Aston Martin History

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Aston Martin History


Aston Martin

 1913 - present

The Influence Of Bamford And Martin

Aston Martin was born from a collaboration of Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin in 1913, while they were both working for Singer cars. Together the two decided that, while the Singer was definitely a good car, it could be improved somewhat to make it more suited to competition (a theme very much evident in the success of nearly every manufacturer listed in the “Heritage” pages on this site).

They started by using a Coventry-Simplex side-valve 1389cc four cylinder engine, at the time being manufactured for the inexpensive “Glyno” car. Lionel Martin then used his considerable engineering skills to work, fitting the engine to a 1908 Isotta Fraschini racing chassis designed by Ettore Bugatti (yes, of Bugatti fame!).

The Origins Of The Name

But back to the early 1900’s! While the first true Aston-Martin car would be manufactured in 1919, it would take until 1921 for the pair to be in a position to sell it. Perhaps not surprisingly considering the origins of the chassis that was being used, the new Aston bore a striking resemblance to the Bugatti’s of the day. Lionel Martin stuck with the Coventry-Simplex engine – but it was in the cars responsiveness and accurate steering that a reputation was quickly being established.

The first cars used rear fitted two wheel brakes, and while excellent, particularly when compared to the braking systems employed on the competitors cars, Aston-Martin soon introduced four wheel brakes. The car was good for a top speed of more than 70mph, but at £850 was considered by most to be excessively expensive – and the engine was very yester-tech (even in these automotive pioneering years!). Struggling financially, the Charnwood family assumed control of the company in 1924, however sales did not improve markedly and by 1926 the company once again had its back to the wall.

Bert Bertelli To The Rescue

The companies salvation came from an unlikely source, one 'Bert' Bertelli’, an Italian-born engineer. Bertelli partnered with W S Renwick and together they produced a new Aston-Martin at their premises in Feltham. 1927 standards, being a two-seater with a new 1.5 litre single overhead cam four-cylinder engine. Over the ensuing 3 years to 1930 only 30 cars would be manufactured, and financial problems would continue to impede the company’s progress. There was a short time when Frazer-Nash guaranteed Astons overdraft with its bankers, and only after further reorganization were they able to get their business affairs sorted sufficiently to enable the design and manufacture of the first of the Internationals.

The “International” would not go on sale until 1930. Aston-Martin’s London distributor, W Prudeaux Brune, then took control of the company, speculation being that he grew tired of the continued supply problems and perceived miss-management of the company. Brune’s stint at the helm was also to be short lived, with control passing to Sir Arthur Sutherland in 1932. to be on sale by 1930.

The Aston Martin International Gains Popularity

But while so much was happening behind the management scenes at Aston, the International was starting to gain public acceptance and popularity! Unusual in that this was a sports car that offered four seats, all housed in a lovely flowing style that was quickly becoming fashionable. The engine was much the same as used in earlier models, but was now fitted with dry sump lubrication. And, naturally for any car manufacturer aspiring to sporting pretensions, they were starting to enjoy success on the circuit, particularly at Le Mans where Bertelli and Driscoll won the Biennial Cup. The Mk. II Aston-Martins were revealed at the 1934 Olympia Show. The new models had a more powerful 75bhp engine, and even more importantly the engineers dropped the use of a worm drive back axle in favor of a more conventional spiral bevel type – the former proving unreliable and many pundits considering it the Achilles heel of the International.

Aston Martin International
The Internationals tail was not as handsome as the Ulster's, but was far more practical affording 2+2 seating, extremely innovative for a 1930's sports car.

Aston Martin Ulster
The Ulster is widely regarded as the best looking of the 1930's generation of sports cars.

Aston Martin DB2
The DB2 was an engineering masterpiece, and featured the sublime Lagonda 2580cc engine.

Aston Martin DB2/4
The DB2/4 was very similar to its predecessor, but now came in a more practical 2+2 seater configuration.

Aston Martin DB Mk. III
Bet you didn't know the DBIII was designed by Dr Eberan von Eberhorst. Try to avoid showing off your new-found knowledge when drunk at parties.

