By Rod Ward
In order to explain how the Bristol aircraft firm began to make cars, this book pulls together the stories of a number of iconic characters and companies in British transport history. In 1910 Sir George White set up various companies, including a bus building concern in the City of Bristol, and the firm which became the Bristol Aeroplane Company. This concern produced many successful aircraft, but was expecting a drop in orders for aircraft and aero engines at the end of the Second World War. Wanting a product to fill their factories, Bristol cast around for alternative activities, including car-making. Archie Frazer-Nash made sports cars under his own name, in earlier years having set up GN with H R Godfrey, who later founded HRG with two other partners. Frazer-Nash and Godfrey went on to produce patented aircraft gun turrets. The Aldington family, who took over the Frazer Nash car company from Archie, imported BMW cars in the 1930s, and were able to secure the design of a BMW car and engine for the Bristol Aeroplane Company in 1945 as the basis for a new car. After a short-lived partnership with Bristol, the Aldingtons’ firm, AFN Ltd returned to making Frazer Nash sports cars and importing prestigious German cars. AFN also took over the assets of Invicta, but they didn’t make any Invicta cars. Bristol Cars were built in the aircraft factory for many years, but after the consolidation of the aviation industry in 1960 the car-making side became an independent company, established by the grandson of Sir George White, along with car dealer extraordinaire Anthony Crook. All of these overlapping and interlocking stories are told here. We make no apology for devoting almost half of this publication to companies and car marques which pre-dated the Bristol car company. We need these stories in order to appreciate the heritage of the classic Bristol car. The 21st century saw the Bristol car company go into administration, with little likelihood of production continuing.