Lot 9

New York

1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe by Bertone

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$1,105,000 USD | Sold

United States Flag | New York, New York

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Chassis No.
LML/765
Engine No.
VB6J/213
Gearbox No.
DBCW/243/LH
Documents
US Title
  • The only coupe of seven Bertone-bodied Aston Martins built
  • Meticulous concours restoration by marque specialist Kevin Kay
  • Fully numbers-matching per its factory build documents and confirmed during restoration
  • First in Class, 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
  • Invited to the 2024 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este
  • An outstanding, award-winning coachbuilt Aston of exceptional beauty and pedigree, surely welcome at virtually any top-level concours event on the planet

The tale of Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt II is well-known to sports car enthusiasts, but bears a rapid repeating: The Warsaw, Indiana businessman made his first fortune as a manufacturer of marine engines, then branched into the selling of British automobiles in Chicago in late 1950. In 1952 he commissioned Italian coachbuilder Bertone to build a limited run of custom-bodied MG TDs, known as Arnolt-MGs, for sale through his showroom. This relationship soon expanded, with Bertone collaborating with “Wacky” on, most famously, the Arnolt-Bristol, as well as Bertone-bodied Alfa Romeos, Bentleys, Ferraris, and other fabulous coachbuilt creations.

There were seven Aston Martins dressed by Bertone under Arnolt’s auspices, or, as the relentlessly self-promoting Arnolt would have preferred they be known, Arnolt-Aston Martins. Their designs differed from series to series and car to car, but DB2/4 chassis number LML/765 is the only coupe. It was and remains a thing of beauty, with lines that are more crisp and elegant than some of the other Bertone creations, arguably more finely tailored and cohesive and especially striking as a coupe. As noted by historian Stanley Nowak in his article on the Bertone Astons in Automobile Quarterly, Vol. 26 No. 4, the car’s dramatic creases in its flanks and a pronounced wraparound rear window were both signature touches of Bertone’s Franco Scaglione.

Build records at Aston Martin Dorset indicate that LML/765 was commissioned by Arnolt on 20 August 1954 for “Monsieur Henrey Pagezy” of Paris and delivered on 7 January 1955. Given the somewhat mangled spelling, it is believed that this client was actually Henri Pigozzi, founder of Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile, better-known as Simca. This is likely, as a few features on LML/765, most notably the taillights, were borrowed from Simca automobiles—an impressive signature.

According to Nowak, Arnolt’s Bertone representative claimed that the coupe was intended to have been the first in a small run of cars, but by the time it appeared Aston Martin had refused to supply any more chassis to the effort. Supporting this statement, the car was shown, well after its completion, at both the 1957 and 1958 Turin Motor Shows—finished in white and then in blue, respectively—each time on the Bertone stand. It is believed that the coachbuilder borrowed the car back both years in an effort to entice Aston Martin to consider them as a new firm to develop the upcoming DB4, a role that eventually went to another Italian coachbuilder, Touring of Milan.

The Bertone coupe later made its way to the United States in 1976, into the hands of John G. Gyann. It was subsequently owned by Dr. Jim Pavlatos of Palos Heights, Illinois, and restored under his care, then passed through the hands of Chicago-based sportscar dealer Bill Jacobs and the Blackhawk Collection. In 1987, it was acquired from Blackhawk by Roger Karlson of California, who would own the car for eleven years and spent much time and spared no expense meticulously sorting the mechanicals of the largely cosmetic restoration that had been undertaken prior to his ownership. The car was shown later in 1987 at Pebble Beach while under Mr. Karlson’s ownership.

In 2019, the special Bertone Aston was acquired by the current owner, who commissioned Aston Martin specialists Kevin Kay Restorations in Redding, California to undertake a full concours restoration. As part of this work, the car was faithfully returned to its “show stand-correct” metallic blue shade, matched to traces of the original finish located below the headlight bezels and in the trunk area. In addition, the correct front bumper and taillights, which had been modified over the years, were fabricated to replicate the original 1955 units, as was the bonnet trim, sun visors, and much of the interior trim hardware. Down to the original red exhaust tip, visible in a surviving 1958 color photograph, no small detail was overlooked during this extensive restoration, which cost over $800,000 and was completed just in time for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2023. The restored car retains its original numbers-matching drivetrain, per its build documentation, with the original engine having been rebuilt to a high-output specification with elevated compression, DB MK III-style valves and camshafts, and an uprated oiling system.

At completion of the work, the car was debuted at the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was honored with First in Class, a remarkable achievement. It has yet to be shown publicly since, leaving the door open for the next caretaker to enjoy participation in virtually any top-level concours event on the planet. In fact, the Bertone Aston has already been invited to be displayed and compete at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Accompanying the sale is a document file featuring restoration photographs and invoices, as well as a copy of the Automobile Quarterly article and other historical information, including a detailed letter account by dedicated former owner Roger Karlson.

This unique Aston Martin DB2/4 is a singular and exquisite automobile, representing the epitome of English sporting heritage, but inspired by American ingenuity, passion, and ambition, and styled and built by Bertone and Italy’s finest artisans. In so many ways, the Bertone Aston represents the ultimate iteration of company owner David Brown’s “gentleman’s express.” A lively, smooth performer, it is a consummate English gentleman indeed, but clothed in a bespoke Italian suit.