Posted by: Jerry Garrett | February 17, 2018

PHANTOM THREAD – What’s That Car? Hint: You’ve Seen It Before


Arguably, the most interesting component of the 2017 movie, “Phantom Thread”, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a slow-moving but fast-driving couturier, is his car.

What is it?

Here’s a hint: you’ve seen it on-screen before.

The same car was apparently also used in the 2009 movie, “An Education”. It was driven by the film’s shape-shifting lead character, played by Peter Sarsgaard (shown blow, driving with co-star Carey Mulligan).

The deep red sports car is a Bristol 405.

How can I tell it’s the same car? It has same license plate, “WDF 964”. (Lewis, shown above, opening door for co-star Vicky Krieps.)


This is a very rare 405; only 297 were produced, during its production run, 1955-1958. The deep red, or maroon, color was not unique, but only a few were turned out in that color. The Internet Movie Car Database reports that it is a 1955 model – further narrowing the range of likely suspects.

Bristol was a tiny, rather obscure British manufacturer that went into production in 1946. Originally known as the Bristol Aeroplane Company, since it began in 1910 producing flying machines, has remained in business, now known as Bristol cars, with a few interruptions to this day.

Although the cars were British in design and manufacture, its cars were powered, from 1946 to 1960, by sporty BMW six-cylinder engines. Chrysler engines were used after that; although the company switched back to BMW power in 2016. The 405’s engine was an inline six – a signature BMW design – that displaced 2 or 2.2 liters, depending on the configuration ordered. Horsepower output ranged between 100 and 125 – a strong performer for the day.

The Bristol 405 was noteworthy not just because it was one of the first production cars to sprout tail fins – albeit tiny ones – it was also Bristol’s only four-door, or “saloon” in British vernacular, ever produced. It also featured a unique center headlight, mounted in the middle of the aircraft-inspired grille.

Under its sleek, voluptuous body were other unique features, like a wooden frame, spare tire holders behind the front wheels, rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes (developed with racing at LeMans in mind).

As suggested in “Phantom Thread”, the 405 was developed with fast driving in mind, for a wealthy, thrill-seeking clientele.

Besides the two movies mentioned here, a maroon 405 – probably the same car – has also appeared in other movies and television shows of late, including 2017’s “Crooked House”.

Jerry Garrett

February 17, 2018


  1. British cars are flat out enigmatic or were especially so during the 1950’s and 60’s.

    Could not figure out what you meant by “spare tire holders behind the front wheels” until I found an image online that showed how the dead-space in the fender wells was being used.

    At least reading this post has led me to a search – that developed into a better understanding of the contributions of Italian coach maker – Zagato. The Bristol 407 Zagato was an attractive car. The modern Bristol Bullet looks good too.

    Of course I am reminded of one of my favorite (most enigmatic) aircraft From WWII; the Bristol Beaufighter. The Beaufighter used 2 x 1,600 hp Bristol Hercules 14-cylinder radial engines with constant-speed / variable-pitch propellers. The Beaufighter was the primary night-fighter used by the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

    I wanted to insert links into my comment with “BB” code (as if I were making comments on a forum. For example inserting a link between url tags like this: [url=]Bristol Bullet[/ur] but I am not sure it will work.

    So I will leave a few links the simple way instead.

    • Great. Thanks for your interest!

  2. used to find out then began to wondering whether anyone else was interested..

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