Jean Simmons' 1949 Bristol 402 Convertible set to sell at auction for £200k

2 months ago 143

In 1949, Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons were two of the globe's biggest film stars. 

The British couple - who married just 12 months later - were so close that they not only acted alongside each other in films including Adam and Evelyne, Young Bess and Footsteps in the Fog but also bought a pair of matching cars.

One of those two vehicle is being offered to the highest bidder next month, with Simmons' Bristol 402 - one of just 24 built and 12 known to have survived - is going under the hammer at a UK auction, with experts predicting a sale figure of £200,000.

'The Hollywood Special': This 1949 Bristol earned that moniker having been bought by acting couple Stewart Granger for his soon-to-be wife Jean Simmons ahead of the first of a string of films the couple would star in together. It will be sold at auction in the UK next month

Auction house Bonhams will be sell the car at The Beaulieu Sale of Collectors' Motor Cars & Automobilia at the National Museum in the heart of the New Forest, Hampshire, on 5 September.  

It provides a unique opportunity for collectors to get their hands on a rare classic steeped in British heritage and also one with seats and a steering wheel first graced by former icons of the silver screen. 

Granger bought the convertible Bristol, registration 'NPF 2', for Simmons along with an identical model registered 'NPF 1' for his own use.

The two cars were bought from Surrey car dealer Tony Crook, who later went on the spearhead the Bristol Cars marque. Each one cost £3,500, which was around the same price as a decent-size family home at the time.

The Hollywood couple used the matching cars extensively to promote 1949 romantic hit, Adam and Evelyne, in which they starred.

The Bristol 402 drophead coupé was even more exclusive than the saloon, with just 24 produced between 1949 and 1950, of which it is estimated that fewer than half remain today.  

Jean Simmons pictured in the 1949 Bristol 402 Convertible, registration 'NPF 2', bought for her by Granger and used extensively to promote the film of the same year, Adam and Evelyne, in which the pair starred 

Today, it is showing to have just 32,000 miles on the clock and is estimated to sell for between £150,000 and £200,000

Auction house Bonhams will be sell the car at The Beaulieu Sale of Collectors' Motor Cars & Automobilia at the National Museum in the heart of the New Forest, Hampshire, on 5 September.

Crook, who had been a successful racing driver, had been involved with Bristol's car division from the outset. 

He most famously won the UK's first post-war motor race driving a Frazer Nash-BMW - a victory that was witnessed first-hand by one of his biggest fans: Stewart Granger. 

Having formed a bond, Crook told Granger about the small run of convertible Bristols that were to be based on the 401 saloon - a prospect the actor found very exciting and eventually bought a pair of matching models from Crook's Caterham dealership.

Crook recalled: 'He and his future wife Jean Simmons were about to star together in the film Adam and Evelyn and Granger was keen to have "his and hers" identical Bristol cars.'  

The car has received a recent - and extensive - restoration costing around £75,000. As you can see from the images here, the convertible Bristol is in superb condition

The two cars were bought from Surrey car dealer Tony Crook, who later went on the spearhead the Bristol marque. Each one cost £3,500, which was around the same price as a decent-size family home at the time

NPF 2 was bought for Simmons, who drove it frequently in Surrey before moving to the US. The whereabouts of Granger's NPF 1 car is still unknown today

Bonhams describes it as a 'splendid example' that, having been used by Simmons for her personal transport, was affectionately known as 'The Hollywood Special'.

Simmons drove the car regularly while living in Surrey but eventually left as her fame rose and moved to Hollywood. 

Departing to star in films including Guys and Dolls (with Frank Sinatra), Spartacus (with Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier) and Elmer Gantry (with Burt Lancaster), she sold the car back to Tony Crook.

He decided that the original 85bhp engine did not offer enough performance for this rakishly good looking convertible and so to further enhance its appeal he fitted a similar racing Frazer Nash version of the 2.0-litre engine Granger had seen him win races driving, which it retains to this day.

Just 24 Bristol 402 Convertibles were ever produced, and it is believed that fewer than 12 remain in existence today

The car was fitted with a racing Frazer Nash 2.0-litre engine after it was sold by Simmons to former Bristol Cars boss, Tony Crook. This is the powerplant that remains in the 402 today

Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons co-starred in the film 'Adam and Evelyne' in 1949. A year later, the pair married

Granger and Simmons divorced in 1960 after a decade of marriage. Here, the pair are pictured together in 1953 film Young Bess, with Simmons playing Elizabeth I and Granger as Thomas Seymour

In 2001, 'NPF 2' was restored by Alpine Eagle, Bob Price and Spencer Lane-Jones. 

Related bills for the refurbishment totalled more than £75,000 with the engine and gearbox overhaul accounting for £22,700 of all costs. 

It later went on to win the Bristol Owners' Club concours in 2003 and was invited to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2006. 

It will be sold next month with a recorded 32,313 miles on the clock. The estimated winning bid is predicted to be between £150,000 and £200,000. 

Tony Crook became a majority shareholder in Bristol Cars in 1973 and attempted to spearhead its return to glory, which never came to fruition 

What happened to Stewart Granger's NPF 1 402 is still unknown today.

The couple divorced in 1960, 10 years after marrying. 

Granger died in Santa Monica, California on 16 August 1993 at the age of 80, having suffered from prostate and bone cancer. 

Simmons passed also passed away in Santa Monica at the age of 80 in 22 January 2010 with lung cancer.

In its heyday, Bristol Cars, with their effortlessly chic, seamless designs were sought after by business leaders and celebrities alike. 

It was originally the car division of the Bristol Aircraft Company and was founded in 1945 to make high performance cars to Aircraft standards.

The first model debuted at Geneva in 1947 was the BMW-based 400 series, with streamlined bodywork still reminiscent of the pre-war BMW 328. 

The 401 that followed a year later had much more aerodynamic bodywork shaped in Bristol's very own wind tunnel, developed by a theme suggested by Touring of Milan. 

BMW 328's had many racing successes, including winning the 1940 Mille Miglia. In 1949 a Bristol 401 competed in the same race finishing third in class.

Its success as the legendary event saw demand peak, with sales of around 600 401 saloons, which were built in a similar system to aircraft with an aluminium body over steel frame, with the 402 convertible following soon after. 

Despite some successes in the prevailing decade, the 1970s proved difficult for Bristol Cars after it split from the plane division and models launched did little to appease enthusiasts.

In 2004 it launched the ultra-aggressive Bristol Fighter in a nod to its aeronautical past with a claimed top speed of 210mph. However, despite orders being taken only a handful were ever made.  

The company, having been through various owners, released its final concept, the Bristol Bullet speedster, with talk of production from 2017 and a £250,000 price tag for each - though none were built. 

In 2020, the firm lost its appeal against being liquidated for the second time in ten years and was official wound up.  

In 2004, Bristol launched this ultra-aggressive 'Fighter' sports car with a claimed top speed of 210mph. Orders were taken but it never reached substantial production 

The Bristol Bullet Speedster was unveiled in 2016, with plans for the £250k car to go into production a year later. However, it didn't, and Bristol Cars has since been wound up

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

Read Entire Article
x