Presenting the aerodynamic Beaufort cabriolet, from 1984.
The Beaufort was a variation of the 412, the first modern car available from Bristol. For the decade prior to the introduction of the 412, Bristol produced just one car: the 411. Serving as the brand’s entire lineup, the 411 was produced in minuscule numbers; just 287 were created between 1969 and 1976.
A single year of product overlap occurred during the 411’s phase-out, with the 412 entering production in 1975. The rakish targa body of the 412 was built by Zagato in Italy, then shipped to Filton, England for completion. The 412 spawned a sibling, the 603, in 1967. More true to Bristol’s conservative heritage, the 603 was a two-door sedan and was certainly not built by Zagato.
Bristol lightly revised the 412 for 1982, re-releasing it as the Beaufighter. Though Zagato was still credited with the design, the body was now built in-house at Bristol. Accompanying the new model was a change in engine (rare at Bristol), with a 5.9-liter Chrysler V8 taking the place of the old 6.2-liter. A turbocharger was also fitted, which meant the 1961 version of Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic needed reinforcement. It received a new prop shaft and torque converter pulled from the TorqueFlite attached to Chrysler’s 440 V8.
The final development of the 412 — the Beaufort — was introduced shortly after the Beaufighter, aimed at buyers in export markets only (left-hand drive). No longer restrained by a targa arrangement, Beaufort was a true convertible. Additional engineering went into reinforcement of the windshield for structural rigidity. And given it was sold outside the British Isles, Bristol fitted a larger 36-gallon fuel tank. The huge tank allowed for a cruising rage of 500 miles, great for those cross-continental weekend jaunts. Production figures never materialized, but high cost and low-speed production made the Beaufort a permanent rarity. It ended production in 1994, as Bristol switched all its attention to the new version of the 603, called Blenheim.