The car we have for auction is a 1998 Bristol Blenheim S2, which makes it one of the final automotive chapters in the book of Bristol Cars. That said, as with many other Bristols, the genealogy of this Blenheim stretches back considerably. To 1976 in fact, when the first iteration of this car arrived in the guise of the Bristol 603. A long bonneted, imposing grand tourer that can seat four and carry all their luggage, too.
By 1998 the car had evolved from the 603 to the Blenheim, and then in turn to the Blenheim S2. There was an S3 Blenheim, but for many the S2 is considered to be the best iteration of the model. It boasted carefully considered design changes such as the quad-headlight arrangement and wider grille. Mechanically, the S2 was also much-improved. The power from the 5,898cc Chrysler V8 was increased to 260hp, a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission was fitted to improve the drive, and the track was widened to improve the car’s stability.
Internally, the Blenheim 2 was exceptionally well appointed. Electric windows, electric mirrors, electric seats, air-conditioning, feather-light power steering, swathes of high-grade hand-stitched leather, deep pile carpets and an impressive amount of stunning walnut veneer made the Blenheim more country club on wheels than normal car.
Hand-built from top to bottom, the fit and finish of the Blenheim stands up even today - it’s evident serious care and attention was paid when this car was being constructed. When it comes to luxurious cars to soak up the miles, few can match the Blenheim.
This Bristol Blenheim S2 was bought new from Bristol Cars in 1998. The first owner had the car until April 5th, 2004, the second until September 13th 2006, the third until May 1st 2007 before selling the car to its current owner on August 8th, 2011.
The current owner, a classic car collector, has enjoyed the car for the best part of a decade, and has covered some 30,000 miles in it, which serves as further testament to the Blenheim’s usability. This is a car to be used, driven and enjoyed, much as the current owner has.
Furthermore, the current owner has lavished the car with care and attention, having spent around £30,000 on maintenance, a great deal of which was carried out by Bristol specialist, Spencer Lane Jones in Wiltshire. Works have included servicing, replacement of wear and tear components such as a complete refresh of the suspension and braking system. This car, as the detailed history file has been left wanting for nothing.
Works include restoration of all the burr walnut trim at a cost of over £1,000. The driver’s seat has been fitted with new padding. The body was given a complete overhaul, including new paint in some sections as well as the removal of any imperfections in the metalwork care of a dent removal specialist - at a cost of over £1,500. The air-conditioning system has been completely rebuilt and refreshed, new wheels and tyres have been fitted, as has a new radiator, new core plugs and new brake servo. The current owner, on acquiring the car, subjected it to any and all works it may have needed. The quality of which is evidenced by the car’s recent class win at the Bristol Owners Club national event. Furthermore, the condition of the car is so remarkable, it was photographed for use in LJK Setright’s book on the marque.
A cursory look through the vehicle’s MOT history reveals nothing of concern. Any failures have been minor, wear and tear issues such as wipers and tyres, and all have been rectified immediately. The car has never had any structural issues, it has never been involved in a collision, there is no finance outstanding and there is a current MOT on the car valid until July ‘20, though a fresh test will be acquired before the winning bidder takes delivery.
As you can see from the gallery of images, this 1998 Bristol Blenheim S2 is in excellent order, having only covered 62,000 miles over the course of its 22-year life. The paintwork has been well cared-for, with only one minor imperfection on the outermost edge of the driver’s door. Other than this, the car is largely excellent. The imposing dimensions and long panels of the Blenheim are naturally keen to highlight any ripples or imperfections, but on photographing the car, we found none. The same can be said for all four alloy wheels, which wear a nearly new set of 215/70 R15 Toyo tyres.
Internally, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine this car being presented like this back in 1998. It truly is in remarkable condition, thanks in no small part to the low mileage. The seats are free from cracks in the leather, the carpets are still rich and deep, the headlining clean and without any sag. The only small issue is some slight wear on the piping of the driver’s seat and also the arm rest, though this in no way detracts from the overall condition.
In terms of functionality, we were keen to test every one of the chunky, purposeful switches and we’re happy to report that everything works as it should. The electrical items - seats, windows etc - operate without hesitation, the air-conditioning runs ice cold and all gauges function without error.
Having driven this Bristol Blenheim we are happy to confirm that it drives beautifully. The engine fires up without hesitation and idles happily without any untoward noises from cold. It’s worth noting that considerable work was done to the shifter mechanism to improve the design put in place by Bristol. As such, selecting a drive mode in the Blenheim is easy and light.
On the road, the Blenheim feels responsive, remarkably so for such a large machine. The engine pulls strongly and keenly, but without drama or egregious noise. This is a grand tourer after all. The four-speed gearbox delivers slick, direct changes the kick-down function operates quickly and effectively.
The suspension has clearly been cared for, as the car is composed and remarkably composed. Push the Blenheim into the bends, and it leans in with a pleasing confidence. Of course, this is no hard-nosed sports car, so there is a degree of body roll and the suspension errs on the side of complaint rather than stiff, but it is far more taught and direct then you would imagine.
The Bristol marque is one that has a passionate following, despite often being overlooked in the wider classic car world. And for use, that’s something of a shame. Bristol Cars was a company that thrived on innovation, it was bold and brave with its designs and it celebrated the idea of doing things its own way. As such, the cars it produced are like nothing else, and we mean that in the best possible way.
This Blenheim appeals not only because of its charm and wonderful drive, but also because of its history. To buy a car as unknown as that could be a risk, but not here. This Blenheim has wanted for nothing throughout its life, and any and all works have been carried out by a Bristol specialist. It is truly exceptional.
Yes, you could buy a Bentley or a Roller, but where is the fun in that? Bristol does what those cars do, perhaps better, but it does it with true exclusivity. It is an intriguing car that will surely delight whoever is lucky enough to own it next. Comfort in spades and a thumping V8 - it doesn’t get much better.