Aston Martin DB5
We have resisted the temptation to place "007" on the DB5's number-plate.

Aston Martin V8
The Aston-Martin V8 was, alledgedly, good for 436bhp.

Aston Martin Lagonda
The Lagonda name would be resurrected in 1976, the bold design of the V8 supercar would shock many.

Aston Martin Bulldog
How does one best describe the "Bulldog"?

Aston Martin Bulldog
The Bulldog's Gullwing doors may not have been unique, but the retracting bonet section to reveal a large headlight assembly certainly was.

1958 prototype Aston Martin DBR4/250
The prototype Aston Martin DBR4/250, first tested in 1957 and thenb on through 1958. The car's specification read well, with an all alloy engine, all-round disc brakes, five speed gearbox in unit with the final drive and De Dion rear end. The rear-engined competition had the wood on the car, however.

1959 Aston Martin DBR/250
One of the DBR/250 Astons which debuted at a non-championship race at Silverstone in 1959.

One of Lex Davison's DBR Aston Martins
One of Lex Davison's DBR Aston Martins fitted with a three-litre sports car engine and racing at Brands Hatch in a 1961 Intercontinental formula race.

Side profile of Lex Davison's DBR Aston Martin in 1961
Side profile of Lex Davison's DBR Aston Martin in 1961.

Carroll Shelby's DBR4/250 at the British GP at Aintree
Carroll Shelby's DBR4/250 at the British GP at Aintree during the car's first season. The exhaust pipe is exposed on the side.

Trintigant Aston Martin DBR5 in 1960
Trintigant, Shelby's replacement in the Aston team, driving a DBR5 the following year to the photo above. Changes in exhaust pipe location and air-ducting showed the effects of mahor engine changes between 1959 and 1960.

The Ulster, Arguably The Best Looking 1930's Sports Car

Despite weighing a rather obese 2000lb, the Mk. II was good for 80mph – a speed very credible for 1934! A two-seater “Ulster” model was soon released- styled almost directly on the works racing cars, and many regard it as the most attractive of the 1930’s sports-cars - an opinion that we here at Unique Cars and Parts would be loath to disagree with! The Ulster featured a long streamlined tail, close fitting cycle-type wings, an outside exhaust manifold, very low lines, and an incredibly comprehensive instrument panel.

Certainly this was the best of the “Bertelli Astons” (for his influence was still in these cars), but it was much heavier than such rivals as the Riley and MG Magnettes. Only 17 road cars were built, along with several 'team' racing cars, and they were priced at £750, ready to race. In 1936 Aston-Martin introduced a new 2 litre model and, even though the design was basically as before, the enlarged 1949cc engine now used normal wet sump lubrication and was mated to a wonderful “synchromesh” transmission, a great advance for the day and more specifically for Aston-Martin.

The model line-up included both a saloon and sports-touring version, with a competition ready “Speed” model available. St John Horsfall would use the “Speed” to win the Leinster Trophy race of 1938, and then the “best British performance” at Le Mans.

David Brown Resurrects The Marque

Unlike the Axis car manufacturers on mainland Europe that received copious amounts of assistance (including financial) to re-establish themselves after the war, Aston-Martin was largely forgotten. There was a new model designed in the early part of 1939 by engineer Claude Hill, dubbed the "Atom", but production was shelved at the wars outbreak. Post war attempts to manufacture a new car with a multi-tube space frame could not be financed, and all seemed lost for the marque.

Thankfully a more far-sighted industrialist would come to the companies rescue in 1947. David Brown, who incidentally had also purchased Lagonda, turned the fortunes of the company around almost immediately. Only one year after assuming control, 1948 would see the release of the DB1 with a sweet and powerful new six-cylinder twin-cam Lagonda engine.

Once again St John Horsfall would enjoy race success, this time at the 1948 Spa 24 Hour race. But the real success of the marque would occur with the release of the DB2 in 1950. In this iteration, the Lagonda 2580cc 107bhp engine was mated to a new version of the multi-tube chassis, the aerodynamic two-seater coupe body being styled by Frank Feeley, an ex-Lagonda stylist. The coupe would sell for £1915, the drop-head version costing £128 more. The DB2 remains to this day a landmark in design, performance, handling and refinement.

