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Lot 347: Aster 18/50hp Coupé with Dickey Seat

The Beaulieu Sale, Bonhams (7 September 2013)

The British-built Aster originated in 1922 when what had been the Begbie Manufacturing Company of Wembley, North London began making cars under that name, having been licensed to make Aster engines since the mid-1900s. Founded in 1878, the French Ateliers de Construction Mecanique l'Aster had established itself as a major supplier of proprietary engines to manufacturers of cars and motorcycles by the late 1890s and also produced a range of other automotive components, including complete chassis. Aster also built stationary engines, marine power units, generators and aero engines at its St Denis factory on the Seine, and for a few years offered fully finished automobiles, the first of which was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1900. Aster motor cars were sold in the UK prior to WWI, though the Beaulieu Encyclopedia states that these were almost certainly made by Ariès. Originally known as 'Aster-Wembley', the British based enterprise became the Aster Engineering Company in 1913 and during The Great War produced aero engines. According to Grace's Guide, its proprietor Sydney D Begbie had worked as the 'Resident Engineer' at Aster's St Denis factory during the 1900s having commenced motoring in 1895. He was a keen sportsman and at one time held many world records for cycling.With the war over, Begbie, like many other engineering entrepreneurs on both sides of the Channel, was forced to diversify in the face of a sudden decline in demand for his wartime products. Like Andé Citroën in France he turned to motor manufacturing, introducing the first British-built Aster motor car in 1922. Aster's first offering was the luxurious 18/50hp model, which was powered by a 2.6-litre overhead-valve six-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed gearbox. Of 126" (3.2m) wheelbase, the chassis featured a spiral bevel rear axle, semi-elliptic front springs and cantilever rear springing, and was priced at £605 making it a very exclusive purchase. Four-wheel brakes were optional at first, standard from 1924. Tested by the RAC, an Aster 18/50 covered 2,000 miles at an average speed of 44.17mph with a fuel consumption of 21.7 miles per gallon. The Duke of York, later King George VI, was the most high-profile among a growing list of discerning clients. In 1927 Aster merged with Arrol-Johnston. Production moved to the latter's factory at Dumfries and the marque name changed to Arrol-Aster. This reorganisation was not enough to save the firm and in 1929 the receivers were called in, though production did not finally end for another 18 months. It is estimated that prior to the move to Scotland only some 170-or-so Aster motor cars had been built. One of only two Asters known to survive, this extremely rare quality car was delivered new to one Ralph Cooper of Mansfield, who displayed it for a while during the 1950s at the Brighton Motor Museum. The current vendor purchased the car at Brooks' Olympia Sale in April 1995 (Lot 678). At that time it was stated that it had been in the then owner's hands since 1987, completing a number of rallies, including the 1993 Gordon Bennett, while in his care. 'NN 7024' was described as in generally good condition, with engine very good, benefiting from a magneto refurbished in 1993 and a new clutch and crown wheel and pinion fitted in 1988. A fuel pump and flashing indicators had been fitted but otherwise the car was said to be to original specification. Hardly used since acquisition, this fabulous Vintage coupé is beautifully proportioned and incorporates a number of delightful features such as the working interior vanity/reading lights. The car is offered with an extensive history file containing drawings, photographs, correspondence, expired MoT certificates, Swansea V5C document, fresh MoT and an old-style logbook.

Lot Details
Auction The Beaulieu Sale
Bonhams, Hampshire, UK
Lot Number347
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£22000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£25300
Condition rating2
Registration number
Chassis number133
Engine number5278W
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors