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Bertone Aston Martin DB 2/4 Cabriolet #LML/504 1953
Bertone Aston Martin DB 2/4 Cabriolet #LML/504 1953
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The events in the life of Charles Allen Ward would hardly seem out of place even in the most fantastic tall tales. Born in 1886 to a poverty-stricken family, Ward spent his childhood on the docks of a Seattle seaport doing odd jobs to help put food on the table. As a teenager, he left home and traveled to Nevada, where he mined and prospected for gold before moving to the Southwest to herd cattle and work in frontier saloons. Having grown weary of his dealings with rowdy drunks, he hopped tramp steamers and visited Saigon, Japan and Alaska before making his way back to the desert. Upon his return, he and a friend crossed the Mexican border and bravely joined Pancho Villa?s army. Within a short time, the two men became Villa?s quartermasters and made a small fortune on the side smuggling cowhides and narcotics into the US. After the war, Ward went on a spending spree and his visible persona soon found him in trouble with the law.

He was arrested at a Denver hotel under violation of the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act and was sentenced to 10 years at Leavenworth Penitentiary. When wealthy Hubert Bigelow was imprisoned for tax evasion in the 1920s, Ward convinced the jailers to pair the two as cellmates. They worked out a deal whereby Ward would protect Bigelow in exchange for the opportunity to work for the thriving calendar business Brown & Bigelow after his release. Ward earned an early parole and went to work for Bigelow in St. Paul, Minnesota. By the early 1930s, he was one of the most important figures of the company. When Bigelow died in 1933, he left Ward approximately one million dollars and a large farm. In 1935, Ward was finally returned his full rights when Franklin D. Roosevelt granted him a presidential pardon.

Under Ward?s leadership, Brown & Bigelow went on to become one of the most successful advertising firms in the world. It was Ward who contracted artists such as Norman Rockwell, Gil Elvgren and Earl Moran, and he was a pioneer of the pinup calendar. By the 1950s, almost one-third of the American population owned a Brown & Bigelow calendar. Always mindful of his past, Ward went out of his way to hire and rehabilitate former convicts and was a generous philanthropist, often helping people who were simply down on their luck. In 1959, Ward suffered a heart attack while staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel ? he was 72 years old. At the time of his death, a Hollywood screenwriter was working on a script about his life with Clark Gable slated to play the lead. Alas, nothing ever came of the film.

A one-of-a-kind man like Charles Ward would need an equally exceptional car. That is exactly what he received, in the form of this spectacular Bertone bodied Aston Martin ? the vision of another ambitious man, ?Wacky? Arnolt.

In 1953, Brown & Bigelow's 60 sales managers put their money together to purchase a very special Christmas gift for their boss. They called upon Wacky Arnolt, who owned the most prominent sports car distributorship in the Midwest, to help find the right car. Fortunately for Ward's sales managers, Arnolt had just acquired a handful of Aston Martin DB2/4 chassis. It was the perfect opportunity to deliver a gift that was beyond compare.

Styling was entrusted to Giovanni Michelotti, one of the most highly respected and prolific Italian designers of the era. Not only does this car possess a uniquely Latin dynamism, it carries the traditional Aston Martin design cues, such as the distinctive radiator grille, gentle forms and fully integrated windscreen. From certain angles, the clever trim pieces give the impression of movement and speed, while the aggressive proportions further hint at the potential performance.

Unique, personalized features include an exquisite, monogrammed horn button; monogrammed knock-off hubs; a set of handsome chrome-plated tools, fitted in a finished wooden case; extravagant two-piece fitted luggage set, complete with china and picnic accessories; and a large plaque prominently placed under the hood that features the engraved names of all 60 sales managers. 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."

In its astonishingly detailed minutiae, this car stands a proud testament to the quality and craftsmanship of Carrozzeria Bertone. From exquisite top bows fashioned from highly polished stainless steel through one-of-a-kind trim pieces that sparkle like jewelry, to an inventive expanding spring that is used to hold the windshield in place, this car exudes opulence, wealth and a decidedly international approach that exemplifies the collaborative spirit inherent in coachbuilt automobiles. Mr. Ward's Aston Martin is equipped with Lucas Tri-Beam headlamps, Marchal driving lights, Borrani wire wheels, Dunlop Road Speed tires, an Autovox radio, Smiths gauges and three separate Arnolt, Aston Martin and Bertone data plates.

The car arrived in September 1953, making it the first of the Arnolt Aston Martins to reach the US. Only two cars were ever built with this Bertone body; however, it should be noted that the other example did not come with any of the extravagant personalized accessories that make this car so very special. The only other Bertone bodied Drop Head Coupe was sold new to the famous racing driver Innes Ireland. The completed Arnolt Aston cost approximately $13,000, making it the most expensive car of its time. 



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