The Vantage Engine Brings Success

In a time when a companies fortunes relied heavily on race track success, David Brown had some cars fitted with a 123bhp "Vantage" engine for an extra £100. A famous lightweight DB2, VMF 63/64/65, performed valiantly at Le Mans where drivers Abecassis and Macklin, managed by John Wyer, won the Index of Performance; the same crew then going on to win their class in the Mille Miglia.

In 1953 the DB2 gave way to the DB2/4 that offered 2 + 2 seating. Apart from a hatchback style treatment at the rear, the car remained very similar to its predecessor but, from 1957 onwards, a new DB Mk. III would be fitted with front wheel disc brakes and afforded even more power - it would remain in production until 1959. Dr Eberan von Eberhorst then designed 1951's DB3. Built around a tubular chassis frame, the car featured de Dion rear suspension and a 140bhp version of the Lagonda engine. The engine size would be increased in later cars, capacity up to 2922cc and good for 163bhp.

Evolution Of The DB and V8

In 1953 the DB3 was replaced by the DB3S, essentially a shortened wheelbase version of the chassis, but carrying over the same suspension and running gear, all housed in a more shapely body shell. Immediately successful on the circuit at events such as the Goodwood Nine Hour race, it would remain a force to be reckoned with for the next three years. The DB3S was put on sale as a 'road car' for £3684, with a claimed maximum speed of 150mph. A few of these cars (there were 30 in all, including team cars) had fixed-head coupe styles. In 1957 Aston released the DBR1, and then the following year and all new model, the DB4.

The 3.7 litre engine was good for 240bhp and certainly had such makes as Ferrari and Maserati in its sights. By this time the cars were better described as Grand Tourers rather than sports-cars, but the short-wheelbase DBWT (some with lightweight Zagato bodies) producing up to 325bhp retained much of the sports-car spirit. The 4 litre DB5 followed in 1963, and a true adult carrying four-seat DB6 was released in 1965 and would remain in production until 1970.The DBS would be released in 1968, and although ithad a very wide and heavy body, performance was morethan satisfactory courtesy of the silky smooth 4 litre six-cylinder engine.

The Aston Martin V8

From 1969 a new 5.3 litre four-cam V8 would be fitted, and while Aston remained tight-lipped as to the power output of the engine our research shows it as being good for between 340-436bhp anda top speed in excess of 170 mph/ 250 km/h. Sir David Brown sold Aston in 1972, and there have been numerous owners in-between times. In 1972, the company was sold to Company Developments Ltd., backed by a Birmingham-based consortium, and chaired by chartered accountant and company director William Willson, MBE. The company was resold, following a further bankruptcy event, by the Receiver in 1975 to North American businessmen Peter Sprague and George Minden for £1.05 million.

A successful turn-around strategy led to the recruitment of 360 new employees and, by 1977, a trading profit of £750,000. The new owners pushed the company into modernising its line, producing the V8 Vantage in 1977, the convertible Volante in 1978, and the one-off William Towns-styled Bulldog in 1980. Towns also styled the futuristic new Lagonda saloon, based on the V8 model. In 1980 Aston-Martin had plans, which did not materialize, to buy MG, which they would have utilized as a sister marque, probably building smaller sports cars. Ideas were plotted to design a new model and they revealed to the press their approach to an "updated" "1981" model MGB.

Victor Gauntlett

Aston-Martin was badly hit by the economic contraction of the early 1980s as worldwide sales of Aston Martin shrank to three per week and chairman Alan Curtis together with fellow shareholders American Peter Sprague and Canadian George Minden came close to shutting down the production side of the business, to concentrate on service and restoration. At this point Curtis attended the 1980 Pace sponsored Stirling Moss benefit day at Brands Hatch, and met fellow Farnham resident Victor Gauntlett.

