Format: 2019-07-20 14:02:45

Aston Martin DB3S Sports Racing 1953 Works

Chassis number:
Engine number:
Body number:
The Aston Martin Works Sale 2016
Auction House: Bonhams
Registration number:
Sold for: £ 5.000.000

Has not been sold. Highest bid £5.000.000

*Rare works sports-racer
*One of 30 made
*Built for Sir David Brown's personal use
*Significant in-period competition history
*Fully restored by Aston Martin Works in 2014

The enduringly graceful, svelte, exquisitely well-proportioned Aston Martin DB3S is one of the most widely recognised beauties of the British high-performance sports car treasury. Its abidingly tasteful body styling by Frank Feeley is a classical shape of the 1950s and for its time it has been described as being "about the best the Brits ever built". We believe that any committed, experienced British classic car enthusiast would accept that as praise indeed...

This particular Aston Martin DB3S is unique in that it was built originally for the Aston Martin company's owner – multi-millionaire industrialist David – later Sir David – Brown. In recent years it has been in the care of a particularly fastidious and committed European owner. It has been painstakingly factory restored by Aston Martin and bills for this work accompanying the car, total no less than £311,000. 

As new in 1953 car chassis 'DB3S/5' now offered here was fitted with experimental moulded-glassfibre bodywork and was UK road-registered 'JAN 500'. It was intended for David Brown's private use and a careful watch was maintained upon its 'composite' bodywork to follow discolouration, deformation, possible delamination, cracking and splitting in use on everyday roads. Moulded glass fibre was in those days very much in its infancy, and there was much to learn about the material, with Aston Martin engineers' enquiring minds very much involved at the cutting edge of that emergent technology.

However, Aston Martin factory team misfortunes during the 1954 Le Mans 24-Hour race soon saw 'DB3S/5' called in for more urgent service. During the great French race the Siamese Prince 'Bira' overturned his works DBS Coupé, chassis number '6, and as a result of that accident both chassis and body were scrapped and replaced by a newly-built open version under that same identity. At the same race young Scottish works driver Ian Stewart suffered a similar accident to the Prince in sister DB3S Coupé chassis '7, and it was similarly scrapped and completely replaced by an open version inheriting the same identity. 

Having lost two works team cars Mr Brown's personal DB3S – chassis '5' as now offered here – was simply commandeered by the Feltham factory's Competitions Department as a substitute. Its experimental glassfibre body was set aside and replaced by the repaired aluminium bodywork taken from 'DB3S/2' which had been crashed by works driver Reg Parnell during the 1954 Mille Miglia round-Italy race.

The car was uprated mechanically to the latest works team specification and it made its racing debut in July 1954 when it was driven in to second place in the 25-lap over-1500cc sports car race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. There it was the sandwich in a wonderful result for Aston Martin which saw the works DB3S cars finishing first, second and third driven by winner Peter Collins, Salvadori and American rising star Carroll Shelby.

In October 1954 Roy Salvadori then drove the car again in the Aintree International race meeting at Liverpool, finishing fifth in a race which saw his team-mates Peter Collins and Reg Parnell finishing second and third behind overall winner Masten Gregory's 1½-litres larger, V12-engined Ferrari 375MM Barchetta.

David Brown never had 'his' DB3S returned to him as chassis '5 was then retained instead as a fully-fledged works team car for the 1955 season. It was by then re-registered under the unusual British serial 'H 9046' and it was entered for the British Empire Trophy race at Oulton Park on April 2 fitted with a DP155 2 ½-litre version of its usual 3-litre DP101 straight-6 cylinder twin overhead-camshaft engine to take advantage of that 25-lap event's handicap regulations. The car was entrusted to veteran works driver Reg Parnell, and he drove it home in third place overall on handicap, behind the winning Lister-Bristol of Archie Scott-Brown and Ken McAlpine's Connaught ALSR. 

The car was then carefully prepared for Peter Collins' use on the 1955 Mille Miglia, but it retired early when its replaced 3-litre DP101 engine broke a connecting rod.

