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Lot 102: Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk1

Classic Car, Motorcycle & Automobilia, Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers (24 June 2009)

Fine car though it was, the DB2 appealed to only a limited market because it had just two seats and could only carry minimal luggage. Aston Martin addressed these shortcomings in September 1953 with the launch of the DB2/4 which had two occasional seats in the back which folded forward to create a very useful luggage space. The roof-line was also raised and a larger rear window incorporated into a lifting tailgate to create what was effectively the world's first hatchback. Body manufacture was contracted out to Mulliners of Birmingham.

The new model boasted such niceties as a telescopic steering column and adjustable backrests. Beneath the lightweight aluminium body the rigid steel chassis retained its independent trailing link/coil spring front suspension, with transverse torsion bar, and a live coil-sprung rear axle located by parallel arms and Panhard rod. Brakes were large and powerful drums all round. Power came from a high-compression Vantage-spec version of the famous Willie Watson / WO Bentley designed 2.6-litre straight six found in the DB2, now producing 125bhp and good for 120mph with 60mph coming up in just 10.5 seconds.

DB2s finished first, second and third in class at the 1951 Le Mans 24 Hours, and third overall against the likes of Jaguar's iconic C-Type sports racers, a remarkable achievement. Three works-prepared DB2/4s took the Team Prize in the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally, with one of them just missing outright victory due to a simple navigation error.

A fine machine in the best Aston Martin tradition, The Motor stated that: "The DB2/4 can truthfully claim to be the fastest car in the world capable of carrying two people with a month's luggage." Costing �2,763  twice the price of a Jaguar XK140 and only �300 less than a Mercedes 300SL  it was strictly for the well-heeled motorist only. John Bolster perfectly summed it up as "a very sporting car that you can drive in a dinner jacket." Just 565 examples were sold before it was replaced by the MkII in October 1955.

Delivered new in November 1953 to Henry Page & Co Ltd of Ware, Herts, (suppliers of malt to the brewing industry and owners of coffee plantations in Kenya), this very early car was the 61st example to roll off the production line (hence the 561 chassis number). The colour was Sea Green with a beige Connolly hide interior and beige carpets, colours it retains to this day. Non-standard equipment included heavy duty Armstrong shock absorbers and a telescopic steering column, although factory records in the history file show that it was also fitted with Alfin drums and a 3-litre clutch within the first month of its life.

Intriguingly the same records also state that in July 1954, at 6,717 miles, the car was checked for Alpine Rally, the lighting was changed for Continental requirements and a new back axle fitted. Whether or not the car actually took part in the rally we have not been able to establish, but 11 months later it was back at the factory, now with 20,847 miles on the clock, for various small jobs which included removing and balancing the clutch and flywheel. By August 1958 it had racked up just over 30,000 miles and the engine was sent back to the factory to be re-assembled with new parts as listed  though sadly this list does not survive.

In the meantime ownership had transferred to the famous publishing house, Macmillan & Co of Martin Street, London, in October 1955 and sometime thereafter to CJG Grant of Forfar, Angus. Little is known of the subsequent history of the car until one PJA Harper began to enter it into various Aston Martin Owners Club sprints and concours events in the period 1962 to 1968 when it won half-a-dozen prizes, three of which remain with the car to this day (enamel concours badges).

By 1974 a copy of an old log book shows that it was owned by George Bird of Ludlow, who sold it to John James of the Miners Arms, Silecroft, Cumbria, in July 1977. It is believed that the car then spent some time in Holland, returning to England in 1985 in the hands of Michael Fassett of Uxbridge, who sold it to Michael Clements of Feltham in May 1986, still on its original NYU 819 number plates.

In 1989 it was exported to New Zealand where it was owned by Peter Bruin, a well-known racing driver who was also a race mechanic for Brabham and McLaren and who ran a business preparing and restoring historic racing cars (Goodwood Engineering of Auckland). Bruin spent the next 20 years painstakingly restoring the car to the excellent condition you see today. It is only now being sold due to his death last year.

At the time of writing the car is on its way from New Zealand to Leominster, apparently with much extra service history on board. We will update this description when it arrives.

Lot Details
Auction Classic Car, Motorcycle & Automobilia
Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers, Leominster
Lot Number102
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£60500
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating0
Registration numberNYU 819
Chassis numberLML561
Engine numberVB6E/50/1293
Engine capacity (cc)2580
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors