Using the frumpy Bristol 404 as a starting point, Chicago auto importer Stanley H. Arnolt requested Bertone to style a curvy roadster with a very form-over-function shape. This is an oddball car with an American progenitor, a British chassis, and an interesting Scaglione-penned Italian body. Arnolt had hired Bertone to build 200 bodies, though only 142 were ultimately built.
The strange style may have turned off a few American buyers, as the low production car was on sale for quite a while. The Arnolt-Bristol concoction was assembled from 1952 through 1959, though the last one was sold in 1968. There were other tribulations as well, as twelve of the original 142 were lost in a factory fire. Only 85 are accounted for today.
The Arnolt-Bristol body was available in a variety of levels of trim: a stripped down ‘Competition’, this one, a slightly better equipped ‘Bolide’, a ‘Deluxe’ with proper interior appointments and a soft convertible top, and the Coupe. All of these variants are rare, but this particular Bolide model was a works sports car racer, one of only two to receive a front disc brake fitment.
Like all Arnolt-Bristols, this car uses Bristol’s BS11971 cc inline-six engine with 130 horsepower available. Being that it weighs little, that is more than enough power to move the car quickly. It was quite a successful racer, in fact. Homologated by the FIA as a limited production car, the factory assembled a team to race in big events like the 12 hours of Sebring, for 1955. The Arnolt-Bristol team won their first Sebring race, bringing home the Sports 2000 class victory 1-2-4. This particular chassis was driven to fourth in class by Rene Dreyfus and Robert Grier.
From some angles the Arnolt-Bristol is an quite attractive sports car, taking some obvious influence from other contemporary Italian designs. This is a very front-forward kind of design, reminiscent of a Jaguar or a front-engine Ferrari of the day. From certain angles, it’s almost Lotus-esque. The double roll hoop, no-nonsense car numbering, and minimalist interior are endearing connections to the car’s motorsport past.
The body was originally designed to work with an MG chassis, which fell through. The only concession to that chassis swap was to add in a hood scoop to accommodate the triple carburetor setup on the Bristol’s larger six-cylinder engine.
If you were looking to get into a weirdly beautiful Anglo-Italo-American mashup to take on a vintage racing excursion, there’s hardly a better choice. This ex-factory racer can be found crossing the stage at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction on March 10th. There is no pre-auction estimate, but expect this one to sell quite high, possibly near $200,000. The car was previously sold at Fantasy Junction in Northern California, and their listing provides more information and photos.