DB2/4 Drophead coupe by Bertone
DB2/4 Drophead coupe by Bertone

DB2/4 Drophead coupe by Bertone

by Bertone (via Arnolt) (1953)

Back in 1953 it was still possible to buy cars as a rolling chassis and have them bodied by a specialist coachbuilder as was the norm before WW2. A flamboyant American, Stanley H 'Wacky' Arnolt, a successful Chicago industrialist and car importer/dealer during the 1950's bought rolling chassis from many British manufacturers, shipping them to Bertone in Italy to receive bespoke coachwork before final finishing in the US. Initially this involved the MG TD, but also extended to a Bentley R-type Continental and Bristol 404's. Arnolt also was able to acquire eight DB2/4 rolling chassis (LML502-7 + 762 & 765) which received coachwork in Italy, also by Bertone.

DB2/4 Drophead coupe by Bertone

This particular and most attractive drophead coupe (chassis LML/504) is unusual that it was purchased by 60 district sales managers employed by Minneapolis calendar and greeting card firm, Brown & Bigelow as a gift of appreciation to their CEO, Charles A. Ward for Christmas 1953. They each chipped in $200 which covered the $12,700 purchase price of the completed car. This fact is recorded on a brass plaque ahead of the engine which lists all the generous donors names. A second plaque on the dashboard states, “This motor car especially designed and created for Charles A. Ward by S.H. Arnolt, Chicago and Carrozzeria Bertone, Torino, Italy.”Although I don’t know for sure, the Arnolt cars may have actually also have undercut the standard DB2/4 in the US.

The car is adorned by various gold plated monograms such as that seen on the wheel spinner and horn push. Special bespoke features also include a custom red leather picnic hamper, fitted luggage and a bar that fitted under the seat. The car was rather ‘colourful’ when new with metallic blue coachwork, red leather piped in cream and tan carpets. The images here are from 2007 when the car was presented at Pebble Beach with red coachwork.

Despite being bodied by Bertone, the car was actually penned by the freelance stylist, Giovanni Michelotti. Chassis LML/506 also received similar coachwork.

Seven of the eight cars are still known (see the subsequent pages) but the whereabouts of LML/503 are totally unknown. Indeed, whilst it is assumed that it did receive a Bertone body of unknown design, it might not have actually been sold to Arnolt. If indeed it was sold to Arnolt, it’s loss could perhaps be explained by a fire at his Chicago factory where 12 similar Arnolt Bristol’s were destroyed.

At some point, the Bertone bodied cars were badged as Arnolt-Aston Martin which apparently displeased David Brown. Subsequently no further AM’s were sold as chassis only and Arnolt continued his work using chassis supplied by Bristol cars.

All of the photographs on this page were taken at the Pebble Beach Concorse d’Elegance, 2007 where three of the Bertone bodied cars were shown together. A further four DB2/4′s were sold as rolling chassis and were bodied by other coachbuilders.

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