Thursday, 2 January 2014

 Lisbon to Bristol Run
(Under construction)
For many years that the idea of owning a Bristol 401 or 403   was growing and growing in my head. A rare, beautiful, fast and reliable classic.
In Portugal Bristols 401 or 403 were quite scarce. No more than 4 or 5 were imported during the early sixties.
BRISTOL 403 Belonged to Mr. Vilhena
BRISTOL 401 Belonged to Mr. Formigal
Later I discovered that two of my old friends' parents owned respectivly the first Bristol 401 to be imported, and still in existance, and the other a 403 that vanished during the seventies, probably scrapped or derelicted. I was lucky enough to get period pictures of both cars.

I had seen one for sale in Portugal, back in the early 1980’s, but I could not afford it by then.
Sunbeam S7 OHC Twin
As a teenager in the late sixties, I drove a Sunbeam S7 OHC motorbike as my everyday transport. 
VW 1200 Standard AKA "Hitler"
Portugal has a mild climate, and when it rained I had an old 1963 Volkswagen 1200 Standard  with crash box and no chrome at all, in a greenish shade of grey, like a military vehicle. Soon the car was baptized as “Hitler” by all my friends…
When the movie Easy Ryder made big bikes even more fashionable, I got a pair of chromed bulbous foglamps with dark yellow glass found on an old Studebaker in a scrapyard, and they looked gorgeous mounted on the Sunbeam. Each side of the huge Lucas headlamp I had those small bullett Lucas chromed side lamps, apparently the same on late Bristols 403. So my bike was known as “The Christmastree”.
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In the late seventies I got an early white 1963 MGB with disc wheels, who was quickly sold due to lots of “tinworm”.

My 1958 dark green Austin-Healey (Frogeye) Sprite

In the early eighties I got my first classic car, a lovely Frogeye Sprite. The car was in very bad shape, and it took me more than ten years to make a decent car out of it.
My 1959 red MGA 1600 MK1 Roadster
In the early nineties I bough an apparently very good MGA Roadster, but soon as I started to mess around replacing the clutch plate, it ended in a 5 years nut and bolt restoration. The car became “better than new”. It costed me double the car’s value, and a marriage.
Coupe des Alpes 2002: at the departure with my wife and stepson
Late nineties made me buy a 1960 Finntail Mercedes 220Sb, that I intend to drive next September to Goodwood Revival with my daughter, son in law and grandson. My idea is to dress with a German coat, wearing a red  armlet: “Helfer de Volkspolizei der DDR”. Hope the Brit’s shall let me live in the end.
Departure Volta a Portugal
2002 brought me an Alfa Romeo Montreal. 

First prize winner elegance concours Algarve

2005 an Alvis Speed Twenty SB Drophead Coupé by Charlesworth,
 and 2010 the Bristol 403.

 2012 brought me a stunning black Jaguar XK150 DHC 3.8.

A good friend of mine called Manuel Costa-Simões owns a Bristol 403, and while talking about my new “baby”, he asked me about joining the Bristol Centenary at Filton.

Immediately I got very excited with the idea, and talked to some other friends from the “classic cars paradise” Carlos Cruz who owns a Bristol 401 DHC (one-off, I think), 

José M. Albuquerque who owns "the" Frazer Nash Fast Tourer, 

João Amaral-Netto owns an AC Bristol, Fernando Campos-Ferreira owns a Frazer Nash le Mans Coupé. Together with my 403 and the 404, it could be reputed to be called “The Portuguese Invasion”.
Antonio Borges from Lisbon and Urbino Rebelo from Madeira Island, both are 401 owners, but they told me they wouldn’t join us in the first place.
My Bristol at the seaside
One by one, all of them dropped off, and at the end I remained the only one to go on with this adventure.
So, my friend Mario B. da Palma (nothing to do with Brian de Palma), and I, in September we were on the move, heading from Lisbon to the North of Portugal. 

My daughter lives in Braga, and we stayed there for the first night. Next morning we left, heading to Santander, in order to catch the ferry to Portsmouth.
In the middle of the afternoon, while cruising happily at around 130 KPH on a motorway, thanks to an extra overdrive, we suddenly got seized due to what apparently was a broken differential. 