Gauntlett bought a 12.5% stake in Aston Martin for £500,000 via Pace Petroleum in 1980, with Tim Hearley of CH Industrials taking a similar share. Pace and CHI took over as joint 50/50 owners at the beginning of 1981, with Gauntlett as executive chairman. Gauntlett also led the sales team, and after some development and a lot of publicity when it became the world’s fastest 4-seater production car, was able to sell with success the Aston Martin Lagonda into Persian Gulf states, particularly Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

Understanding that it would take some time to develop new Aston Martin products, they created an engineering service subsidiary Tickford to develop automotive products for other companies. Products included a Tickford Austin Metro, a Tickford Ford Capri and even Tickford train interiors, particularly on the Jaguar XJS.

Pace continued sponsoring racing events, and now sponsored all Aston Martin Owners Club events, taking a Tickford engined Nimrod Group C car owned by AMOC President Viscount Downe, which came third in the Manufacturers Championship in both 1982 and 1983. It also finished seventh in the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans race. However, sales of production cars were now at an all time low of 30 cars produced in 1982.

As trading became tighter in the petroleum market, and Aston Martin was requiring more time and money, Gauntlett agreed to sell Hays/Pace to the Kuwait Investment Office in September 1983. As Aston Martin required greater investment, he also agreed to sell his share holding to American importer and Greek shipping tycoon Peter Livanos, who invested via his joint venture company with Nick and John Papanicalou, ALL Inc. Gauntlett remained chairman of the AML company 55% owned by ALL, with Tickford a 50/50 venture between ALL and CHI.

The uneasy relationship was ended when all parties exercised options to buy a larger share in AML; CHI's residual shares were exchanged for CHI's complete ownership of Tickford, which retained development of existing Aston Martin projects. In 1984, Titan the main shipping company of the Papanicolaou’s was in trouble, so Livanos's father George bought out the Papanicolaou's shares in ALL, while Gauntlett again became a shareholder with a 25% holding in AML. The deal valued Aston Martin/AML at £2 million, the year it built its 10,000th car.

Gauntlett buys a stake in Zagato

Although as a result Aston Martin had to make 60 members of the workforce redundant, Gauntlett bought a stake in Italian styling house Zagato, and resurrected its collaboration with Aston Martin. David Martin gained part ownership in 1997. In 1986, Gauntlett negotiated the return of fictional British secret agent James Bond to Aston Martin. Cubby Broccoli had chosen to recast the character using actor Timothy Dalton, in an attempt to re-root the Bond-brand back to a more Sean Connery-like feel. Gauntlett supplied his personal pre-production Vantage for use in the filming of The Living Daylights, and sold a Volante to Broccoli for use at his home in America. Gauntlett turned down the role of a KGB colonel in the film, however: "I would have loved to have done it but really could not afford the time."

Although the company was doing well, Gauntlett knew it needed extra funds to survive in the long term. In May 1987, Gauntlett and Prince Michael of Kent were staying at the home of Contessa Maggi, the wife of the founder of the original Mille Miglia, while watching the revival event. Another house guest was Walter Hayes, vice-President of Ford of Europe. Despite problems over the previous acquisition of AC Cars, Hayes saw the potential of the brand and the discussion resulted in Ford taking a share holding in September 1987. In 1988, having produced some 5,000 cars in 20 years, a revived economy and successful sales of limited edition Vantage, and 52 Volante Zagato coupes at £86,000 each; the company finally retired the ancient V8 and introduced the Virage range—the first new Aston launched in 20 years.

Although Gauntlett was contractually to stay as chairman for two years, his racing interests took Aston back into sports car racing in 1989 with limited European success. However, with engine rule changes for the 1990 season and the launch of the new Aston Martin Volante model, Ford provided the limited supply of Cosworth engines to the Jaguar cars racing team. As the "small Aston" DB7 would require a large engineering input, Ford agreed to take full control of Aston Martin, and Gauntlett handed over the company chairmanship to Hayes in 1991. In 1992, the Vantage version was announced, and the following year the company renewed the DB range by announcing the DB7.

