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SNAPSHOT 332: 1953 Arnolt-MG

The stylish body of the Arnolt-MG hides a rather less exotic chassis – that of an MG TD. The result is not a rapid car, but it turns heads wherever it is seen.

Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt was a Chicago businessman who began in the 1950s to import foreign cars into the United States. They were an unusual mix of British underpinnings and Italian bodywork, in some cases with final assembly and bodywork carried out by Arnolt before sale. Arnolt’s company was thus registered as a licensed automobile manufacturer in the State of Illinois.

Four manufacturers’ cars received the Arnolt treatment – and the story started with a fortuitous meeting with Bertone at the Turin motor show in 1952.

The Arnolt-MG was the first of these collaborative efforts and was based on an MG TD chassis with an XPAG 54hp engine. That engine, first introduced in the pre-war TB, was a 1,250 cc 4-cylinder with pushrod OHV. The MG TD gained a far more contemporary look and two additional seats, but the price was 30% higher than that for the original MG, its price of $3145 bringing it to within $500 of the far more powerful Jaguar XK120.

The Arnolt-MG was designed by Giovanni Bertone, his son Nuccio, and Giovanni Michelotti. Planned production was 200 cars, but only 103 are known to have been built between 1953 and 1954: 67 coupés and 36 convertibles. Over 65 are thought to have survived.

In 1954, MG told Arnolt that they could no longer supply chassis and engines, due to demand for their own cars and the replacement of the TD by the TF. Arnolt therefore went in search of a larger-engined car and created the Bertone-bodied Arnolt-Aston Martin DB2/4 roadster. Only three cars were built before Aston Martin put a stop to the project.

Next came the Arnolt-Bentley, commissioned by Arnolt as his personal car and built on a 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental chassis. It had a close relationship with the Arnolt-MG: it looked like a larger version of it, being also designed by Giovanni Michelotti, who was working for Bertone at the time.

In 1954 Arnolt negotiated with Bristol Cars Ltd for the purchase of 200 of their 404-series chassis and the 1971 cc, six-cylinder 130 hp engines from the earlier 403 model. This was a necessary move for Arnolt, who still needed to meet his obligation to Bertone, in whom he had invested heavily, after MG proved unable to fill the original order for 200 cars. The bodies were designed by Bertone’s new designer/aerodynamicist, Franco Scaglione. 142 Arnolt-Bristols were built between 1954 and 1959.

Photo courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive.

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