1956 AC Bristol

I bought this car over the Internet from a dealer in Vancouver, B. C.(FHBOB@aol.com). What does FH stand for? "Fairly honest" according to Bob. New, it went ot a guy in Argentina, then to Germany and then to the Channel Islands and then wound up in Vancouver, B. C.

Definitely a classic and a very pretty machine but what a blacksmith job. God, these old cars are simple. A welder, drill presss and lathe, and you could replicate any mechanical part on the thing. So far, I have rewired the car and procured a proper steering wheel for it. Also completely rebuilt the braking system with the correct size wheel cylinders and rebushed the suspension.

Other people's restorations are interesting. This car has superb bodywork and a very nice paint job. The frame is straight and the engine sounds good. Someone spent beaucoup bucks on the restoration and then stopped when they got to nickle dime stuff. The wiring was your usual three color auto store wire spool special with crimp on ends. It was very neatly done but, come on, a Bosch regulator on an AC? New bearings had been put in the rear end but not greased. Some steel shim stock, instead of proper bronze thrust washers, was used to clearance front and rear suspension and kingpins. Wheel cylinders were an interesting mix of sizes. Why go cheapo on nickle dime stuff when you have already spent major bucks? I suspect chronic financial shorts or a PO'ed wife.

Driving the car gives you a respect for the advances in automobiles in the 40 years or so since it was born. It is a little bit trucklike but not intolerable. The engine is only 2.0 litres and is very highly tuned so it doesn't like traffic and will heat up and go all fluffy on you. You need to rev the snot out of it to make any real progress. The transmission is a delight. Made by the Bristol aircraft company and definitely build to aircraft standards-crisp, quiet and quick. The car weight about 1,600 pounds and the engine peaks at about 125hp so, you don't have to worry about whiplash. However, assuming you let the engine rev, performance is satisfying.

It sits on skinny tires and is fairly neutral so can be drifted fairly easily and at fairly low velocities(about all I am capable of anymore). Bristols were the hot ticket in SCCA racing in the mid to late 50s. Won their class several years in a row. This pedigree is impressive but, this car may be more a looker than a driver now.

I do need to tell you of one evening when this car really impressed me. Last Summer I had the car in Seattle for a Weekend rally. The rally finished about 100 miles North of Seattle on a Sunday afternoon. My son and I drove it back to Seattle to pick up his car and then I was going to drive the AC to the Peninsula and the garage. It was quite hot that day and the car was overheating and fouling out in the Downtown traffic so I decided to hang around Seattle till after dark and drive it home then.

So, about 9:00pm, I started off for the Peninsula, about an 80 mile drive on I-5 and then State Route 16. I took the back roads out of Seattle and in about 20 miles, was tooling along pretty deserted, tree bordered secondary roads. Temperature cooled down and the AC felt fine. Got to Tacoma and couldn't bear to get on the freeway again so I stayed on the back roads. What a drive!. Temperature just right for shirt sleeves. The lovely rump, rump sound of a cammy six. Cool breeze in your face and the instrument lights providing the illumination in the cockpit. The only sounds you hear are the drone of the exhaust, a nice whirr from the tranny and the hiss of the tires on the blacktop. Cool! Throttle up for a corner and the exhaust note deepens and the tires start to squall. Coast up to a stoplight and she sits there rump, rumping away. Bust away from the light and take her up to 5,700 in first and second and the old girl picks up her skirts for you. Pull off on a layby. Switch off and you just hear the tinkling sound of metal contracting plus a little smell of oil. God, what a drive-took me hours to get home-late for work the next day. What was that line in the movie "Gumball Rally"? -"God bless the internal combustion engine and wind in your face."

I think I'll keep the old girl.

I have loaded a few more pictures of the AC. If you would like to view a picture from the left rear of the car, click here.

If you would like to view a picture of the Bristol engine, click here.

If you would like to view a picture of the interior, click here.