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Bristol 450 team racing cars (1953 - 1955)
our thanks to the Bristol owners club


To Bristol aficionados, the most important of these development projects is the Type 450. The Company Team Racing cars were fabricated for the seasons of 1953 to 1955 inclusive, and contested top ranking endurance events in the 2 litre class – at the Le Mans (24 hours) race and at the Rheims (12 hours) race, often achieving wins in their Class and also winning Team prizes.

In 1953 the first series was introduced – a rather ungainly twin-finned fixed head coupé style, with lights attached almost as an afterthought to the surface of the body. Many engineering and aerodynamic lessons were learned.

By 1954 the body shape had been refined, the twin tail fins toned down and a smoother look, lights fared into the body, though the design was still a closed saloon.

1955 saw the final version take the track. The roof with its twin fins had been removed, creating an open top car with a single fin projecting behind the driver's position and extending to the rear of the car, not unlike the Jaguar D-type. The car has outboard disc brakes at the front, inboard rear disc brakes and gearbox at the rear, with wheel hubs designed to allow replacement of drive shafts without removing the wheels and brake assemblies. Speedy Wheel Rim and Tyre switches were made possible at the pits using a multi-barrelled powered spanner designed by the Bristol Engineering Workshops — which removed all of the wheel nuts at once, retained them whilst the rims plus tyres were switched, then ran up all of the nuts on to their threads simultaneously, applying the correct amount of torque. The spanner was reported to be a bit heavy to handle but ran like a Swiss Watch. The engine was fitted with a six port cylinder head fully gas flow treated and the Carburetors were fitted with Kemish Straighteners to improve the entry air velocity as well. It was reported to have achieved a top speed, on the Mulsanne straight, of nearly 150 mph (240+ kph).

Rear detail of 450 Le Mans Team car

After the horrendous Levegh crash at the 1955 Le Mans, despite not having been involved in the accident, and continuing on to win their Class finishing in line astern formation 1-2-3 as they took the chequered flag, the company decided not to continue racing their cars, believing, perhaps rightly, that it presented the wrong image to their customers.

Only one of these cars survives. Its companions were deliberately dismantled at the factory so they would not fall into unscrupulous hands and dishonour the name. The sole survivor was kept for many years by the Owner (and Managing Director) of Bristol Cars Ltd, that well known and acclaimed post WW2 racing driver Anthony Crook. In the early 90s, this unique piece of British motor racing heritage passed into the hands of a long time Bristol enthusiast, competitor and collector. It is kept well maintained, in good order, and is still occasionally displayed in road and selected track events. Naturally its very high gearing does not lend itself to effective use in competition in today's short track Historic Racing events.