There still remains nothing more romantic than the idea of a so-called ‘barn find’; classic rare cars in pristine rust-free condition merely gathering dust waiting to be discovered. Of course, such finds are becoming rarer as today’s internet world leaves few places left to hide. So it was great to hear of a recent ‘basement find’ of immense proportions, thanks to a pair of British urban explorers with their YouTube channel Lost Adventures. Though it might not all be quite as clear-cut as it seems…
You may well be wondering what exactly is an ‘urban explorer’. Well, imagine the times you travel past a deserted building and briefly wonder what it was used for, or what it looks like inside. An urban explorer takes this thought a step further and investigates utilising a love of photography and/or videography, so we get to see the great images of such abandoned spaces.
Colin Smith and his urban exploring pal Aaron found the cars in the abandoned underground car park of the former Bristol Cars Ltd. The sad state of affairs came about following the company going into final administration earlier this year, and all assets were seized and an auction via Wyles Hardy & Co was scheduled for this summer. Whether the pandemic has played a part in delaying the smooth running processes of the auction leaving the eclectic array of vehicles and parts seemingly abandoned I’m not totally sure, but whatever the full facts, these cars, engines and company assets were in August conservatively estimated by Wyles Hardy at being worth around £1 million.
One of the most interesting discoveries is a rare one-off 1982 Bristol Fighter prototype, which is estimated to be worth in the region of £350,000. The 525bhp V10 8-litre engined Bristol Fighter was built from 2004 until 2011 when the company first went into administration. The Fighter could achieve a 0-60mph in around 4 seconds, though even more powerful versions were built too, like the Fighter S with 660 horsepower – and a somewhat fabled 1,012bhp turbocharged Fighter T that was announced in 2006 and rumoured to be capable of 270mph (though it would have been limited to less). Sadly, it’s understood that no Fighter T versions made it to full production before Bristol Cars’ demise. All in all, it’s not actually known how many gullwing-door Bristol Fighter supercars were in fact built, but educated guesses range from anywhere between as low as 9 to a more likely 14 units.
The Bristol Fighter wasn’t the only great find; a Bristol Bullet 409 Speedster estimated to be worth between £175,000 and £300,000 was also discovered lying dormant. The speedster prototype dates from 1964 but was never put into production. The origins of the 1964 Bullet are curious; the owner of a Bristol 409 Saloon had intended to get the rust plagued car restored, but due to the extent of rust it was deemed uneconomical. The car stood abandoned in a storage field for some time before it was used as a donor for the Bullet prototype.
55 years later, Bristol Cars would revive the Bullet Speedster in an attempt at a last-minute revival. The 2-seater Bullet (originally codenamed ‘Project Pinnacle’) featured a fibreglass body and managed to marriage retro styling with a modern look in a rather fantastic way – See it whizz past and you might think a 1960s classic had been in your presence; see it stationary and you get to appreciate the beautiful modern lines of the Bullet Speedster. The 2-seater was unveiled at Goodwood in 2016 and it is a tragedy than it never got to full production. If it were to have made it to the showroom, owners would have been greeted with a BMW V8 4.8-litre engine pushing out 380bhp. The whole thing would have been placed on the same platform as the Morgan Aero 8 and would have retailed at £250,000. This prototype was also among the supercar finds…
This year it was announced that Bristol Cars had again sadly gone into liquidation and had lost its High Court appeal, leaving the Bristol Bullet with nowhere to go.
As I said at the start, things are not always what they seem and while this week’s newspaper reports attribute the Bristol Cars find to Colin Smith, a bit of digging around reveals that a YouTuber named Ben may have originally revealed the supercars publicly in August this year on his YouTube channel, Lost Adventures. Though the reality is that the auction house was fully aware of the location of these rare supercars all along.
So let’s forget the romantic notion of a lost collection of supercars, and pay our respects to a small, forgotten company called Bristol Cars who unfortunately ceased trading, and the 20 or so employees that used to produce about 100 cars a year – but sadly not the Bullet.
Image credit: dailymail.co.uk, thesun.co.uk, drivetribe.com
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