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Wooden bucks tell the story of Bristol cars

Photo: Sam Frost

An extraordinary collection of life-sized wooden models from the manufacturing heydey of iconic British motoring brand Bristol Cars Ltd have been discovered. Wooden models called bucks were used to style motor vehicles in the past. Sources: Timberbiz, The Daily Mail

The wooden models were found in an abandoned factory in Surrey, UK.

They were once used as large design models for the bodywork and would have been used by expert craftsmen to construct and form handmade body panels.

Stacks of the hand-crafted metal body panels were found piled up on wooden pallets.

The shape of the iconic cars can clearly be seen in the ghostly wooden frames found propped up in the dusty factory.

But the ghostly models from the Bristol Cars site at Windlesham have been saved from the scrapheap in a nod to the company’s illustrious past.

Bono, Liam Gallagher and Sir Richard Branson are all among the rollcall of famous owners of these luxury vehicles.

Car enthusiasts were devastated to learn earlier this year that the world-famous car company was going into liquidation after 74 years.

It was the demise of an iconic British company, which to the end maintained a loyal customer base and drew admiring eyes through the windows of its one showroom on High Street Kensington in London.

Bristol Cars was widely understood to have been formed in 1946 as an offshoot of the wartime Bristol Aeroplane Company.

Going back even further in the company’s history, it becomes apparent that its true origins lie in trams. The Bristol Tramways company founded in 1875 was run by a junior solicitor named George White.

Mr White used his experience running a transport business to launch his own aeroplane manufacturing company.

In 1910, after six months of planning, the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company was founded. The first plane was the Bristol Zodiac, a copy of similar Voisin box planes designed and manufactured under license.

During WWI, Bristol planes gained a reputation for speed and agility. The Bristol Scout was nicknamed the Bristol ‘Bullet’ and soon became a vital part of the war effort.

But, in 1918, the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, which had since been re-branded as the Bristol Aircraft Corporation, created its sister-company Bristol Cars.

The offshoot was founded when orders for planes disappeared overnight in the in the aftermath of the war. The move saved 70,000 jobs as the company began to build car bodies and bus bodies for the then still operational tram arm of the company.

The company also started to manufacture the Bristol Monocar – its first private passenger vehicle.

As the years progressed, Bristol Cars built a reputation as a maker of extraordinary fine and fast cars.

A Bristol 450 won the two-litre class at Reims in 1953 with star drivers such as Jack Brabham, Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss all working for Bristol.

In a cruel twist of fate, Bristol Car’s founder Sir George White crashed his Bristol 410 and resigned from the company and sold his stake to Anthony Crook who became Bristol Car’s sole distributor.

Bristol’s designs in the ‘80s failed to win new fans.

Former racing driver and RAF pilot Mr Crook also allegedly only sold the cars to people he liked.

Desperate to breathe life back into his flagging business, Anthony Crook sold 50% of Bristol Cars to Toby Silverton. The two men designed what they thought would be the company’s saviour.

The ambitiously named Bristol Fighter was a nod to the company’s aeronautical past. It was manufactured from 2004 until the company went into administration in 2011.

Visually it won acclaim and was widely considered a design ‘masterpiece’ with top speeds of 210mph.

But the car didn’t sell. The reputation of Bristol Cars was long gone, and other car manufacturers were offering stronger vehicles in the niche sport car market.

The Bristol Bullet was unveiled in 2016, 12 years after the Bristol Fighter was released, to celebrate the founding of the company 70 years before.

The car never made it to production despite interest from prospective buyers. It would have cost £250,000 had it made it to market.

The car manufacturer was always a low-volume carmaker, its luxury and upmarket vehicles were hand-built without any kind of mass production conveyor belt.

In March this year, the company again went into administration and during lockdown in May, Bristol Cars was put into liquidation.