Bristol Cars collapses into administration (2011)

Published: 04 March 2011

Bristol Cars has collapsed into administration, it emerged overnight. The curio car maker from Bristol just couldn't make ends meet as sales dried up and the company's directors were forced to call in the administrators when it couldn't afford to keep the business alive.

Recovery specialists RSM Tenon are handling the administration and hope to find a buyer for Bristol as a going concern. Cars will still be sold and serviced during the process, but a spokesman confirmed that all 20 jobs had already been lost at the Bristol factory, as well as two of the seven in the London showroom.

Chairman of Bristol Cars Toby Silverton said: 'It has not been possible for the company to continue to trade in its present structure and, while the decision has been taken regretfully, I am confident that a future for the business will be found.'

Bristol Cars: a potted history

Bristol was founded post-war as the Bristol Aeroplane Company sought to stay afloat in peacetime. It teamed up with AFN which made Frazer Nash sports cars, but the company that became Bristol Cars kept its links to aircraft manufacturing throughout its 65 years, with simple aluminium construction and names such as Fighter. Staple models such as the Blenheim have barely changed over the decades.

CAR Magazine has long held an affection for the quirky British specialist. LJK Setright was a fan of Bristols for many years and only last year Chris Chilton wrote a feature in CAR Magazine visiting the service centre in Chiswick, west London. He found a dusty workshop as far removed from the Porsche Centre over the A4 as is possible to imagine. Bristol truly was a car maker from another generation, and that proved an enduring appeal for a small number of fans who lapped up the exclusivity and clubby atmosphere of their handcrafted luxury cars.

The men who ran Bristol

From 1960 the company was run by car-loving eccentric Tony Crook. In a former job in London, he would drive past me each day down Kingston Hill in an imperious Blenheim on his way to work. My head would turn every time.

Crook sold the company in 2001 to Silverton, who pledged to continue the company's low-key, low-volume approach from the single Kensington showroom in London. Although they never officially released sales figures, insiders suggested they were manufacturing barely 100 cars a year. Some analysts suspsect that figure was actually far lower.

Sadly, it appears the new owner could not keep the business alive. Joint administrator Tom MacLennan said: 'Unfortunately, while there have been a number of immediate redundancies due to the financial position of the company, we are maintaining the sales and service operations so customers will continue to be supported. We would urge any interested parties to make contact with us as quickly as possible and are confident that we can secure the future of this iconic British brand.'

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet