Bertone Aston Martin DB 2/4 Spyder
S.H. "Wacky" Arnolt was an entrepreneur with an uncanny ability to spot highly profitable business opportunities. After World War II, he obtained the Chicago-area distribution rights for Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Bristol, MG, Riley and Morris automobiles. While some marques proved more successful in the US market than others, within only five years time, "Wacky" was a multi-millionaire and planned to expand his growing business into automobile construction.
Part of Arnolt's talent was an innate knowledge of what would in fact sell, and at the 1952 Turin Auto Salon, he met Nuccio Bertone. Bertone, rich in creativity and expertise but with little available cash, presented two original concepts based on used MG TD chassis that caught Arnolt's attention. Arnolt's second major investment was to hire the best design talent he could find - Franco Scaglione, whose design submission was chosen over one penned by another Italian design luminary, Giovanni Michelotti.
Stanley convinced Aston Martin to allow him to commission Bertone, whose board of directors he served on, to build some special bodied DB2/4s. Arnolt purchased five sequentially numbered Aston Martin DB 2/4 chassis in 1953. While the two even-numbered chassis received "Deluxe" bodywork with bumpers, taller windscreens and more upscale trim, the three odd-numbered chassis, LML/503, LML/505 and LML/507, were fitted with more elemental competition spider bodywork. As completed, however, the result was nothing short of stunning - a lightweight racing roadster with coachwork fitted so closely to the chassis that a crease was required running down the bonnet in order to clear the long-stroke, 3.0-litre Aston Martin inline six-cylinder engine. From the car's headlamps, fully peaked front fenders flowed back to aggressively-curved rear fenders, with the Bertone coachwork perfectly cloaking the 99-inch DB 2/4 chassis and its highly sophisticated underpinnings. Of the three chassis fitted with this body, only two were designed for outright competition use and were minimally equipped for the purpose; the third (LML/505) was a more luxurious model, equipped with a full windscreen, bumpers and a lavishly appointed interior.
Elegant yet aggressive and purposeful, Arnolt's Scaglione-designed car bore a strong resemblance to Aston Martin's own DB3S competition roadsters of the period but with a flowing purity of line that only such an inspired Italian designer as Scaglione could possibly deliver. It was quickly apparent that with its involvement with Arnolt, Aston Martin had in fact created a competitor more than it had a client. Perhaps Arnolt's use of "Arnolt Aston Martin" badging for the cars further shortened Newport Pagnell's patience with their American distributor. At any rate, the storied English marque flatly refused to sell Arnolt or Bertone any more of its DB 2/4 chassis, abruptly halting the DB 2/4-based project, but not before Arnolt managed to secure at least two or possibly three more chassis, depending on the source, with Touring and Zagato as the coachbuilders of these cars. Scaglione's basic shape went on to be used, in more subdued fashion, on the Arnolt-Bristol.
Unlike the earlier Arnolt-MGs and the later Arnolt-Bristols, the Arnolt-Astons received very little publicity when new and almost nothing was written about them in contemporary publications. Perhaps this was due to the fact that almost every one of the Arnolt-Astons was either retained by "Wacky" himself or was sold to a close friend or an important client.