Aston-Martin GP History

Grand Prix racing used to be a perennial fascination for specialist motor manufacturers. For some it proved fatal, and for Aston Martin its toll took much of the gilt from a season in which they at last won the prestigious World Sports Car Championship. The story of Aston's GP cars can be summarised in four words - "too big too late". Slow development of their front-engined Formula One design was overtaken by the rear-engined revolution started by Cooper in 1959 and built upon by Lotus, BRM and Ferrari in 1960 - 1961. But Aston Martin had been involved in the purest form of motor racing years earlier.

Count Louis Vorow Zborowski of "Chitty-Bang-Bang" fame financed the building of two GP Aston Martins in 1922 for the French race at Strasbourg but both retired with mechanical failure. Thereafter the Bertelli cars concentrated on sports events, but David Brown's eye turned on Grand Prix racing in the early 1950s. John Wyer's competitions department looked at the GP idea during the winter of 1951 - 1952. The Aston-Martin DB3 had just appeared, designed by Eberan von Eberhorst of 1938 - 1939 Auto Union D-Type fame. Its large-diameter tubular ladder chassis with torsion bar suspension by trailing links at the front and De Dion axle at the rear looked like a suitable departure point for a single-seater version, and the 2.6-litre LB6C engine could be easily modified to fall within the 2.5-litre limit already being used in Formula Libre events.

In standard form the DB3 competition engine had a bore and stroke of 78 mm x 90 mm, and by making some 87mm-stroke crankshafts (from the standard forgings because the difference was so minor) a 2.5-litre unit could be produced. Wyer's experimental shop at Feltham also took a DB3 frame and altered it to feature parallel instead of tapering-forward side members, while its wheelbase was reduced by 76 mm to 2286 mm. Unfortunately von Eberhorst was appalled at the idea of building such a special to go racing "on the cheap". In the face of his vehement opposition, the modified chassis frame simply leaned against the workshop wall for ages before disappearing. Presumably it was torched. John Heath of HWM implored Wyer to let him use the engine, but that was against company policy at the time, and that project also came to nought.

The First Post War Single Seater Aston-Martin

A second attempt was made during the 1952 - 1953 winter when the 2.9-litre DB3S sports car was being campaigned using a larger 2922 cm3 engine with its bore increased to 83 mm. By de-stroking this unit to 76.8 mm from the standard figure of 90 mm Aston would again come within the 2.25-litre F1 limit announced for 1954. Again von Eberhorst was not happy, and it was impossible for Wyer to progress until the German left Aston Martin in the autumn of 1954. Work proceeded very slowly on this unit as sports car racing was Aston's preoccupation, but the first post-war single-seater Aston-Martin was completed late in 1955 with a three-litre engine for Reg Parnell's Tasman campaign in New Zealand in January, 1956. Parnell blew the engine in practice before the New-Zealand GP but with the unit replaced he came home fourth in the Wigram Trophy, behind fellow visitors Whitehead, Gaze and Leslie Marr driving a pair of Ferraris and a Connaught respectively.

The Parnell car was shipped back to England and was sold eventually to British special builder Geoff Richardson who turned it into the ultimate development of his string of "RRAs" using a Jaguar engine for Formula Libre club races. Meanwhile the DB3S-based 2.5-litre engine had appeared in a DB3S sports chassis for the British Empire Trophy race at Oulton Park where the handicap was thought to favor the 21/2-litre class. By this time work had begun on Ted Cuttings' drawing board to produce the DBR1 sports car using a small-tube space-frame chassis, trailing link and transverse torsion bar front suspension, a De Dion rear end on longitudinal torsion bars and so on. This looked a much better prospect as the basis of a competitive F1 car, and coincidentally it had been announced that for the last three seasons of the 2.5-litre GP formula, alcohol fuels would be banned. This would negate the engine development experience of those companies long-established in GP racing and so David Brown and his men decided that this was the time to enter Formula One in earnest.