We were in the middle of nowhere: Camarzana de la Tera, in the Zamora province of northern Spain… Assistance was called from ACP, the Portuguese equivalent to the AA, and the car was towed to a local garage. We took a taxi to Santander. Everything was pre-paid: hotels, bookings, ferries, etc., and we decided not to miss the Bristols meeting. So, we rented a Seat Cordoba, and followed our trip. While changing all our stuff into the taxi, our tuxedos remained forgotten hanging on a shelf from the workshop, together with the Bristol.
Next day, when we were entering the ferry at Santander, driving our rented Seat, I managed to call the workshop in Spain, confirming we had left our tuxedos there, and after a few more phone calls, I managed to get some kind of UPS firm to get our tuxedos there and delivering them at Filton Holiday Inn. But then I had to convince the Spanish workshop people to pack our tuxedos properly inside a box…
Meanwhile, my mobile phone rang, and it was ACP letting me know the car should be ready next day, for the problem was only a broken bearing on the rear half shaft. Would you believe?
I called my friends back home on the ACP, and once I worked there long ago, asked to o former colleague if he wanted to pick the car for me, and drive it to the meeting via the Plymouth ferry. Filipe Gaivão instantly agreed to bring me the car to the UK.
Once aboard the ferry, everything was settled, and we enjoyed the voyage, without mobile phone connection during some 24 hours.
So we followed our trip, and had a wonderful time in the UK. First day we visited Bealieu and the National Motor Museum, and the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, not far from Beaulieu. Next day we went Salisbury, visited Stonehenge, and a Military Aircraft Museum nearby. In the afternoon we visited the British Motor Heritage Trust at Gaydon, and headed far to the Midlands, towards to the Red Triangle at Kenilworth-Birmingham area. I wanted to discuss with Richard Joyce the new camshafts they were selling for the old Alvis Speed Twenty, and fortunately we managed to get in time, for they waited for us.
That evening we arrived at the Holiday Inn-Filton.
Next morning we went to visit the seaside, and when we had a coffee at an Italian Restaurant, the owner asked: “Where are you from, guys?” We answered: ”Portugal, ever heard of? And you?” He said : “Italy, Napoli, do you know?”  I said: “Of course, RENATO CAROSONE: HEY MAMBO, MAMBO ITALIANO!...” I must say the restaurant owner jumped into the air, and started to sing all Renato Carosone songs, turned on his MP3 and plugged it into the sound system, while dancing and slapping his employees on the back of their heads. This scenario was absolutely surrealistic, and we laughed while watching all this scene. Fortunately Mario had his camcorder with him, and filmed lots of this. We laughed till we cried.
We followed to Cheddar Gorge and there was our meeting point with Filipe Gaivão, driving my 403.
We went to have lunch at Bath, visited the roman baths, and at the evening we were at the hotel, for joining everybody for dinner.
A small misunderstood with our tuxedos made us late for the bus, for we were expecting to take a taxi for the dinner at the Town hall. When we finally entered the bus, wearing our tuxedos, the bus was waiting for us for quite a long time. Fortunately people there were kind enough not to crucify us.
The dinner was fantastic, for I had the chance to meet many Bristoleers, like Jaap Koopmans from the Netherlands, the one who pointed me the 403 for me to buy, as well as Geoffrey Hawkins and Marc Atkinson, and I was lucky enough to have dinner next to Andrew Blow, who had to be listening to me most of the time… And of course, Teb Marius, the promoter.
The balloons and whistles on the dinner table, although it may seem a little out of context, made everybody smile and joke, braking the initial ice, for there was lots of people who just didn’t knew each other.
Saturday at Filton was great. Once again we had the chance to meet lots of Bristol people and the most of all was to be among so many rare Bristols all at once. All the aircraft circus whas pure delight. I met also a very nice couple, David Lewis and his lovely wife, who turned out to be previous owners of my Bristol back in 1969. They told me lots of stories on the car, and even sended me pictures of the car by then. It was black with dark red hide.
Sunday we drove Filipe Gaivão to the London Airport on our way to Goodwod, where the Bristol Owners Club had a special park.
But soon as we started to move, a terrifying slippery clutch was dooming our return home. Filipe took place with in the rented Seat Cordoba, while I was driving slowly to meet Mario near Heathrow. So we did, and when we were getting closer to Goodwood, the clutch was slipping to a very dangerous level.
I could not get any help from all the bristoleers around there, for they just didn’t knew me at all.
Fortunately, José M. Albuquerque, the owner of the Frazer Nash Fast Tourer who quit the Portuguese Invasion, was racing his Ferrari SWB at Goodwood. So, I went to meet him, and told him about my problems with the clutch. It was Sunday, and we had to catch the ferry at Santander Tuesday morning.
He asked his mechanic to give me a hand. His mechanic in the UK owns The Red Lion Garage at Thursley, his name is Simon Blake, and he promptly offered himself to help me with the car.
I tried to call people from BOC in order to know about parts suppliers on that area. Fortunately I managed to reach Mike Robinson, who had made the overdrive conversion on my Bristol, once the engine on my car has been replaced by a 405 engine.
He told me the clutch plate and disk were from Triumph Vitesse and MGB, I put hm in contact with Simon Blake, and a supplier has been found a couple of miles from Red Lion Garage in Thursley. I must say Thursley is a lovely spot among a dense forest in the middle of nowhere.
So I drove my Bristol over the edge of the limit of the clutch, at night, up and down the hill, with lots of traffic. At a certain point I was not using the clutch any longer, thanks to my long old experience driving with double declutching with my old crash box VW.
I left him the car Sunday night, putting the car keys in his mailbox. Next day at 19:00 the car was ready, with the eys hiding over the front tyre.
The whole Monday we visited Bex on Sea, where Mario’s cousin lives his retirement. He is retired from finance business, and he married an English lady, and he has grandchildren there.
So we drove to Portsmouth, and next morning we were aboard the ferry back home, safe and sound.
We had a wonderful time, and now we have a nice story to tell.

Lisbon, the 15th February 2011.

Joseph Santos-Fernandes
BOC Membership 2933

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