There sat my never-forgotten love from Paris, among common British machinery like Morris Minors and MG Magnettes

The Arnolt Bristol was the obsession of engineer, industrialist, importer, and sports car enthusiast Stanley "Wacky" Arnolt. He made his fortune building marine engines during World War II, and, seeing a market for sports cars in America during the early 1950s, cut a deal with Bristol to use an updated version of its 400 chassis, designated the 404, to build a sports car. Bertone supplied the bodies, and the Arnolt Bristol went into production in 1954.

The racing version, called the "Bolide," did not come with a top, carpeting or adjustable seats, and windshield wipers were optional. "DeLuxe" models had all of those features and a different dashboard design with the instruments in front of the driver. A coupe completed the model line-up, though just six were built before production ended in 1961. Only 142 Arnolt Bristols were constructed in total, 12 of which were destroyed in a Chicago warehouse fire. An estimated 75 cars survive to this day.

The Arnolt Bristol earned a glowing reputation as a racer, winning its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1955, with two other Arnolts taking second and fourth.

This fine example is from the renowned William G. Lassiter collection. Purchased from a Texas enthusiast in 1990, Mr. Lassiter had the car fully restored in Pompano Beach, Fla., to an extremely high standard.

The Bristol DeLuxe is in very good condition with the exception of some minor paint issues on the hood. It is refinished in Post Office Red with an Arbotan beige interior and a tan top, and it comes with side curtains.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1954 Arnolt Bistol DeLuxe
Years Produced:1954-1959
Number Produced:142
Original List Price:Bolide $3,995, DeLuxe $4,645, Coupe $6,390
SCM Valuation:$50,000-$60,000
Tune Up Cost:$750
Distributor Caps:$100
Chassis Number Location:On the chassis at the foot of right front engine mount
Engine Number Location:Top of right side of valve cover (elliptical brass plate) and in middle of the block on the left side
Club Info:Bristol Owners Club, Kevin Jones, Esq., 27, Henry Road, Oxford OX2 0DG, England
Alternatives:1956-63 AC Ace Bristol, 1960-69 Morgan Super Sport
Investment Grade:C

This 1954 Arnolt Bristol DeLuxe Roadster sold for $52,801, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Monterey Auction held on August 16-17, 2003. It was previously sold by Christie’s for $51,750, in March 1999.

After loaning the fledgling Bertone some capital and becoming a vice president of the firm, Wacky Arnolt undertook several automotive-related endeavors, including producing the Arnolt MG, but none were as successful as the Franco Scaglione-designed Arnolt Bristol.

The design was practical and smart. Bodies were built in steel because it was cheaper, plus American body shops were not used to working in alloy. By welding the body to the chassis, the Arnolt Bristol was extremely rigid, almost as good as a monocoque. Rather than a standard 95-hp Bristol engine, the cars were fitted with a BS1MK2, which was lighter and more powerful, developing 130 hp at 5,500 rpm. The entire package was stunning to behold and successful on the track.

This obscure made-for-America hybrid marked three memorable moments in my life. One sunny autumn day in 1955, while strolling down Champs-Elysees, I saw an Arnolt Bristol Bolide, white with a blue racing stripe. In the eyes and heart of this 17-year-old, it was the most beautiful car in the world.

Two years later, I had become lost in Chicago on a rainy November afternoon when I found myself standing in front of Arnolt Motors, Ltd. The door to the showroom was open, so I walked in. There sat my never-forgotten love from Paris, among common British machinery like Morris Minors and MG Magnettes. A bear of a man dressed like a Hollywood cowboy asked if he could help me. Though my English was limited, I understood he was trying to sell me the car I so coveted. His eyes and voice were hypnotic, and for a moment I thought, “It’s only four grand.” I was working as a stock boy at Marshall Field’s, where they paid me a whole dollar an hour, but still. I walked out into the rain. As I found out later, the man was Wacky Arnolt.

Jump forward to 1971. I was having lunch with Luigi Chinetti Sr. in my favorite restaurant, Le Chanteclair in Manhattan, owned by Rene Dreyfus, one of the top pre-war Grand Prix drivers. Rene came to say hello and sat down at our table. I asked him which of his races he most remembered and without hesitation he replied, “1955 Sebring,” where he drove an Arnolt Bristol. Rene proceeded to tell us that he had really had no interest in racing again when he drove at Sebring, but the team owner was the most persuasive man he had ever met. Dreyfus placed fourth in that race, driving for that same bear who had tried to sell a teenage stock boy one of his sports cars.

Yes, the Arnolt Bristol comes from that magical era when sports car legends were made, and Wacky’s story endows the car with at least as much desirability as does its elegant Bertone body. Of course, while crafted in the same spirit as the AC Ace, the Arnolt Bristol doesn’t have quite that cachet or market valuation today. But after all, Carroll Shelby never put his hands on one of Wacky’s cars.

With the exception of one ragged example that’s been making the rounds for over two years-and largely failing to attract bids much over $40,000-Arnolt Bristols don’t appear at auction too frequently. When correctly restored like the Arnolt Bristol DeLuxe pictured here, they’re undoubtedly worth at least $50,000, but we don’t see enough good cars sell to accurately assess any market trends.

A Bristol Owners Club concours class-winning Bolide (S/N 404X3042) did just sell for a whopping $78,260 at Bonhams’ London auction in December 2003, so perhaps the new owner of this DeLuxe has some market appreciation to look forward to, along with enjoying his curvaceous and unusual ride.-Raymond Milo

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