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The Monaco Sale 'Les Grandes Marques à Monaco' / 1954 Arnolt-Bristol Bolide Deluxe Roadster Chassis no. 404/X/3105 Engine no. BS1/MKII/302Coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone

Lot 134
Gifted by 'Wacky' Arnolt to Hugh Hefner
1954 Arnolt-Bristol Bolide Deluxe Roadster
13 May 2022, 15:00 CEST
Monte Carlo

Sold for €287,500 inc. premium

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1954 Arnolt-Bristol Bolide Deluxe Roadster
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone

Chassis no. 404/X/3105
Engine no. BS1/MKII/302

• One of only 142 made
• Matching chassis and engine
• Known ownership history
• Very well documented
• Mille Miglia eligible


Having made his fortune during WW2, Chicago-based industrialist Stanley Harold 'Wacky' Arnolt II was able to indulge his lifelong love of automobiles, and by 1952 was a regional BMC distributor and US distributor for Bristol cars. In 1952, a visit to Carrozzeria Bertone led to Arnolt buying a stake in the Italian company and arranging manufacture of Bertone-bodied Arnolt MGs. Bertone's elegant coupé and cabriolet on the MG TD chassis had been first exhibited at the 1951 Geneva Salon. These cars were enthusiastically received by Arnolt, who saw the Bertone-bodied TD as meeting the US market's requirement for a luxury MG; a car possessing that all-important octagon badge yet blessed with something above the Spartan level of equipment usually associated with the Abingdon marque's sports cars. Two hundred cars were ordered, though production eventually totalled 65 coupés and 37 cabriolets.

Arnolt's next venture made use of the Bristol connection, the UK manufacturer's 404 chassis getting the Bertone treatment in 1953 courtesy of newly arrived stylist, Franco Scaglione. Despite being based on a pre-war BMW design, the Bristol possessed one of the finest chassis of its day, and its 2.0-litre six-cylinder engine was one of the most efficient around. The 1,971cc Bristol six was based on that of the pre-war BMW 328, which featured an ingenious cylinder head, designed by Rudolf Schleicher, incorporating hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves without recourse to overhead, or twin, camshafts. Instead, the earlier BMW Type 319 engine's single block-mounted camshaft and pushrod valve actuation were retained, thus avoiding an expensive redesign. Two rocker shafts were employed, one situated above each bank of valves, giving the engine an external appearance almost indistinguishable from that of a twin-overhead-cam design. Downdraft inlet ports contributed to the motor's deep breathing, and its tune-ability made it a popular choice for British racing car constructors, most notably Cooper, during the 1950s. Externally, Bristol's clone of the BMW motor differed little from the German original, the most obvious difference being the adoption of SU, rather than Solex, carburettors part way through production. The most significant changes made by the Bristol designers were metallurgical, their utilisation of the highest quality materials contributing to greatly increased engine life.

The engine's one drawback, from a packaging perspective, was its height. Nevertheless, Scaglione still managed to come up with a sleek looking sports car, first by incorporating a bonnet scoop and secondly by employing sharply creased contours over the front wings to draw the viewer's attention away from the bonnet's unusually tall centre. Three open models were offered ranging from the basic competition version via the better-appointed Bolide to the fully equipped Bolide Deluxe. There was also an enclosed coupé. Arnolt charged $3,995 for the competition model, $4,245 for the Bolide, $4,995 for the Bolide Deluxe, and $5,995 for the coupé.

The Bristol engine could be tuned to produce in excess of 150bhp, and before long the pretty Arnolts were making their mark in production sports car races in the USA. After class wins at Sebring and Le Mans in 1955, the works team was disbanded following the fatal accident that claimed the life of driver Bob Goldich, returning to Sebring in 1960 to capture class and team awards yet again. Arnolt-Bristol production ceased in 1963 after a total of 130 cars had been sold out of 142 produced (the other 12 were destroyed in a fire at the factory).

One of a relative handful of roadworthy survivors, chassis number '3105' – a late and more expensive Bolide Deluxe model - was delivered new to Playboy magazine founder, Hugh Hefner. Reportedly, Wacky Arnolt was friends with Hugh Hefner and gifted this car to him.

In 1990, this example was featured in an article in Classic & Sports Car magazine's May edition: "Jonathan Bradburn bought this car, chassis 404X3105, in the early eighties from Jack Zallinger in the USA, who confirmed the tale that is was given to Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame by Wacky. Considering that it was built in 1954 and not registered until 1960, you get the feeling that Wacky wasn't a brilliant salesman when it came to getting rid of Arnolt-Bristols, so he had to resort to parting with them as gifts. Some present! However, it seems that Hefner himself gave it away as well to one of his Bunnies, so you also get the feeling that he wasn't wildly taken with it." It is believed the aforementioned 'Bunny' immediately sold the car on.

When Jonathan Bradburn had bought '3105' it had only 6,000 genuine miles on the clock and was still on its original tyres! The Arnolt was registered in the UK as '6068 DH' and repainted red. Following Jonathan Bradburn's ownership, the Arnolt passed to John Reeder in London and then in 1987 to Jeremy Agace, still in the UK. It then relocated to Belgium, being owned by Adrien de Ghellinck d'Elseghem (1991) and a lady owner (1992) before passing to the current owner in 1994.

The date of first registration is documented as 15/09/1953, although this seems to have been chosen by the registration authorities as the car is known to have been built in 1954, like most of the Arnolt-Bristols, and delivered to S.H. Arnolt in the US only in 1958 before being first registered in 1960! This Arnolt-Bristol Deluxe Roadster is said to be a late production model. The year 1953 is also quoted in various items of correspondence on file.

The chassis plate records the original colour as Paramatti Blue with beige interior, the car was repainted in its original colour in 1992, and following its purchase by the current vendor in 1994 was re-sprayed again, on this occasion to dark blue with a white stripe, the livery it is presented in today. The owner has cherished this car for nearly 30 years, using it regularly and participating in numerous international rallies. Having enjoyed driving the Arnolt-Bristol over many thousands of kilometres, the owner is now ready to part with it. Numerous invoices for work carried out over this period are available in the file.

Mille Miglia eligible, this ultra-rare, American-inspired, Anglo-Italian sports car also comes with an Arnolt-Bristol brochure; an original instruction manual for the Bristol Type 406; an old Belgian registration document dated 1992; old RAC documents; a Historical Vehicle Club of Belgium certificate in the current owner's name (dated 1995) and current Belgian registration documents.

Additional information