Arnolt-Bristol Roadster 1954
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone
Chassis no. 404/X/3033
•One of only 130 produced
•Delivered new to the USA
•Imported into Europe in 2006
•Fully restored to concours standard between 2016 and 2018
Having made his fortune during WW2, Chicago-based industrialist Stanley Harold 'Wacky' Arnolt II was able to indulge his lifelong love of automobiles, and by 1952 was a regional BMC distributor and US distributor for Bristol cars. In 1952, a visit to Carrozzeria Bertone led to Arnolt buying a stake in the Italian company and arranging manufacture of Bertone-bodied Arnolt MGs. Bertone's elegant coupé and cabriolet on the MG TD chassis had been first exhibited at the 1951 Geneva Salon. These cars were enthusiastically received by Arnolt, who saw the Bertone-bodied TD as meeting the US market's requirement for a luxury MG; a car possessing that all-important octagon badge yet blessed with something above the Spartan level of equipment usually associated with the Abingdon marque's sports cars. Two hundred cars were ordered, though production eventually totalled 65 coupés and 37 cabriolets.
Arnolt's next venture made use of the Bristol connection, the UK manufacturer's 404 chassis getting the Bertone treatment in 1953 courtesy of newly arrived stylist, Franco Scaglione. Despite being based on a pre-war BMW design, the Bristol possessed one of the finest chassis of its day and its 2.0-litre six-cylinder engine was one of the most efficient around. The 1,971cc Bristol six was based on that of the pre-war BMW 328, which featured an ingenious cylinder head, designed by Rudolf Schleicher, incorporating hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves without recourse to overhead, or twin, camshafts. Instead, the earlier BMW Type 319 engine's single block-mounted camshaft and pushrod valve actuation were retained, thus avoiding an expensive redesign. Two rocker shafts were employed, one situated above each bank of valves, giving the engine an external appearance almost indistinguishable from that of a twin-overhead-cam design. Downdraft inlet ports contributed to the motor's deep breathing, and its tune-ability made it a popular choice for British racing car constructors, most notably Cooper, during the 1950s. Externally, Bristol's clone of the BMW motor differed little from the German original, the most obvious difference being the adoption of SU, rather than Solex, carburettors part way through production. The most significant changes made by the Bristol designers were metallurgical, their utilisation of the highest quality materials contributing to greatly increased engine life.
The engine's one drawback, from a packaging perspective, was its height. Nevertheless, Scaglione still managed to come up with a sleek looking sports car, first by incorporating a bonnet scoop and secondly by employing sharply creased contours over the front wings to draw the viewer's attention away from the bonnet's unusually tall centre. Bristol sent rolling chassis to Bertone, which topped Arnolt-Bristols with either open two-seater or closely related fastback coupe bodies. Completed cars were then shipped to Chicago. The fastback would prove very rare (it is thought that only two were built).
Three open models were offered ranging from the basic competition version via the better-appointed Bolide to the fully equipped Bolide Deluxe. There was also an enclosed coupé. Arnolt charged $3,995 for the competition model, $4,245 for the Bolide, $4,995 for the Bolide Deluxe, and $5,995 for the coupé.
The Bristol engine could be tuned to produce in excess of 150bhp, and before long the pretty Arnolts were making their mark in production sports car races in the USA. In the summer of 1955, Arnolt convinced Rene Dreyfus to come out of retirement and manage the team of three Arnolt-Bristols at the Sebring 12 Hour. Dreyfus had not lost his spark - the cars finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the 2-litre class, losing 3rd place only to the Morgan-Triumph of Rothschild. The Arnolt-Bristols were awarded the Team Trophy that year, and again in 1956 and 1960.Arnolt-Bristol production ceased in 1963 after a total of 130 cars had been sold.
One of a mere handful of survivors, chassis number '3033' is recorded in the Arnolt-Bristol Owners List and formerly belonged to Ray Erickson before being imported into Europe in 2006 by Josef Stangpl. The Arnolt-Bristol was fully restored to concours standard between 2016 and 2018, the works carried out including a full engine overhaul (restoration invoices and photographs are on file). Finished in its eye-catching original Peacock Blue with grey leather interior, this ultra-rare, American-inspired, Anglo-Italian sports car is offered with a US title (EU-taxes paid).
Exclusive, expensive and immensely desirable, the Arnolt-Bristol remains a footnote in the pages of automotive history, but a memorable one.
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