Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Arnolt Bristol

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SH Arnolt Inc. of Chicago and Warsaw Indiana sold four different manufacturer's cars with Bertone bodies during the period 1953 to 1968.

Stanley H. "Wacky" Arnolt was a Chicago industrialist, who began importing foreign cars in the 1950's to the United States. Though sold as American cars, the cars were true hybrids, with British mechanicals, Italian bodywork, and U.S. sales and distribution, as well as in some cases final assembly and body work. SH Arnolt Inc. was a licensed automobile manufacturer in the State of Illinois.

A fortuitous meeting with Bertone at the Turin Auto Show in 1952 resulted in four collaborative efforts between Arnolt and Bertone.

Arnolt then negotiated with Bristol Cars in the UK for the purchase of 200 of their 404 series chassis and 1971 cc, six-cylinder 130 hp engines. These chassis were sent to Carrozzeria Bertone where they received a highly aerodynamic body with a flowing design that allowed the minimal hood height to clear the cars' three two-barrel Solex 34 carburetors. The bodies were designed by Bertone's new designer/aerodynamicist, Franco Scaglione (soon to be famous as the designer of the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. concept cars). The very tall Bristol engine created problems for designing a sleek-looking sports car. Franco Scaglione handled these with particular genius - first by incorporating a hood scoop to lower the surrounding sheet metal, and then by incorporating sharply creased fender lines out over the wheels to draw the eye's attention away from the unusually tall peak in the hood. A few design changes were requested by SH Arnolt.

Arnolt created a racing team for the 12 hour Sebring race, and the Arnolt team took 1st, second and fourth place in its class 1955, second and third in 1956, fourth in 1957 (one of the team cars crashed, killing the driver) and returned for a final first place win in class in 1960, (Arnolt team cars finished in 14th, 22d and 39th place overall).

The cars were available in four body styles; competition--a stripped road racer-- bolide--a slightly better appointed road racer--the deluxe--a better appointed version of the bolide, with side windows and convertible top, instruments mounted in a housing in front of the driver and an inset glove box in the dash--and a fixed roof coupe, which were fitted with pop-up headlights. At least one open car was subsequently fitted with a removable hardtop by S.H. Arnolt. Prices as per a 1956 factory letter were $3995 for the competition model, $4245 for the bolide, $4995 for the Deluxe and $5995 for the coupe.

Factory options for the Arnolt Bristols included a front sway bar, remote shifter, 11 inch Alfin drum brakes, convertible top, bumpers, Borrani KO steel wheels (nine sets were sold, and one car was sold with Borrani wire wheels) and several different rear end gear ratios. A special racing fuel tank was installed in some of the race cars but was never offered for sale to the public. Late in 1959 and 60, the 12 inch bell shaped Bristol drum setup was offered and in 1961 Bristol front disc brakes were offered to retro fit to the Arnolt Bristol. The majority of the cars had steel bodies, with aluminum trunk and hood.

The cars came with an owner's manual, spares manual and shop workbook, as well as a spare wheel and tire and complete tool kit. Additional items such as Arnolt key fobs, neck ties, ice buckets and Arnolt logo head scarves were available from the company. A wide variety of promotional literature, including brochures and postcards, was also produced.

All of the cars were originally sold with Bristol MkII BS1 six cylinder engines; some have subsequently been fitted with other engines.

All Arnolt Bristols were built between January 14th, 1953 and December 12, 1959. The majority were built in 1954 and 1959. A total of 142 cars were produced, of which 12 were written off after a factory fire. The fire-damaged cars were used as a source of spares by Arnolt in later years. The total production included six coupes, and two aluminum alloy-bodied cars. One of the cars was originally right hand drive: the rest were all left hand drive. An additional car never received a body, and was used as a rolling chassis for auto shows. This chassis is still in the possession of the Arnolt family.

Approximately 85 of the cars are still known to be extant, in conditions that vary from needing complete restoration to concourse quality.

Despite the racing successes, the cars did not sell well.

Some of the cars did not sell until after 1960, and the last car to be sold, fitted with four headlights, remained unsold until 1968.

See Also

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Sources of Information

[1] Wikipedia