Bodied By Bertone, Powered By Britain, And Thought Up By An American, This Rare Arnolt-MG Now Lives In Colombia
Photography by Alvaro Pinzón
The steady upward march of classic car prices has seen the more humbly financed enthusiasts dipping into the more pedestrian examples to get their fix; not all of us can afford to wheel around in a Ferrari 250, but a well-maintained early 3-Series is attainable. Not the same, but not the same price either.
There has been a newfound appreciation for “everyday” classics the world over, and where I live in Colombia, the Toyota FJ is a great example of a relative bargain in the world of vintage locomotion. As a result of the increased popularity for such vehicles, more and more are leaving the country as they are scooped up by collectors and restorers. With that said, I have also noticed an increase in interesting cars coming into Colombia to balance the equation. Once such example is this unique fusion of the United States, Italy, and the UK: it’s called an Arnolt-MG.
Have you heard of Arnolt? I hadn’t until this January, when I came across this strange machine at the annual classic car meeting at the Tocancipa circuit. Walking around in pit lane, I saw a silhouette reminiscent of something Italian, very similar to the Lancia Aurelia or the Ferrari 212. Indeed the bodywork was designed in Italy, but Arnolt is an American brand that collaborated on an international scale. Stanley Arnolt, the namesake, worked with Aston Martin, Bentley, MG, and more in the 1950s to build unique cars with Bertone coachwork and British drivetrains. The Arnolt-MG, like the coupe version pictured here, came first.
It is said that only 67 coupes were built in period, and this one was imported to Colombia from the United States just about two years ago. After seeing it for the first time earlier in 2019, I met up with the owner for some photos and a drive around Bogotá.
But first, we start the story in Turin, where Stanley Arnolt met the Bertone family more than half a century ago. A Chicago businessman who’d developed a taste for European sports cars, Arnolt had traveled to the Turin auto show in 1952, and so impressed as he was with the work of Bertone, he worked out a plan to for the two to work together on a series of projects. The first was to design a body that would be mounted on the frame of the MG TD.
Thanks to an agreement with an American distributor of the MG brand, Arnolt was able to source the frames and the engines (54hp “XPAGs”). An initial deal of 200 cars was arranged with Nuccio Bertone, however they were able just to get half of that amount, as MG its end of the agreement, citing demand issues and the then-upcoming MG TF sapping up resources. With this, Arnolt changed his course to produce bigger and more powerful cars like Jaguars, Astons, and Bristols. Bertone continued in its role designing the bodies.
The Arnolt-MG may be down on grunt compared to the Arnolt collaborations that followed, but it is still a wonderful relic of its time, but one that many have forgotten or else never remembered in the first place. With an expertly crafted aluminum body by Bertone and an opulent interior design, they weren’t cheap to buy brand new, and the price tag was over $3,000 in the mid 1950s. This put the Arnolt-MG in the same bracket as sports cars and other premium machines from brands that offered more pedigree and horsepower. In other words, it wasn’t a hot seller.
The car is rare the world over, but I’d like to think exceptionally so in South America. The current owner, Alfonso, found it for sale while browsing cars in the United States. Intrigued by the design and the backstory of this odd mixture of an automobile, he decided to buy it and ship it home to Colombia. It was in good condition with only minor work still to be done, and Alfonso is enjoying the process of tracking down parts and bringing the car back to how it was supposed to be. It’s not far off, only in need of small things like the radio or front grille mesh. You know, fun little things to chip away at.
I’d like to thank Alfonso for taking the time to show me his car; it was nice to spend a day in the city with a new friend. Plus, I’m always happy to see rare pieces of automotive history coming to countries like Colombia, especially if I can share with an audience like Petrolicious’.