape or form without a massive cash injection to develop better styled modern cars and to make the most of better engines.

    I suspect that a break up is the only viable option for creditors as who in their right mind would pay for the assets as a going concern and then have to put in millions more? The business might survive if split: profitable restoration/repairs and unprofitable new cars. Making and selling 20 cars a year (as reports have it) is a pretty low base for a new start.

  44. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Offers to be in by 17.00 today!

  45. Marius van Boven says:

    AROnline‘s Bristol Cars Recovery Plan absolutely makes sense. Bristol has a clearer, identified history than Mr Antonov’s Spyker. The Fighter T is a state of the art piece of craftsmanship that’s more powerful and torquey than anything else in the world. Think of it as a modern day Alvis and ‘James Bond’ Aston Martin DB5. Kept updated, it could very well attract a larger, more vulgar, jewellery rattling, Rolls Royce and Bentley driving clientele. The Bristol brand could complement De Tomaso on their way to become the Italian Aston Martin.

  46. MG Mal says:

    Have we spoken to Mr Branson yet, Keith?.

    I’m pretty sure that, after losing out on Concorde, he may well be willing to go over the plans and see if it’s worth his backing.

    Maybe even the “Ginger Winger” himself (Mr Evans) would like a piece of the action, especially as he has a large car collection and I don’t think he has Bristol as yet?.

  47. Dan says:

    I’m in for a tenner for the following reasons:

    1) Faint praise I know, but you can’t do worse than the Towers’ “let’s spend the lolly on a jolly” consortium.

    2) Like Marks and Sparks until only recently, Bristol never advertised their wares but why, oh why, oh why (alright) on earth not? Seemingly from a strange and dated inexplicably British stand-offishness but the product ticks every box as a premium brand – it’s hand-built, distinctive and has genuine provenance. The Russian oligarchs and thousands of rich Chinese absolutely love all that “olde Englishness” in spades. Not to labour the point, but Astons have taken off worldwide as a luxury brand… The well-off worldwide would adore Bristols.

    3) Out of sheer bloody-minded Socialist support for British manufacturing industry which asset-strippers, hedge fund traders, multinationals and money launderers have been free to suck the blood out of for some 20 years, UNLIKE in many other developed capitalist countries. Chris Mullin MP recently confirmed there was NO manufacturing industry policy during Nu Labour and BA won’t even buy the Airbus A380 whose wings are made in Wales -yet even Ted Heath, that well-known, sandal-wearing Communist, nationalised Rolls Royce.

  48. Dan says:

    Oops… The wings for the A380 are made in Filton as well as Broughton. That kind of makes the same point as above but even more strongly.

  49. JohnH says:

    Put me down as I’ve only just came across this.

    Bristol Cars, to be honest, needs a new car built to the same standards but with next generation technology (electric/hybrid) – although, presumably, the parts/service division would still generate cashflow.

    Sadly, without a few million to offer Lotus for some design help, I’m not that hopeful. Bristol was just too obscure for too long to mean a lot to the general public…

  50. Chris Sawyer says:

    There are a couple of ways you could do this, but only if the Bristol was to be a bespoke, ultra-low volume vehicle. The first is to borrow the idea Warren Mosler uses on his current GT car:

    1) Build the chassis from Teclam, a composite better known as the floor surface on most modern jetliners, bonded and riveted, and

    2) Design the whole thing in CAD and use a fibre composite body structure also designed “in the tube” so to speak. Dave McLellan, the former Chief Engineer for the Corvette, did this for Mosler with a very small group of people and the first prototype came together as planned without the need for a series of pre-build prototypes to check for fit and finish. (Remember: Hand-work equals money.)

    The other idea borrows from BMW’s iSeries cars. They are to be built using an aluminum rolling chassis to which a carbon-fibre upper structure is attached. My guess is that the width and length can be changed by altering the rolling chassis’ extrusions, but most of the pieces will be common, whether front- or rear-drive. (It’s possible and BMW has been playing with this concept in various forms since the Z-22.)

    The carbon-fibre passenger cell can be formed around a foam core, giving better sound absorption performance or a specially formed “balloon” that creates a central void when deflated after the carbon fiber cures. Both reduce the amount of carbon fiber necessary, though the foam-filled one would probably be quieter on the road.

    Go for simple and luxurious inside and you don’t need to build a lot of buttons to aircraft specs. Actually, you could use Delphi’s new “infotainment” system which uses the owner’s smartphone as the centerpiece for navigation, radio, etc. via approved apps – there’d be no need then for a built-in navigation system, radio or other electronic devices. Cost to manufacture would drop, especially if companies like Delphi were encouraged to support vehicles like this as technology demonstrators for the public and mainstream automakers.

    Make the cars something people long for in looks and in image. Tag line for the ads could read: “Everyone wants it. Few can have it. Be one of the few.” It would appeal to every narcissistic prat with money, whether an actor/actress, business tycoon or scion from the “lucky sperm club” who was born into money.

    I’d steer away from Chrysler or GM V8s simply because they are pushrod motors. Drop the new Ford 5.0-liter V8 into place (about $7,000 with six-speed Getrag manual gearbox) and offer different performance levels. Rely on light weight not outrageous power. Oh, and don’t forget to offer an automatic gearbox for the vast majority of “shiftless” buyers.

    The biggest costs would come in development, making certain everything worked as advertised. Unfortunately, I know of no global database that provides the specs and dimensions of various subsystems (heating, air conditioning, brakes, steering, suspension, etc.) utilized by major manufacturers that could be slotted into place. Such a database would be very helpful for projects like this and would cut costs dramatically.

    Finally, if a hybrid is felt necessary, be cheap about it. Use an electric motor and torque-vectoring differential on the non-drive wheels to give 5-10 miles of battery-only driving at in-city speeds. (The batteries can be carried in the floor toward the middle of the car for the best centre of gravity.) At all other times this system is used to keep the vehicle on-path and add torque. Think of it as enhanced traction/vehicle stability control…

    It’s fun to dream, isn’t it?

  51. @Chris Sawyer
    Well, that plan strikes me as being pretty thoroughly thought through – perhaps we should put you in touch with whoever the successful bidders turn out to be! 🙂

  52. Dr Richard Croft says:

    Fin.

  53. Andrew-P AndrewP says:

    I would be pleased to help in any way I can as a procurement and property specialist.

    One more thought: the Fighter would sell a storm in the UAE – how about an Abu Dhabi dealership?

  54. michael says:

    Keith, Have you thought of knocking on Mr Abramavitch’s door? He might be getting bored with footy & he’s only round the corner.

    It’s a worthy cause & I wish you the very best, but include me out!!

  55. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    Put me in for £ 100. That B99 is a very good looking car, the idea of the Mustang V8 is good, can be tweecked indefinitely as per MGR knew back then, it will need some hybrid input, it’s fashionable, just stick two electric motors in the front wheels, might help get up in the Manor’s snowy driveway!!! Sales dept would have to loan one to Kate and be a more opened to general public with plenty ££££. Anyone else to up the ante to £100?

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