In 1953, S. H. "Wacky" Arnolt, Chicago businessman and vice-president of Bertone, was in London for the Motor Show. He had already had some success with his Bertone-bodied MG TDs, which had whetted his appetite for sports cars, and he was very impressed b
In 1953, S. H. "Wacky" Arnolt, Chicago businessman and vice-president of Bertone, was in London for the Motor Show. He had already had some success with his Bertone-bodied MG TDs, which had whetted his appetite for sports cars, and he was very impressed by the Bristol 404, but thought the price too high to make a distributorship viable. However, he came to an agreement with the factory whereby they would supply him with modified chassis fitted with the BS 1 Mk 2 engine. These were shipped to Bertone who produced a light two-seater open body called the "Bolide", which sold in America at $3,995, whereas the standard 404 was $9,946; it weighed nearly 300 lbs. less than the 404 and having the tuned engine was a good deal faster.
Competition work began soon and the cars were 1st, 2nd and 4th in the 2 litre class in the Sebring 12 hour race in 1954 and 1955; the Arnolt was a great survivor and was still winning class and team prizes in the 1960s. Top speed was around 115 mph, and Sports Car Illustrated waxed lyrical in their road test of the car. It appears that around 140 of the various models were made before production ceased in 1964.
The example shown here has been prepared for endurance racing and the numerous scrutineering and event labels attached to the rear bulkhead are testimony to its competiton career. The vehicle is in good to excellent condition, having benefited from an earlier restoration. It was campaigned for many years in the United States in various historic events and is believed to have participated in the Carrera Mexicana on three occasions. Although photographed with a roll over bar, this has now been removed, giving the car a much cleaner line. It is finished in Team USA racing livery with tan leather upholstery and the car comes with sundry bills, an owner's manual, a workshop manual and the above mentioned roll over bar.
|1958 Arnolt Bristol
The car pictured here sold at Coys’ auction September 26, 1998, in Klausenrennen, Switzerland for $67,323, including buyer’s premium.
Wacky Arnolt’s efforts as an automobile manufacturer were interesting (and often strange). His Arnolt MG sedans, bsically Italian-bodied TDs, redefined what we might call a “niche.”
They sold so poorly that it is rumored that a few were given away as prizes on a game show. Arnolt’s interpretation of the AC Bristol was bold, especially considering how good the “core” was to improve upon. His choice of coachbuilder, Bertone, and the materal, steel, made the cars slower, heavier, and not as attractive as the Bristol. Still, in a ’50s vein, the cars came off as modern and their reputation was boosted by the race results at Sebring and many other club races.
Today, the cars are an interesting period piece stylistically. They’re not as classical as the AC, but the sharp, razor-edge Bertone bodywork has aged well. This, combined with the stout heart of the AC driveline and chassis, makes a great ’50s sports car.
But all of this doesn’t make an Arnolt worth more than a 100D2 Bristol. Typically, a nice old car without any notable history is worth in the $35,000-$45,000 range. Any figure above that would be appropriate for a car with major racing history, major concours wins or perhaps an amazing original example. The description of this car has none of these attributes, so we can only assume that the car was better than described, or it found an anxious buyer who had to have it and proved it with his paddle.
Market opinions by Michael Duffey.