1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Coupe

TGR Staff 

American industrialist and British car distributor Stanley H. “Wacky” Arnolt was a self-made millionaire, having parlayed patents he purchased in the 1930s into a manufacturing business for his Indiana-based factory during WWII. In 1950, Mr. Arnolt opened a foreign-car dealership in Chicago selling Aston Martin, MG, Riley, Morris, Bentley, and Rolls-Royce vehicles. In 1951, Mr. Arnolt entered into an arrangement with then-struggling Nuccio Bertone to build 100 examples each of the coupe- and cabriolet-bodied MGs that Mr. Arnolt had seen on the Bertone stand at the Torino Auto Show. Their partnership would produce some of the more memorable sports car designs of the 1950s, including the car offered here, an Aston Martin DB2/4 bearing chassis no. LML/765.

In 1953, Arnolt purchased five sequential Aston Martin DB2/4 chassis and sent them to Carrozzeria Bertone to be fitted with custom open coachwork. While the even-numbered chassis were fitted with opulent, luxurious bodies, the other three were fitted with a distinctive sporting shape penned by Franco Scaglione, one of the most talented and prolific designers of the 1950s and 1960s. Scaglione’s credits include the incomparable Alfa Romeo B.A.T. cars, the Siata 208 CS Coupe, the Abarth Porsche, and the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale, as well as a wide variety of one-offs and important production cars.

After these five cars were completed, it became clear to Aston Martin that Mr. Arnolt was more of a competitor than a client, and the British company refused to sell the Chicago businessman any more chassis. That impediment did not stop Mr. Arnolt, who was able to acquire two additional chassis, including LML/765, which is the only example of the seven Arnolt Bertone-bodied Aston Martins to be built as a coupe.

While the exact designer of this car’s beautiful Bertone coachwork is not known, the design is somewhat typical of Scaglione in the mid-1950s, with sharp character lines and lovely proportions that take full advantage of the DB2/4’s relatively short wheelbase. The most striking feature is surely the sharply sloping roofline that ends just past the rear tire, providing a relatively long tail for such a small car. The dashboard also deserves special attention, as it is much sleeker and modern than the standard DB2/4 configuration. The sum of these unique features made the Aston Martin perfect for exhibition, and Bertone took full advantage of the striking coupe by displaying it at the 1957 Torino Auto Show. The car was finished in white and festooned with Aston Martin script, and it is believed that both Arnolt and Bertone wanted it to be the first in a series of cars with this design. History has shown, though, that it was not to be.

After completion, chassis LML/765 was sold new to French enthusiast Henry Pagezy of Paris, before it eventually was imported to the US, being owned by Chicago resident John G. Gyann by 1976. In more recent times, the consignor has kept this unique Aston Martin coupe in his world-class collection of European sports and touring cars, showing it sparingly, including display at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®. The car currently wears an older restoration that has mellowed nicely over time. While running and driving, and recently serviced, the car’s static storage in recent years means the Aston Martin will require additional mechanical attention ahead of any spirited road use.

This one-off, coachbuilt creation represents the final chapter in the fascinating and tumultuous connection between Stanley Arnolt, Aston Martin, and Carrozzeria Bertone. These three entities, all with strong identities, and all from different nations, combined to produce some of the most memorable and desirable collaborations of the 1950s. Offering the robust engineering and performance of a DB2/4 and the Italian flair of one of the world’s most storied carrozzeria, this singular Aston Martin would make an incredible show or tour car and would likely gain entry into some of the most exclusive automotive events worldwide.

All images copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company.
Photos by Mathieu Heurtault.