Aston Martin Mark II
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Back in 1934 the British motoring journal, "The Autocar", published a road test of a truly fabulous sports car. Nothing unusual, you say. True, but what was written about this car could be classed as unusual because it was (and is) a rare occurrence for an English journalist to judge an English product as being so particularly praiseworthy.
Tester H. S. Lindfield said of the Mark Two Aston Martin: "... a car which so obviously is practical that anyone not knowing it in action must be impressed; but it is the beautiful feel of the machine which makes it one of the foremost cars of its type today." And later: ". . . it is more than just a car and has the power to fascinate any driver who can regard motoring as something far above mere conveyance from one place to another".
The Mark Two Aston Martin was manufactured in 1934 through 1936 by the Aston Martin Company, then in the capable hands of A. C. "Bert" Bertelli, and it is reputedly the best of all the pre-war Astons - and one of the best cars ever produced in England. Powered by a 1500cc single overhead camshaft engine of excellent design, the car's maximum speed was quoted at 84.91 m.p.h. and the four wheel mechanical brakes were effective enough to stop it in 26 ft. from 30 m.p.h. Considering the weight, which topped 22 cwt., this was a wonderful performance for a car of such modest engine capacity.
A Beautiful Engine and Body
The single overhead camshaft engine was a revelation at the time, robust and powerful, it produced a very reasonable 56 bhp which steadily grew to 73 bhp over the years. What set the engine apart from its contemporaries was its smoothness and quietness, characteristics that were engineered into the motor thanks to a counter-balanced crank and wider timing gears. The ladder frame chassis was also a development of the original S-Type design. Compared to the previous models, the Mark II was considerably stiffer due to deeper chassis rails. To cut production costs, Aston Martin relied on third-party suppliers for various parts. The gearbox, for example, was sourced at Laycock and the rear axle was provided by ENV.
Almost all Mark II chassis had their bodies fitted at the neighbouring E. Bertelli coach-building facility. There were three standard bodies available; an open 2/4 seater, a full four seater and a fixed-head 'Sports Saloon'. Several examples of an even more luxurious drophead coupe were also built to special order. Priced at a hefty £700, the beautiful Sports Saloon was the most expensive version and as a result only two dozen were built. The Mark II could be easily distinguished from its predecessor due to the use of vertical thermostatically controlled radiator shutters.
On The Road
Sitting behind the wheel of the Mark Two Aston Martin “one gets the immediate impression that the Aston was built purely to demonstrate the sheer ecstasy of true sports car driving.” The clutch was firmly sprung and very true in action. The accelerator, placed between the clutch and brake pedals (superb for heel-and-toe changing), took a little getting used to. It moved in an upward arc. Gear changing was a delight rarely experienced by those of us who are used to driving modern cars. The shift was firm and positive and the positions were the reverse of those on, say, a post war MG TC or a Jaguar. Some owners would fit a flip-up brass stop across the gate to make accidental selection of reverse gear impossible.
The Aston gear ratios were near perfect for the horsepower on offer and third made an excellent passing gear. The steering was light and direct, which was a surprise to the Autocar road testers as they were expecting the usual heavy “Armstrong” style typically fitted to many cars of this era. The combination of good steering, a wonderful gearbox, firm suspension and sturdy chassis made cornering an absolutely fantastic experience. The brakes, cable operated on all four wheels, were arguably the best cable brakes ever deployed on a pre-war automobile. In fact they were arguably better than many post-war hydraulic-units – all the way up to the mid 1960s or so. Quick adjustments could be carried out through individual hand screws fitted accessibly just inside the backing plates.
The Mark Two Aston Martin had an almost incredibly good looking appearance, its performance was distinctly brisk and its handling impeccable. All-weather equipment made it comfortable in any conditions, and most important of all, it was a rare British car that was an absolute joy to own. No question then, 5 stars for our collectability ranking.