For most of us, the name of Bristol 450 evocates firstly the die-cast Bristol 450 sports coupé model launched by Dinky Toys GB in 1956, a very successful one that most young boys of that period were happy and proud to play with (I still have mine…). This twin-finned fixed head coupé, surprisingly streamlined, had been produced by Bristol, a famous aviation industrial, to participate in the 1953 Le Mans (24 hours) race, in the 2 litre class. Two cars were entered, making a sensation when arriving at Le Mans, but unfortunately none of them could finish the race, due to a same problem with the 6 cylinder engine on both cars.

The aerodynamics was further improved for the 1954 season, and a "squadron" of three cars could participate in the 1954Le Mans race, quite successfully since they all finished the race at the 7th, 8th and 9th places overall, winning the 2 Litre Class ! More than encouraging. It has to be said that Bristol had achieved a high level of preparation in view of endurance racing, including especially a very innovative and astute device engineered and manufactured by the Bristol Works, allowing to considerably speed up wheel replacements at pitstops : a power spanner with five barrels able to remove the five nuts of a wheel at once, retain them whilst the wheel was replaced and then re-screw the nuts on their threads simultaneously. Well done, guys !

For the 1955 season, Bristol proceeded with major changes to the car : the roof was removed, resulting in an open top car, fitted with a single fin behind the driver seat, indeed very similar to the Jaguar D-type. The engine was now delivering a bit more than 160 hp and Bristol had very reason to be confident for the 1955 Le Mans race. Again, they entered a "squadron" of three cars, with the same drivers who had been so brilliant the year before :
-- Tommy Wisdom / Jack Fairman (#32)
-- Mike Keen / Tommy Line (#33)
-- Peter S. Wilson / Jim Mayers (#34)

Proudly lined up on the Le Mans pit lane, impeccably presented, the three sister cars looked absolutely superb. And, after a perfect race, the three 450s, running regularly between 4'45'' and 4'50" per lap (the 1979 cc Bristol engine achieved a top speed of nearly 150 mph, about 240 kph, on the Mulsanne straight), took the chequered flag again, achieving a 1-2-3 victory in their Class (7th, 8th and 9th places overall, as in 1954). Unfortunately, this outstanding performance was not celebrated, given the horrendous Levegh crash which marked tragically the 1955 Le Mans race. It will be the last race for the Bristol 450s, the bad impact of the catastrophe on the public being probably one of the reasons that led Bristol to put an end to their racing cars adventure, other being financial ones. One of the cars was kept at the Bristol factory, now owned by a Bristol enthusiast, while the others were dismantled. At that time, obsolete racing cars didn't have a great value.

In the 2nd quarter 2013 issue of his French magazine AUTODIVA, Gérard Gamand recalls an interesting anecdote about the 1955 Le Mans. In addition to the six drivers above, Vivian Selby, the Bristol Team Manager, had spotted a young driver freshly arrived from Australia, his native country, who had won the Australian GP on a Cooper Bristol. During the Le Mans qualificative test sessions, he even drove a few laps at the wheel of the car #32, but eventually he was not kept back for the race. His name : Sir Jack Brabham.