Our Cars: 1961 Arnolt-Bristol

by | Jul 3, 2018

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

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 I have loved and cars that 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 with British mechanical underpinnings, Italian bodywork, and US final assembly, sales and distribution in Warsaw, Indiana.

For the Arnolt Bristol, Arnolt purchased two hundred Bristol 404 chassis with the 1971 cc, six-cylinder 130 hp engines (licensed from BMW) from Bristol Cars Ltd in the UK. The Bristol chassis were sent to Carrozzeria Bertone where they received an aerodynamic body that with a hood 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. That accident and his friend’s death caused Arnolt to withdraw from racing.

Despite racing successes, the cars did not sell well and right now (maybe) only 85 of the 142 cars that were 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 sold, fitted with four headlights, remained unsold until 1968. The car that I co-owned with my friend Ron Snow was one of the later cars and we gave it a eleven-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.

In 1970, the car in unrestored condition and missing such amenities as a windshield, top, grille and lots of other stuff cost us $395. I would have to add three more zeros to that number to be able to own one—in any condition—today.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, the vintage racer who owned it for many years sold it to a gentlemen in the UK who contacted me and told me of his plans to restore the car. That never happened and he, in turn sold the car to a gentleman in Lichtenstein, who not only planned to restore it but sent to a Carosserie in Switzerland for a frame-off restoration. He sent me some of the photos showing how the restoration was going and from what I could see, the car looks stunning. If I ever get photographs of the finished restoration, I’ll do another update.