In 1906 Stanley Harold Aranoff was born into a family of bookbinders living in Chicago. After studying engineering he changed his name to Arnolt as part of an unsuccessful bid to break into the motor industry in 1936.
While looking for business opportunities he bought the rights to the Sea Mite Marine engine which he attached to a 13 ft rowing boat and sailed from St Joseph in Michigan across Lake Michigan to Chicago as part of a publicity stunt which earned him his “Wacky” nickname.
The Sea Mite proved a wise purchase after “Wacky” Arnolt won a contract to supply the motors to the US NAVY for their small vessels during the ’39-’45 war.
After the war “Wacky” held franchises to distribute MG, Riley and Morris cars and at the 1952 Turin motor show a MG TD with bodywork designed by Franco Scaglione form the financially struggling Bertone Coachworks caught his eye.
Wacky immediately placed an order for two hundred of the distinctive Bertone MG’s and Mr Bertone apparently nearly fainted. Only 103 Arnolt MG’s were built because MG switched production to the new TF model.
Impressed with the sales of the Bertone MG Arnolt, “Wacky” commissioned Bertone to develop a body for an Aston Martin and a total of eight these cars are thought to have been built by which time Aston Martin has long pulled the plug on the project.
Wacky then commissioned a one off Bertone Bentley for his personal use before entering an agreement with Bristol to supply 200 type 404 chassis with 125 hp six cylinder Bristol motors which would then be shipped to Bertone for the bodywork as seen on today’s featured 1954 example chassis #404X3086.
Today’s featured car, which is seen at the 2012 Bristol Concours d’Elegance at Greenwich, was the original European demonstrator and was displayed at the 1954 Motor Shows held in Geneva, Turin, Brussels, Munich, and finally Paris where it was sold to an American owner.
To help market the Arnolt Bristol “Wacky” entered three cars in the 1955 Sebring 12 hours and they finished 1st, 2nd and 4th in the 2 litre / 122 cui class with John Panks and Ernie Erickson sharing the honours. The following year the team finished second in the Sebring 12 hours to a Ferrari and in 1957 the team withdrew from the race after team member Bob Goldrich was killed during the race.
In 1960 Max Goldman and Ralph Durbin shared a second Sebring 12 hour class win driving an Arnolt Bristol which finished 14th overall. Other class and race winners driving Arnolt Bristol’s included team owner Wacky himself, Ed Rahal, Carl Grassman and Tom Payne.
Production of the Arnolt Bristol is thought to have come to an end in 1959 with 142 vehicles built, of those 12 were destroyed on Wacky’s premises in a warehouse fire.
Three versions of the Arnolt Bristol were built striped down Bolide like the one seen here, several Bolides also had aluminium bodies, Deluxe Roadster with Connolly hide seats full windscreen and full weather protection and a couple of coupes. At least one Arnolt Bristol is known to have been sold new as late as 1966.
Thanks for joining me on this Wacky and Bertone edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at the first of this months Indy Cars. Don’t forget to come back now !