Roy Salvadori and Reg Parnell

The DBR4/250 prototype GP Aston was completed in December, 1957 and was tested at the Motor Industry Research Association's testing ground. Roy Salvadori and Reg Parnell drove in sub-zero temperatures. Its chassis frame was closely based on the DBR1 design, with the same 2286 mm wheelbase although the frame itself was much narrower. Track was 1346 mm and unequal-length wishbone suspension, appeared at the front in place of the familiar old Porsche-type trailing link system. This was a shake-down exercise for the forthcoming DB4 and the prototype wishbones were DB4 components. They were soon discarded, because of excessive length and weight. At the time torsion bars were retained at the front but in order to speed development, coil-springs were quickly adopted. Rear suspension was De Dion sprung by torsion bars in-line with the chassis longerons and the familiar David Brown combined five-speed gearbox and final drive unit was featured.

The engines were designated RB/250, measuring 83 mm x 76.8 mm internally to give a swept volume of 2493 cm3. They were derived directly from the light-alloy RDP 5053/1 21/2-litre unit installed in the DBR1 sports-racer and had twin-plug 95-degree heads. With triple-Weber carburetion and a compression of about 10:1 these Formula One six-cylinders produced around 185-190 kW at 7500 rpm, running on AvGas fuel. Girling disc brakes were adopted all round, while Aston Martin allowed that the rack-and-pinion steering employed Morris Minor 1000 parts! Testing of the prototype continued into 1958 with sessions at Goodwood in January and February. Sports car racing demanded the team's concentration during the summer and the Formula One project took an unfortunate back seat.

The Aston-Martin GP Debut

In October, testing began again and the new and by this time much-heralded Grand Prix Aston was publicly announced in April, 1959. By this time Cooper had taken delivery of the first full 2.5-litre engines from Coventry-Climax, and the front-engined Grand Prix car as a genre was about to be ritually slaughtered on the circuits of Europe. The Aston's debut was in the May Silverstone non-Championship meeting, where Roy Salvadoriperformed sensationally in the prototype DBR 4/1, stealing pole position with quickest time in practice and racing home second after breaking the lap record. Carroll Shelby, the genial Texan, drove the second car until the 49th lap when its engine blew - not surprising really, as he had stayed in touch despite losing fifth gear soon after the start!

After such a debut great things were expected of the metallic grey-green cars, but they had already delivered their best performance. The same pair of cars and drivers contested the Dutch, British and Portuguese GPs and produced sixth place for Salvadori at Aintree and Monsanto Park where Shelby recorded his first finish, in eighth place. Standard DB4 steering had replaced the BMC components, and for the Dutch race a new four-speed CG437 version of the CG537 David Brown transaxle was used. For the Italian GP at Monza's superfast circuit DBR4/3 appeared in much-improved form, having the body centre-section stressed against its chassis tubes and using a one-piece De Dion tube in place of the original three-piece type. A fourth DBR4 was also completed as a spare, and was not raced.

No Lightweight

At Monza ideas of DBR4/3 being a "lightweight" evaporated as number one weighed-in at 640.4 kg, the same as number three, while number two scaled 635 kg. In comparison the lightest Ferrari touched 549 kg and while Cooper weighed 539, Lotus were down to 490 kg! Shelby finished the Italian GP 10th in number two while Salvadori retired the new car - number three - with another engine failure. During the winter Aston Martin had a rethink, without going to the extreme but logical extent of building a mid-engined model. Instead they developed a new chassis and a new cylinder head. The chassis - numbered DBR5 - was much more compact than the DBR4 with the frame welded-up from chrome molybdenum tube with 18-gauge walls.

The body panels were 22-gauge aluminium magnesium alloy sheet riveted and clinched on to the frame. A one-piece De Dion tube passed round the front of the transaxle instead of behind it as on the DBR4 while a two-piece prop-shaft was used to sit the driver lower. Wheelbase was reduced to 2210 mm and the track to 1295 mm. Torsion bars reappeared on the front suspension to reduce unsprung weight and spread spring reaction loads into the chassis frame. The engine, meanwhile, was developed with an 80-degree valve angle head in order to produce a more compact combustion space and so allow a higher compression ratio.

