The 24th annual Greenwich Concours d’Elegance this year not only paid tribute to 100 years of Zagato, but also to the cars of Arnolt. For the first time ever in history, the Greenwich Concours housed the largest display and gathering of Arnolt cars all at once.
“We had a total of 17 Arnolt cars here at the Greenwich show, which is an unheard-of turnout for an Arnolt reunion,” said Chuck Schoendorf, one of the Greenwich show’s esteemed judges and the lead organizer for the Arnolt reunion this year. “The last reunion we had was four years ago and it only featured seven Arnolt cars. Now we have 17, featuring all three types of cars that Arnolt built. Out of about 250 cars, about 100 of those were MGs, 145 were Bristols, and only six Aston Martins. We have nine of the Bristols, six of the MGs, and two of the Aston Martins. So they’re all represented.”
If you’ve never heard of Arnolt before, this U.S.-based importer of 1954–68 European cars built specifically with bodies and coachwork by Bertone was started when Chicago industrialist and millionaire Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt met with executives from Bertone at the Turin Auto Show in 1952. Following a successful meeting, Arnolt established his company to produce hybrids (though not in the contemporary sense as referring to electrified powertrains).
Rather, these hybrids featured all of the best traits from the most prominent automobile markets of the time. For instance, they utilized stout British mechanicals, luscious Italian bodywork, and the very best in U.S. marketing and distribution models to sell some of history’s greatest sports cars. The results included collaborations such as Arnolt-MG, Arnolt-Aston, and Arnolt-Bristol. All were meant to cater to and satisfy the demands of affluent customers in Chicago, while those on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. flocked to Aston Martins and Ferraris.
“Stanley H. Arnolt was a highly successful manufacturer who had an overriding compulsion for sports cars and racing. He became a foreign car importer for several different brands and eventually wanted to build his own, using the best components from around the world,” Schoendorf told us. “He would buy running chassis from England, first from MG, then from Bristol, and then from Aston Martin, then he would send them to Italy to be bodied, and then shipped by boat back to the U.S.”
Only 103 Arnolt-MGs were ever built out of an intended production run of just 200 cars, due to the fact that in 1954, MG overhauled its entire lineup with a new core car design. Built in collaboration with British manufacturer MG, the Arnolt-MG concoctions were based off of the original MG TD platform, featuring a body penned by Giovanni Bertone, his son Nuccio, and business partner Giovanni Michelotti. They all featured a 54-horsepower XPAG four-cylinder engine. A total of seven of the 103 examples ever made showed up at the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, home of the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance.
The Arnolt-MGs were also accompanied by an Arnolt-Aston, which as you might have guessed, was built in collaboration with Aston Martin. Only two showed up this year, but that’s because only seven were ever built. (All seven cars still exist on the road today.) Two Arnolt-Astons were on display, both of which were 1953 Arnolt-Aston DB2/4 Roadsters. All Arnolt-Astons were manufactured on Aston Martin’s DB2/4 platform with Aston’ 2.6-liter inline-six, good for around 125 horsepower.
Arnolt’s biggest collaboration, however, was with Bristol, resulting in a total of 145 examples, out of the 200 initially ordered up. When Arnolt entered an agreement with Bertone, he was desperate to find a new source for car platforms to help him fulfill his obligation to Bertone, particularly after MG was unable to manufacture enough rolling chassis for Arnolt’s initial plan. Upon discovering Bristol, which was more than happy to sell him a large number of its latest, yet slow-selling 404 model, Arnolt then sent the chassis examples to Carrozzeria Bertone, where they were bodied to become one of the most recognizable examples of Arnolt cars in history.
After his success teaming up with Bristol, Arnolt established a racing team for the Sebring 12-hour motorsports competition. In 1955, entered the race with one of his newly built Arnolt-Bristols and went on to place first, second, and fourth in the special lightweight Sports 2000 class.
The 145 Arnolt-Bristols built were manufactured in a total of four body styles: a minimalistic racing-spec model, a “bolide” racing-spec model that offered more accessories for endurance racers, a deluxe model with side windows and a folding top, and a hardtop coupe model with pop-up headlights. All Arnolt-Bristols were powered by a 2.0-liter triple-carburetor inline-six, which was originally developed by BMW, producing 130 horsepower.
The majority of Arnolt-Bristols were assembled between 1953 and 1959. Out of the 145 examples produced, only 85 are believed to still be in existence, varying in condition.
"We were honored to have Michael Arnolt with us for a reunion of the cars built by his father. There were 17 Arnolt cars bodied by Bertone on the field. I'm very grateful to Michael and to reunion organizer Chuck Schoendorf for all of their efforts in coordinating this," said Greenwich Concours chair Mary Wennerstrom.
“Every year, we try to do something extraordinary,” said Ken Gross, the chief judge at the Greenwich Concours for three years, and a veteran judge at Pebble Beach for over 30 years. “With the cars from Arnolt and Zagato, we think we’ve hit another milestone and we’re going to keep trying to do that year after year moving forward.”