The Bristol Beaufighter was claimed to be the fastest four-seat car in the world when it was introduced in 1982, with a top speed in excess of 241 km/h (150 mph). This speed was thanks to the Rotomaster-turbocharged Chrysler V8 under the hood.

There’s no talking around the fact that the Bristol Beaufighter is an unusual looking car. It was designed for the British company by the Italians over at Zagato, and it remains very much an acquired taste. Just 20 Beaufighters are believed to have been made, and today they only rarely come up for sale.

Fast Facts – The Bristol Beaufighter

  • The Bristol Beaufighter was introduced in 1982 as a member of the Bristol 412 model series that stretched from 1975 until 1994. This series included the original 412, the Beaufighter, and the Beaufort.
  • Bristol Cars was famous for their hand-built luxury cars, they were based in Bristol, England and initially formed as the automotive arm of the Bristol Aeroplane Company after WWII. The need for aircraft had been vastly diminished by the end of the war, and car production was seen as a way of staying in business and keeping people employed.
  • The company started out by building luxury GT cars powered by the pre-WWII BMW 328 engine, the designs for which had been acquired as war reparations. The company would eventually switch to using American V8s, then finally the V10 from the Dodge Viper.
  • The Bristol Beaufighter was sold from 1982 to 1993, it’s claimed that either 20 or slightly fewer were made over this time and they remain an exceptionally rare car today. The performance is excellent even by modern standards thanks to the 5.9 liter Rotomaster-turbocharged Chrysler V8 under the hood, powering the car to a top speed of over 150 mph.

Bristol Cars: From Warbirds To Grand Tourers

The Bristol Aeroplane Company had been founded back in 1910, originally called the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, and it quickly became one of Britain’s most important aircraft manufacturers.

Bristol Beaufighter Aircraft

Image DescriptionHere we see Bristol Beaufighter IF V8318 ‘F-Freddie’ of No 252 Squadron, Royal Air Force, taking off from a Magrun, North Africa airbase in April of 1943. Image courtesy of the Royal Air Force.

Bristol quickly grew and the outbreak of WWI in 1914 led to great demand for aircraft. Bristol supplied a number of different aircraft types to the British military, the most common by far being the Bristol F.2B Fighter of which over 5,300 were made.

The company kept producing aircraft during the inter-war years and were well placed when WWII broke out in 1939 to once again help the war effort. The most important WWII aircraft made by the company was the Bristol Beaufighter – a heavy two-seat multirole aircraft, a long-range fighter, night fighter, ground attack aircraft, and a successful torpedo bomber.

After WWII Bristol set to work on a number of civilian aircraft types including the Bristol Britannia, the ill-fated Bristol Brabazon, and the aircraft that would become known as the Concorde.

Bristol Cars was founded in the year WWII ended, 1945. The company based their first road car design on the pre-WWII BMW 328, the rights to which had been acquired as war reparations. It was called the Bristol 400 and it became a favorite GT car of the well-heeled class in Britain.

Above Video: This feature length documentary tells the story of the Bristol Beaufighter, and focusses on the 30 & 31 RAAF Long Range Attack Beaufighter Squadrons during WWII. The Japanese called the plane the “Whispering Death.”

The Bristol-BMW powered 400 series cars would stretch from 1946 until 1961, all using variations of the same engine. In 1961 the new Chrysler V8-powered Bristol 407 would appear, offering far more power and setting the trend for the decades of Chrysler V8 powered Bristols that would follow.

The company would cease operations in 2011, though it was very nearly ressurected in 2016 with the unveiling of the BMW-powered Bristol Bullet. sadly this car would never make it into production, and the company was once again shuttered in 2020.

The Bristol Beaufighter

The Bristol Beaufighter is one of the more memorable of the Chrysler V8-powered cars from the decidedly unusual British automaker.

The Beaufighter was named after the critically-important Bristol aircraft of the same name built during WWII, and it was based on the Bristol 412 platform.

Bristol Beaufighter Car 13

Image DescriptionThe styling of the Bristol 412 and the later Beaufighter was penned by Zagato in Italy in the mid-1970s. It’s been both heralded and criticized over the years, with people seeming to either love or hate it.

The Bristol 412 had been unveiled in 1975 with eye-catching Zagato styling that was a total departure from all previous Bristol designs. The much sharper lines of the 412 included a long front hood, a two-door layout with seating for four, and a targa-style roof with a removable center panel that could be stored in the trunk.

The earlier versions of the 412 had their bodies made by hand in Italy by Zagato, these bodies were then shipped to England to be fitted to their corresponding chassis in Bristol. These cars were initially powered by the 6,277cc (383 cubic inches) Chrysler B series V8 but this was switched over to the 5,899cc (360 cubic inch) Chrysler V8 around the end of 1977.

As a result of this engine change the front suspension had to be modified, as the new engine was significantly lighter than the one it replaced.

The Bristol Beaufighter arrived in 1982 as the company’s new halo model. It was the most expensive Bristol you could buy, and also the fastest. In fact at the time it was claimed to be the fastest four-seat car in the world.

Bristol Beaufighter Car 5

Image DescriptionThe Beaufighter has a removable targa top, which has a sunroof within it, and a folding rear section for wind-in-the-hair motoring.

This speed was thanks to the Rotomaster-turbocharged 5.9 liter Chrysler V8, the exact horsepower and torque figures aren’t available but we do know that the car was capable of exceeding 241 km/h (150 mph) without breaking a sweat.

Power was sent to the rear wheels via a three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission. Due to the additional power over the standard cars, the Beaufighter was given a heavy duty driveshaft and an uprated torque converter sourced from the high-performance 7.2 litre (440 cubic inch) RB V8-powered Chrysler cars of the period.

Just 20 or so examples of the Beaufighter were ever made and they’re only rarely seen in public.

 The 1984 Bristol Beaufighter Shown Here

The vehicle you see here is the first Beaufighter we’ve seen come up for public sale in some time. It’s a 1984 model finished in red over a black interior. The seats are showing signs of wear, particularly the driver’s seat, and the fold down rear section of the roof has a damaged screen.

Bristol Beaufighter Car 18

Image DescriptionHere you can see the Rotomaster-turbocharged Chrysler V8, it’s a 5.9 liter engine and although power ratings aren’t available we do know it could push the car to over 150 mph.

The car still has its removable targa roof, interestingly this roof section also contains a sunroof which may be an automotive first. There’s an aftermarket JVC CD/Radio in working order and the dashboard woodwork was completely refurbished in July 2022.

The car needs a little fettling here and there however it does appear to be a solid example of this exceedingly rare car, so it’s likely to attract the attention of collectors who only rarely get a chance to buy one.

If you’d like to read more about this Beaufighter or register to bid you can visit the listing here on Car & Classic. It’s being offered for sale out of Surrey in England, it’s said to be fully MoT’d and ready to drive home.

Bristol Beaufighter Car 19 Bristol Beaufighter Car 21 Bristol Beaufighter Car 20 Bristol Beaufighter Car 17 Bristol Beaufighter Car 16 Bristol Beaufighter Car 15 Bristol Beaufighter Car 14 Bristol Beaufighter Car 12 Bristol Beaufighter Car 11 Bristol Beaufighter Car 10 Bristol Beaufighter Car 9 Bristol Beaufighter Car 8 Bristol Beaufighter Car 7 Bristol Beaufighter Car 6 Bristol Beaufighter Car 4 Bristol Beaufighter Car 3 Bristol Beaufighter Car 2

Images courtesy of Car & Classic

Published by Ben Branch -