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Bristol Bolide Roadster
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  Arnolt Bristol Bolide Roadster      

  Article Image gallery (18) 404/X/3075 Specifications  
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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1954 - 1961
Numbers built:142 (all versions)
Introduced at:1953 London Motor Show
Designed by:Franco Scaglione for Bertone
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 17, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWith the American automotive industry concentrating on family cars after the Second World War, the country's sports car enthusiasts were forced to turn to imports. Stanley Harold 'Wacky' Arnolt picked up on this trend and was one of the first American distributors for MG. Not only did he sell factory built cars, but he also had Bertone a custom body fitted to the MG chassis creating the Arnolt MG. He believed that the mix of Italian styling and British mechanicals would be very popular. If the Arnolt hybrids had not already proven this assumption, the Aston Martins of the late 1950s and 1960s sure did.

Arnolt had ordered 200 chassis and bodies, but MG could only deliver 100 TC chassis before they switched to a newer model. To make good on his agreement with Bertone, in which Arnolt had invested considerably to get production started, he turned to another upcoming British manufacturer to supply him with a chassis for the remaining bodies. After building thousands of planes in the War, Bristol had turned to car production shortly after and were very interested in Arnolt's huge order. A unique combination of a shorter 404 chassis with a 403 drivetrain was made available for the ambitious American.

The heart of the Bristol road cars was the old, but sturdy BMW 328 six cylinder engine. This engine was first used in the England in the Frazer Nash badged 328s before the War and would be used into the 1960s. Bristol tuned the engine to produce over 130 bhp, which was a power increase of 50 bhp over the original unit. For this sporty chassis Arnolt had Bertone's Franco Scaglione pen a new roadster body. At the 1953 London Motor Show the new Arnolt Bristol was unveiled and received universal acclaim.

There were three different versions available; the stripped down 'Bolide' racer, the luxurious 'Deluxe' road car and a coupe. Only a handful of the coupes were built, a fraction of the 142 car production run. It is believed that most of the cars were assembled in 1954 and 1955 with production pretty much ending in 1958, but one car kept for spares was sold to its first owner as late as 1968. In a fire at the Chicago headquarters at least 12 cars were destroyed, but around half of the remaining examples are estimated to have survived.

Whereas the Deluxe Roadster was equipped with Connolly leather upholstery, a proper windscreen and full weather production, the stripped down Bolide was as bare as it got. Mechanically these two were virtually identical and the Bolide's racing successes throughout North America showcased the road car's potential. Among the many victories a 1-2-4 finish in the two litre class in 1955 Sebring 12 Hours is one of many highlights.

The featured Arnolt Bolide was sold to a Chicago based racer. He campaigned the car well into the 1960s on the East Coast of the United States. After its racing career it was stored for over thirty years. In 1996 the car finally found a new owner. He subjected the car to complete cosmetic and mechanical restoration. The Arnolt was brought to full racing specification and has since been actively campaigned in many historic events in Europe. It is pictured above at one such occasion, during the 2008 Goodwood Revival Meeting.

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  Article Image gallery (18) 404/X/3075 Specifications