Our Cars: 1961 Arnolt-Bristol

There are always a few cars that we’ve owned and miss and, for reasons we can’t remember, sold. Today continues a series of posts about cars that I have loved and cars I’ve owned. If you would like to write a post about one of your favorite cars, please drop me a note using the Contact tab.

Arnolt BristolToday, not many people remember the Arnolt-Bristol, so here’s a brief history lesson: Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt was a Chicago industrialist,who imported  cars into the United States during the 1950s. Though sold as American cars, Arnolt’s cars were constructed often with British mechanical underpinnings, original Italian bodywork, and US sales and distribution, although in some cases final assembly and bodywork was completed in Warsaw, Indiana.

For the Arnolt Bristol, Arnolt purchased two hundred Bristol 404 chassis and 1971 cc, six-cylinder 130 hp engines from Bristol Cars Ltd in the UK. The Bristol chassis were sent to Carrozzeria Bertone where they received an aerodynamic body that had a hood that was designed to clear the car’s three single barrel Solex 32 carburetors.

To launch the car, Arnolt created a racing team for the 1955 Sebring 12-hour race, and in their first attempt, the cars finished first, second and fourth in the Sports 2000 class. The following year they took second and third in class. In 1957 the team withdrew after driver Bob Goldich’s fatal accident. The accident and death caused Arnolt to withdraw from racing.

Despite racing successes, the cars did not sell well and right now only 85 of the 142 cars built are known, in conditions that vary from needing complete restoration to concours quality. Some of the cars did not sell until after 1960, with the last car to be sold, fitted with four headlights, remained unsold until 1968. The car I co-owned with a friend was one of the later cars and we gave it a 11-month rolling restoration, painting it in the livery of the racing team. We had fun with it, exhibited it in shows and it always won some kind of prize, more often than not first place in the sports car category.

Bristol

The car was ultimately sold to a vintage sports car racer who raced it for many years before selling it to its owner in England who is restoring it back to how we had it originally setup—for the street. Unrestored the car cost us a total of $395 in 1970 and I would have to add three more zeros to that number to be able to own one today.