On July 16, 1955, the car reappeared at Liverpool's Aintree circuit to contest the 17-lap sports car race supporting the British Grand Prix run that year at the old-established home of the Grand National horse race. Driven again by Reg Parnell the car took another third place finish – this time in a stunning Aston Martin works team 1-2-3-4 domination headed by Roy Salvadori from Collins, Parnell and Peter Walker – all in DB3Ses, and beating three Jaguar D-Types into a humbling 5-6-7 result.

Roy Salvadori took over driving duties in chassis '5 on July 30 at London's parkland Crystal Palace circuit, winning the 10-lap event by over eight seconds from Scott-Brown's Lister-Bristol. The car's works racing season was then completed on August 6, 1955, when Reg Parnell drove it again, this time at Charterhall aerodrome in Scotland – finishing a delayed sixth.

During that 1955 season the car had been progressively modified with the latest form Frank Feeley-styled bodywork, in concert with its sister chassis DB3S/6, '7 and '8. At the end of the year Roy Salvadori bought the car from Aston Martin Lagonda Limited to be entered by his friend (and contemporary Maserati sports and Formula 1 car entrant) Syd Greene's company, Gilby Engineering Limited.

Aston Martin's renowned racing manager John Wyer wrote this of 'DB3S/5' in his wonderful autobiography 'The Certain Sound' wrote this of the 1956 Silverstone May Meeting, which "was the scene of considerable friction between Moss and Salvadori...the basic cause was that Stirling wanted to drive Roy's car. The factory team cars were to be driven by Moss, Parnell and Collins but Roy was driving his own car, which he had bought and paid for. I did not feel, therefore, that I could take it away from him, short of buying it back and he was not prepared to sell it.

"Stirling suggested that the whole thing was a fiddle to give Roy the best car or, alternatively, that I must be stupid to sell the best car anyway. Salvadori won with a disgruntled Moss second, but it was not a happy occasion.

"The car which I sold to Roy, 'DB3S/5', was one which, in 1955, nobody had wanted to drive. It had a reputation for being a pig to handle but, although we made a microscopic examination of every component and rechecked the suspension settings, we were never able to establish any reason.

"When Salvadori approached me before the 1956 season and asked me to sell him a car I said "You know, Roy, the only car I can spare is 'DB3S/5'".
"He bought it reluctantly and then went on to have a most successful season with it. After his Silverstone performance everybody wanted to drive it and I was widely criticized for selling it to him. It is impossible to please all the people all the time, but at least I pleased Salvadori...". So praise for this individual car indeed, right there, direct from the horse's mouth.

First time out in 1956 was at the Easter Monday 1956 meeting, when Salvadori and Greene ran the car for none other than Stirling Moss – and he won (one almost adds "of course"). The factory team then borrowed the car for a return to the British Empire Trophy race at Oulton Park, for which it was again fitted with the DP155 2½-litre engine, and was entrusted to Reg Parnell for the race. This time the combination was out of luck, being classified only 11th. Times they were a' changing...

But once back in Roy Salvadori's hands at Aintree on April 21 and then the May Silverstone Meeting on May 5, 'DB3S/5' began winning again with two consecutive International-level victories. He led home three Jaguar D-Types and an HWM-Jaguar – all bigger-engined designs – at Aintree, and Moss's works Aston Martin and two D-Types at Silverstone. In the right hands Aston Martin 'DB3S/5' was still plainly immensely competitive...

The car was then despatched to Belgium for the Spa Grand Prix on May 13, driven by Reg Parnell as a works team entry. There in the hour-long 12-lap race 'Uncle Reg' finished second behind Ninian Sanderson's Ecurie Ecosse-entered Jaguar D-Type. 

Again run as a works entry in that year's World Championship-qualifying ADAC 1,000 Kilometres race at the Nürburgring in Germany, Peter Collins and Tony Brooks co-drove 'DB3S/5' to finish fifth overall behind works Maserati, Ferrari and Porsche opposition, their drive lasting no less than 7hrs 52mins to earn their fees of around £150 each...

