Stanley Arnolt began his automobile distributorship and dealership business in 1950 dealing in British cars, initially Morris, MG and Riley, and then others including Bristol and Aston Martin.
Arnolt bought a stake in Italian design house Carrozzeria Bertone and commissioned them to make over one hundred Arnolt MG automobiles based on the MG TD chassis.
Arnolt’s Aston Martins were based on the Aston Martin DB2/4 chassis, three were made as spiders, two as drop head coupés, and just one fixed head coupé – a car that remains unique in the world.
- Stanley Harold Arnolt earned himself the nickname “Wacky” when he sailed a thirteen foot skiff powered by one of his Sea-Mite outboard engines on a stormy Lake Michigan from St Joseph to Chicago. It was regarded by some as a thing that only a “Wacky” man would attempt.
- Arnolt’s chief passion was automobiles and after the Second World War he was financially strong enough to indulge that passion by becoming a distributor and dealer in primarily British cars in 1950.
- Arnolt met with Nuccio Bertone of the design house Carrozzeria Bertone in 1952 and the two formed a business relationship that would enable Arnolt to manufacture cars incorporating the Arnolt and Bertone names.
- Arnolt managed to negotiate with Aston Martin to build a limited series of half a dozen Bertone bodied cars. These included three spiders, two drop head coupés, and one fixed head coupé.
- The sole Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone Coupé is coming up for sale by RM Sotheby’s on December 8, 2023.
Stanley Harold “Wacky” Arnolt
Stanley Arnolt was from a Russian immigrant family and he studied engineering in college before setting up his own business. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War he purchased the rights to manufacture a small marine outboard engine which was called the Sea-Mite.
It would be the Sea-Mite and Stanley’s publicity stunt to promote it that led to him being dubbed “Wacky” Arnolt.
Stanley Arnolt’s publicity stunt was to fit a Sea-Mite outboard engine to a rather diminutive thirteen foot skiff and then proceed, in heavy seas on Lake Michigan, to travel in it from St Joseph to Chicago.
In terms of sanity and self preservation this stunt was probably a bit less dangerous than going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but it was not an escapade that could be considered to be “safe”.
As people saw Arnolt arriving at Chicago, wet, cold, but still alive, some started calling him “Wacky” Arnolt – and Stanley decided that he quite liked being called “Wacky” – it sounded much more interesting than just plain “Stanley”. So he adopted it and it stuck.
As it turned out Stanley’s escapade was not so “wacky” as it seemed. His Sea-Mite outboard engine manufacturing business did rather well, and it did amazingly well as World War II began and Uncle Sam began purchasing Sea-Mite outboards in quantity.
Stanley Arnolt became a rather wealthy man as a result of the success of his manufacturing business: and this success enabled him to indulge his most cherished passion, sports cars and motor racing, when the war was brought to an end.
The Bertone Connection
In 1950 Stanley Arnolt became the US distributor for three related brands of British car: MG, Morris, and Riley. MG had started out in 1924 as a performance off-shoot of Morris: MG stood for “Morris Garages”.
By 1950 Morris were producing inexpensive and quite utilitarian road cars such as the Morris Minor which entered production in 1948. This car was made in sedan (saloon), station wagon, and convertible body styles and was of unibody construction.
MG were building creative sports cars in the style of the 1930’s up until the creation of the MGA in 1955. These cars were enormously enjoyable to drive being the closest thing you could get to a motorcycle experience on four wheels.
Riley was merged into Austin and the British Motor Corporation in 1952 and at that time responsible for the luxurious Riley Pathfinder sedan.
Of these car brands that Stanley Arnolt was distributing and dealing in it was the MG’s that captured his imagination. They were affordable, soundly made, and delivered a fabulous driving experience.
It had been the MG’s that spurred the post-war American demand for these cars as many servicemen brought them home to the US. So importing these cars became a profitable business both for Arnolt, and for the British factories that made them.
In 1952 Arnolt crossed the Atlantic to go to the Turin Motor Show where he had a chance meeting with Nuccio Bertone of the design house Carrozzeria Bertone. Bertone had recently moved into the large Grugliasco factory and of course they were looking for work orders to keep that factory busy and profitable.
Arnolt made the decision to purchase a stake in Bertone and he joined its board of directors.
The first joint project was the Arnolt MG which combined an MG TD chassis with a beautiful Bertone body creating a car that was tasteful and rather pretty.
Arnolt was not content to stop with the MG and his next creation was the rather more up-market Arnolt Bristol which was built on a British Bristol 404 chassis.
The Only Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone Coupé
In 1953 Aston Martin introduced their DB2/4 and this car captured Stanley Arnolt’s imagination. His relationship with Bertone was strong; so why not an Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone?
Arnolt approached David Brown of Aston Martin and was able to persuade him to send six DB2/4 chassis to Bertone to have their design mavens create some truly interesting automobiles.
The two drop head coupés were primarily designed by Giovanni Michelotti while the sole coupé bears the hallmarks of designer Franco Scaglione.
The unique coupé was commissioned on 20th August 1954 for “Monsieur Henrey Pagezy”, although it is believed that spelling gremlins were at work on the name and the car was probably commissioned for Henri Pigozzi, who was the founder of Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile, generally known as Simca.
There are some clues on the car that suggest this may have been the case. It is fitted with some Simca body components, notably the tail-lights.
The chassis used was LML/765 and Arnolt and Bertone had intended it to be the first of a limited production run.
As it turned out however Aston Martin declined to supply Arnolt with any more chassis, so the six Arnolt-Bertone cars remain as rare examples, and the coupé remained a unique one-off.
Once built and delivered the Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone was shown at the 1957 and 1958 Turin Motor Shows on the Bertone stand.
It is surmised that Bertone displayed the car both years as they were hoping to convince Aston Martin to commission them to create the coachwork for the upcoming Aston Martin DB4. As it turned out Aston Martin gave the commission to design house Touring of Milan, and that design was to go on as the DB4 and of course was continued in the body design for the DB5 which was to become the most iconic Aston Martin ever created when it became James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 for the movie “Goldfinger”.
The unique Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone ultimately made its way across the Atlantic ocean to the United States where it was purchased by John G. Gyann.
The car was then purchased by Dr. Jim Pavlatos of Palos Heights, Illinois, and given a mostly cosmetic restoration under his care.
The car was then purchased by Chicago-based sportscar dealer Bill Jacobs and became a part of the Blackhawk Collection.
In 1987 the Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 Bertone coupé was sold to Roger Karlson of California in whose care it would remain for eleven years. During this time the car was treated to significant mechanical restoration work to bring it up to a high standard.
In 1987 the car was shown at Pebble Beach.
In 2019 the car was sold again, this time to a buyer who sent it to Aston Martin specialists Kevin Kay Restorations in Redding, California to undertake a full concours restoration, which included repainting in its correct show stand colour scheme.
At the completion of this work the car made its debut at the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it was honored with First in Class.
This car is coming up for sale by RM Sotheby’s at their New York auction which will be held on December 8, 2023.
It is indeed a unique and quite beautiful Aston Martin.
Picture Credits: All pictures of the sale Arnolt Aston Martin DB2/4 courtesy RM Sotheby’s. Other as individually credited.
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.