Is it a World War II British light bomber or is it a car? Trick question —it’s both. The Bristol Blenheim bomber was made by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, which helped co-found Bristol Cars. That company made the Blenheim grand touring car through the 1990s, with the revised Blenheim 3 appearing in 1999 and remaining in production today.
But the most exciting evolution of this refined machine did not happen until the 21st century, which makes this splendid coupe with echoes of American pony-car styling from an earlier generation a fascinating anachronism.
The Bristol Blenheim 3S was announced in 2001 with the not-inconsiderable price tag of £175,000 (built strictly to order at the Filton, Bristol factory). The 3S is an enhanced performance version of the Blenheim 3 — an old-fashioned touring car in the ‘Best of British’ tradition, with a steel chassis, live rear axle and aluminium bodywork.
Despite its undoubted True Brit credentials, the Blenheim 3S has a dark secret — beneath the long bonnet is a Chrysler V8 engine with automatic transmission. The 3S has increased power output, better brakes, stiffened suspension, large five-spoke alloy wheels and an even more sumptuous interior finish. Though discreet luxury is fine, the 3S is not above emitting a satisfying boom from its four tail-pipes when the accelerator is floored.
Luckily for Bristol Cars, a certain class of well-heeled Brit wouldn’t be seen dead in a fiery Ferrari or mincing Merc, and these gentleman motorists take almost perverse pleasure in being out and about in a Bristol, driving Britain’s most exclusive luxury car and exchanging knowing nods with fellow travellers as the picnic comes out on the greensward during the Royal Ascot race meeting.
For them, unobtrusive traditional values are infinitely more appealing than in-your-face glitz ‘n’ glam and a 23rd century computerized engine management system.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
5,900 cc V8
Top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The ethos of Bristol Cars – makers of exclusive automobiles for over 60 years – is neatly captured in the company slogan … ‘Hand-built cars for individuals’. Oh, it’s also the last luxury car manufacturer in the UK that remains under British control.