The original P/N 400825 head had a heavily biased inlet port modelled on the highly successful 350 cm3 AJS 7R motorcycle head, which contributed to an output of nearly 104 kW (140 bhp) per litre on a 10:1 compression. Unfortunately on the AyJay engine this inlet port emerged from the head at a compound angle - 15-degrees above vertical and 17-degrees off the transverse centre-line. An Amal carburettor seemed to enjoy such a position but with a twin-choke Weber the result was disastrous for the fuel level in one jet was perforce lower than the other.

The upshot was sheer un-driveability on part-throttle through a corner although the newly-headed RB6 engines ran well at full throttle and produced worthwhile power. Seven RB6/250 Formula One engines were built, and of these while one of the early units with the 95-degree head gave 160 kW (214 bhp) at 6000 rpm and 176 (236) at 7000, RB6 250/10 with the 80-degree head churned out 164 (220) at 6000 rpm and 191 (256) at 7000 rpm. Since it was impossible to fit six separate carburettors on the unit because of its close cylinder centres Aston adopted Lucas fuel injection which produced instant throttle response but cut outright power. Amals had been tried unsuccessfully and these delays finally sank Feltham's chances.

The 1960 GP cars were lighter than their handsome but overweight predecessors, and in addition to their smaller DBR5 frame they also adopted Maserati 5M-60 transaxles which were themselves 23 kg lighter than the David Brown units. New engine blocks to match the 80-degree heads were cast in magnesium to save more weight, and winter work pruned the two original cars plus numbers three and four so that they re-emerged five cm narrower and 25 kg lighter, with the Maserati gearboxes installed. The DBR5 itself weighed under 50C kg dry and with the original DBR4s compared in the same trim its weight-saving was 76 kg. But it wasn't enough - with the motive power problems Aston now had, and with the old 2V2-litre Formula in its final season.

Maurice Trintignant

Maurice Trintignant was hired to take over Shelby's car, the Californian having had a mild heart condition diagnosed, and in the International Trophy at Silverstone the Mayor of Vergeze was 10th in DBR5/1 while Salvadori retired the modified DBR4/3 after only four laps. The cars missed the Dutch GP because of disagreement over startgeld with the organisers, and had their swansong in the British GP at Silverstone, where Trintigriant was 11th and Salvadori's independent rear suspension car retired when its steering failed. This was probably DBR4/2, as there is now evidence that DBR5/2 was not completed. After this debacle David Brown cried enough, and withdrew his team of inadequate motor cars and abandoned development of a rear-engined version of the DBR4.

In the aftermath of this decision, DBR4/2 and both DBR5s were scrapped, as were several of the RB series of "250" engines, usually after breaking con-rods. Bearing failures had been a constant bugbear in 1959 and only at the end of the year was it discovered that the crankshaft drillings had been at fault. Dividing development effort amongst chassis, cylinder head and suspension for 1960 was the final blow. The remains of the single-seater programme were gathered together, three chassis and a selection of engine parts. The RB6s which had not been destroyed, were built-up as 300-series variants for the three-litre Inter-Continental Formula ruling in Britain and Australasia in 1961. The block of the 2V2-litre unit had been V/i-inches lower than the RB6/300, owing to a shorter stroke, shorter rods and shorter piston, so that different blocks were necessary together with items like different timing covers and liners.

Two of the DBR4s with these three-litre engines were sold to Lex Davison with the third (DBR4/1) as a spare. "Davo" raced the cars widely and relatively successfully, appearing in the UK during that 1961 Intercontinental season before returning home with them. New Zealand's Lionel Bulcraig took over one of the cars and they raced on during the early 1960s. Finally, in 1966, all three were brought back to the UK by historic racing car dealer Peter Brewer, and he raced regularly in VSCC events before disposing of two of the cars to Neil Corner in County Durham. Neil raced one of the cars regularly - and very spectacularly - and it was virtually unbeatable in the historic class due largely to Neil's considerable driving talent and sheer competitive urge. He sold a second car - as a pile of decidedly sad bits and pieces - to Tom Wheatcroft for the Donington Collection, and we believe that, over a period of some three years, it was painstakingly rebuilt.

Also See: Aston Martin Car Reviews | Aston Martin Colour Codes | The History of Aston-Martin (USA Edition)
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