- One of 142 Arnolt-Bristols built from 1954 through 1959
- Body designed by Franco Scaglione of Bertone
- Retains numbers-matching engine
- Beautifully restored, riding on custom Borrani knock-off wheels with three-ear Arnolt spinners
- Suitable for exhibition and highly eligible for premiere racing and touring events worldwide
Stanley Harold “Wacky” Arnolt earned his nickname in 1938, when he motored 60 miles across Lake Michigan, from St. Joseph, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois, through dense fog in a 13-foot rowboat powered by the Sea-Mite marine engine he had developed. According to the Chicago Daily News, men on the pier who saw him come through the fog after his four-hour journey greeted him with, “Hello there, Wacky!” and the name stuck. But there was nothing wacky about the fortune he made when the strong, light Sea-Mites were used by the US Navy to power small vessels. Arnolt’s industrial design and manufacturing company began producing those engines, as well as numerous other components used by the Navy and Air Force throughout World War II.
By 1950, S.H. Arnolt Inc. began importing Aston Martin, Bristol, MGs, Morris Minors, and Rileys into the US. Arnolt attended the 1952 Turin Auto Show and, while admiring some MG bodies designed by Giovanni Michelotti for Bertone, he met father and son Giovanni and Nuccio Bertone, whose coachbuilding business was struggling to find steady work after the devastation of the war. Arnolt and the Bertones struck a deal to manufacture 200 MG bodies—100 coupes and 100 convertibles—on the MG-TD platform. However, from 1953 through 1954, only 67 coupes and 36 convertibles were supplied, as MG was struggling to meet demand for their own cars while also transitioning from the TD to the TF model.
Ultimately, Arnolt and Bertone would work on collaborations with other British manufacturers, including Aston Martin, Bentley, but it was a partnership with Bristol that proved most fruitful. Bristol’s sales manager, James Watt, helped broker a deal with its slow-selling, short-wheelbase Bristol 404, introduced in 1953, to fulfill Arnolt’s MG obligation to Bertone. Arnolt ordered 200 Bristol 404 chassis and paired them with the license-built Frazer Nash-BMW 2.0-liter, six-cylinder engine, originally from the BMW 328 and used in the Bristol 403.
Bertone’s brilliant young designer Franco Scaglione oversaw the new project. His contemporaneous designs for the Alfa Romeo 2000 Sportiva and the B.A.T. prototypes built on Alfa 1900 chassis may well have served as inspiration, as could have Malcolm Sayer’s Jaguar D-Type released in 1954. The design was also driven by the need to provide enough hood clearance for the three Solex carburetors that rode high in the engine bay. By adding a hood scoop to accommodate them and balancing it between the creased and flared front fenders, Scaglione created a graceful, energetic form that added wonderfully to the car’s nimble stance.
There were four body styles offered: the Competition was a stripped down, modified road racer; the Bolide was a slightly better-equipped road racer; the DeLuxe was essentially a Bolide with additional options such as a convertible top, side windows, bumpers, and glove box; and the fixed-roof Coupe featured the added options plus roll-up windows and pop-up headlights. In total, 142 Arnolt-Bristols were produced from 1953 through 1959.
This fortunate survivor, which retains its numbers-matching engine, has been restored to show-worthy condition following its addition to the Gene Ponder Collection. As invoices on file attest, the car received in recent years repairs to the bodywork and frame, as well as service to its suspension, braking, and lubrication systems.
Mr. Ponder first came across the car in the early 2000s, having purchased it for his friend Dr. Anil Chhabra and then helping orchestrate a comprehensive, professional restoration over a period of two years. Mr. Ponder then bought the car back from Dr. Anil in 2018 and had it thoroughly refurbished once again.
The car is finished in blue over a blue interior with a blue convertible top and blue tonneau cover—an appealing monochrome treatment broken up by chrome accents in the grille, hood scoop, and windshield posts. It now rides on Borrani knock-off wheels with Arnolt three-ear spinners produced at great expense for the Arnolt-Bristols in the Ponder Collection. These complete the car’s look, giving it an undeniably sporting stance.
As presented today, this Arnolt-Bristol represents a beautifully restored realization of “Wacky” Arnolt’s bold sports-car dream. Suitable for show, it is also well-equipped—and highly eligible—for vintage racing and touring at the highest levels, having twice completed the California Mille. Wherever it goes, whether on the track or the concours green, its Bertone styling and unique presence is sure to turn heads.