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Bristol Type 401 - 2 litre Saloon

Production: 1948 - 1953

The first series of this type was introduced in 1948, and for two years was fabricated alongside the Type 400. First production models were leaving the factory in 1948.
A second series was introduced in 1950.
The third and final series followed in 1951. Production ceased in 1953.

  • 2-door saloon
  • This Type included two Saloon bodies styled by Beutler
  • A Prototype Drophead bodystyle by Beutler
  • A number of Drophead bodies by Farina
  • A number of Saloon bodies by Touring

The Type 401 was the second model produced by the company. It was perhaps the first in which wind tunnel testing was used to develop a body with a drag coefficient (0.392) to rival designs fifty years younger.

Another significant difference from the Type 400 is in the form of construction and material used. It is built on a 'Superleggera' matrix of steel tubes, mounted on the same open 'A' frame steel chassis, but with different outriggers at the rear to accommodate a lower mounted fuel tank.

Further following aircraft construction principles, the body shell is now all aluminium. The doors have wind-down windows, and being larger, it comfortably seats five persons.

The First Series cars are easily identified by a distinctive ridge along the lower edge of the body.

A recognition point of the Type 401 in its original trim was that the front grille inserts were painted black, whilst the surrounds were chromed. Perhaps not knowing this, or preferring to change the specification, some owners have opted for silver-painted inserts (the style adopted for the Type 403) — or even chromed inserts, which was the style adopted by the Factory for the Type 400.

Bristol 401 Wind Tunnel TestingBristol 401 Wind Tunnel Testing
Shortly before the 1950 Motor Show, well after the introduction of the 401, Bristol issued this picture of smoke tests in the Bristol University wind tunnel. Note how the roof line and the shape of the windscreen differ from those of the production 401....
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Farina DropheadFarina Drophead
Production: 1947 - 1948
In about 1947-8, a number of Type 400 driven chassis were sent to Stablimenti Farina in Italy, where various design exercises were carried out....
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Touring Superleggera SaloonTouring Superleggera Saloon
As with other special design exercises being evaluated, a number of Touring Saloons were built upon early chassis. Importantly, these were delivered during the development period of the Type 401 Saloon....
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Beutler SaloonBeutler Saloon
This particular car, with its chassis plated as a Type 401, is fitted with Saloon Coachwork by Gebr. Beutler AG of Thun, Switzerland. Two such cars were created and were originally painted in two tone fashion, one having a black roof and white or ivory coloured body, and the other a white or ivory roof and black body....
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