Bristol 406 Sports Car

Bristol 406 Sports Car

British car manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane (later known as Bristol Cars) produced the Bristol 406 luxury sports car between 1958 and 1961.  Only 174 were ever produced.  The two-door sports saloon featured a 2,216cc overhead camshaft straight-6-cylinder engine derived from BMW.

Bristol Aeroplane Company had formed a car division after the Second World War.  The move in automobiles was driven by the need to diversify from aircraft after the end of the war when demand would dramatically fall.

The first sports car with a Bristol engine was the Type 400 released in 1946.  The 406 replaced the 405 (1954-1958).  The 406 was then replaced by the 407 in October 1961, the first Bristol to use a Chrysler engine.


The 4.978m long Bristol 406 sports car had a 2.896m wheelbase and was 1.727m wide.

SMITHS Instrumentation

As with many of the British luxury cars of the time, the Bristol 406 featured SMITHS instrumentation in the dashboard.  The gauges included:

  • Speedometer (0-140 mph) with ODO and trip counter
  • Tachometer (0-7000 rpm)
  • Oil pressure gauge
  • Dual Oil and Water temperature gauge
  • Fuel gauge
  • Lucas ammeter

The Zagato Model

Zagato designed the bodies of two short-wheelbase 406 sports cars (known as the 406S), with a total of six being produced.  The engine was up-powered from 105hp to 115hp with a stainless steel Abarth exhaust.  The Zagato model reduced the weight considerably from 1,365kg to 1,092kg.  As with all Zagato-designed sports cars, there was extra special styling and performance.

Present prices

The price of the 406 in 1958 was approximately £4,494, which limited potential customers to the most affluent motoring enthusiasts.  The present price of a Bristol 406 in good condition is around £21,700 (2019 – Hegerty Insurance).  The rarer Zagato has a value of approximately £107,000.

Caerbont Automotive Instruments (CAI) continue to manufacture SMITHS instruments for classic cars at their facility near Swansea in South Wales.  

All photographs taken by Paul Fears Photography

For more information on SMITHS gauges for any classic car, please contact us on:

Via the website

Email:  [email protected]

Phone:  +44 (0) 1639 732200

You can also follow us on social media for regular news updates, photographs and technical information:

Facebook Twitter Instagram | YouTube

Posted by on

Tags: Bristol, Bristol 406

Categories: Case Histories

Related Blogs