Roy Salvadori then drove the car again in the Aintree '100' International on June 23, 1956, again defeating two Jaguar D-Types to win there. The car was then sold through the following winter to the man who would become Roy Salvadori's enduring friend and race entrant of all manner of cars, up to and including Formula 1, Mr C.T. 'Tommy'; Atkins. Fitted with engine 'DP101/35' the car was driven for him by promising new Team Lotus driver – and former factory storeman – Graham Hill. 

First time out at Goodwood on Easter Monday, Graham Hill finished 11th then on May 18 at Brands Hatch he took a third place. On June 9 Peter Blond drove the car for 'Tommy' Atkins at Goodwood, finishing second.

The car's third owner ex-works was then Dennis Barthel who scored a class win with it at Stapleford and early in 1958 took a third place at Goodwood. The new owner had the car prepared for him by Rob Walker's Pippbrook Garage business at Dorking, Surrey, where it was entrusted to the care of mechanic Alan Overtone. In rather tragic circumstances the car was offered by Mr Barthel to Alan Overton for the Gosport Speed Trials, in which the unfortunate mechanic won a first class award but the car remained under power beyond the finish line and crashed fatally into the sea.

According to marque historian Chris Nixon in the magnificent two-volume book 'The Aston Martin DB3S' "The car was pulled out of the mud and rebuilt with a new body which, according to (subsequent club-race driver of 'DB3S/5') Bob Owen, was found on a shelf at Feltham, and had a distinctive front end styled by Carrozzeria Touring. It was also given engine 'DP101H/45' and cylinder head 'RB6/300/2' (from 'DBR1/2'). Re-registered 'PAP 625', the Aston somehow found its way into the British comedy film 'School for Scoundrels', starring Ian Carmichael and Terry-Thomas".

In that now celebrated movie the Aston Martin starred as the 'new Bellini' brandished by Terry-Thomas's caddish character – "...the rotten Raymond Delauney" – in seeking to woo female interest Janette Scott away from the hapless, innocent Carmichael.

It was not long after the movie's release in 1960-61 that the car was spotted in a South London Garage by enthusiasts Tom Rose and Doug Wilcocks. Tom Rose and his wife Sandra were able to acquire the car and with Doug Wilcocks they raced it briefly at club level before Mr Rose bought the later sister car 'DB3S/10' from Charles Sgonina. 

Fellow Aston Martin enthusiast Clive Aston then expressed an interest in buying chassis '5 from Tom Rose, who was quoted by Chris Nixon as follows in the Palawan book: "We were discussing a price at Silverstone when my wife put a rod through the side of '5's engine", recalls Tom. Nevertheless Clive bought the Aston and commissioned ex-Feltham racing mechanic Des O'Dell to rebuild the power unit. He then raced the car regularly over the next ten years – including the pioneering Le Mans Historic events of 1973 and 1978..." – before selling the car to Martin Hilton, from whose ownership it passed subsequently to fellow British collector/driver Bill Lake. 

He had the ex-works Aston Martin's body replaced with new panelling to 1955 works team specification, featuring a 'single-seat' cockpit opening and carburettor and cockpit air intakes to the contemporary design. He also retrieved the old war horse's contemporary UK road registration number 'H 9046' (which will now require reapplying for). In 1987 Bill Lake sold the restored car to Swiss collector Erich Traber, who became a regular entrant and driver of 'DB3S/5' year after year in the annual Mille Miglia Retro. 

It was acquired by the present owner in December 2007, and in his hands it has participated in the Mille Miglia Retro events of 2008, 20010 and 2014. As offered here the car is accompanied by the numerous spares and associated components, headed most notably by a spare engine block which we understand is believed to be from the assembly damaged during Peter Collins' drive in the Mille Miglia. A full list of which is available (perusal recommended). 

This is a magnificently well-presented example of one of the most gorgeous, glorious and widely-admired British sports-racing car designs of the 1950s. As fully-restored by the Aston Martin factory specialists it embodies tremendous investment in extending its future life virtually – as the saying goes - to infinity – and beyond...

We recommend that this immensely attractive, versatile, and widely useable two-seater – with its wonderfully historic connections not only to some of the greatest racing drivers of the period, but also to Aston Martin owner Sir David Brown himself – deserves the closest possible consideration. 

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