Bris­tol Fighter

The Fighter was Bris­tol’s 21st Cen­tury su­per­car. Nigel Boothman as­sesses what is thought to be the only one cur­rently for sale

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One of the Fighter’s claims at launch was to be both shorter and nar­rower than the con­tem­po­rary Porsche 911. But the first im­pres­sion of this car is one of se­ri­ous pres­ence. No stonechips, scrapes or park­ing dings are ev­i­dent in the alu­minium skin that forms most pan­els of this deep Baltic Blue ex­am­ple or on the car­bon­fi­bre doors and tail­gate. The wheels, re-shod re­cently in Bridge­stone Potenza RE050 285/40 R18s, are all im­mac­u­late.

This is the sec­ond Fighter built, the first be­ing the pro­to­type, and this car was the show­room demon­stra­tor un­til its sale in 2008. Be­lieved to be the only one cur­rently for sale, it re­tains its Dutch regis­tra­tion and in 13 years has cov­ered 17,900 miles.

The in­te­rior is a mix­ture of tan leather and a darker suede or Al­can­tara. Leather pieces be­hind the driver’s shoul­der are scuffed, as is the wide sill cover and the leather foot­pad be­neath the ped­als. We are as­sured that all will be treated and im­proved be­fore sale. The seats are soft and nicely worn in. The hand-stitch­ing on the dash has frayed in places and the pan­els in the sides of the lug­gage area are ill-fit­ting. Here we get into the quirks of low-vol­ume, hand-made cars – the fit and fin­ish achieved didn’t match Porsche or Mercedes-benz when new, and this car is nearly 14 years old.

It takes two or three at­tempts to get the tail­gate to latch shut. Hap­pily the gull­wing doors work per­fectly, though the driver’s side elec­tric win­dow is play­ing up and there is ev­i­dence of black sealant on the pas­sen­ger door. The tail­gate re­lease but­ton in the aero­plane-style over­head con­sole fails to pro­duce a re­sult and the oil tem­per­a­ture gauge reads zero. There is an Alpine Cd/ra­dio head unit with an ex­tend­ing sat-nav screen that wakes up when the key is turned.

The en­gine bay is in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and all flu­ids are up to the cor­rect lev­els.

Driv­ing the Fighter is thrilling – the im­mense power and torque seem ca­pa­ble of break­ing trac­tion in any of the first four gears and you’re grate­ful for mus­cu­lar brakes that pull the car up quickly and in a straight line. Ef­fort­less high­speed use (70mph in sixth is 1550rpm) is com­pro­mised by high noise lev­els. Cor­ner­ing on wet or bumpy sur­faces does not in­spire con­fi­dence, but whether this is merely a mat­ter of ad­just­ment or rather of worn or in­cor­rect damp­ing or spring rates (re­mem­ber it’s only the sec­ond one built) is hard to as­sess. The clutch is heavy but the gearchange short in throw and pre­cise, the lever an­gled to­ward the driver. There is room for the tallest pi­lots though only the seat is ad­justable, not ped­als or wheel.

This is a van­ish­ingly rare car with mon­strous per­for­mance and a sur­pris­ingly raw, old-fash­ioned driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence de­liv­ered in a cock­pit akin to a lux­ury busi­ness jet. Hand-made foibles are in ev­i­dence and as such, rather a spe­cial car prob­a­bly de­mands rather a spe­cial owner. At least it’s a lit­tle cheaper than the £229,000 asked for it in 2004.

Gull­wing doors work and pan­els chip-free, but is­sues with electrics

Seats soft and nicely worn, dash stitch­ing frayed in places

Driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is thrilling, thanks largely to Viper V10 en­gine

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