a bargain aston Martin?
Eoin Young isn’t the only one to have experienced the works DB2.
In the early 1960s I was running the sales department of Walkers Garage, Standard-Triumph agents in Whitby, North Yorkshire. I had recently returned to my home town after my two years National Service in the RAF, which was spent rather pleasantly in a tent in Cyprus.
Walkers Garage had been established in 1900 and was the first garage in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The founder, A. H. Walker was still involved in the business even though he was over 80 years of age, although the day to day running of the garage was carried on by his son and grandsons. Good vintage cars and proper motorcars were always in evidence. At this time I was driving a Buckler Mk 5 which had enjoyed some success in 1172 club racing as the Porteus Special. The boss being an enthusiast had no objections to the staff buying and selling such oddball cars which did not affect his business. This gave one the ability to supplement one’s wages considerably. Eventually I sold the Buckler in order to purchase a 1925 open three litre Bentley from a local doctor for £125. Later this was sold for £450 which allowed me to buy my first Aston Martin, a DB2 reg. PUM6.
PUM6 was not sadly all Aston. It had been owned by Teesside motor trader Laurie Denny, one time associate of Freddie Dixon of Riley fame. Denny had blown up the original 2.6 litre Aston engine and had sold the car to another Teesside trader, Mike Gray who had started to fit a 3.4 Jaguar engine and gearbox into the car but was killed in a hillclimb at Barbon Manor driving a singleseat Cooper-Climax, leaving the Aston unfinished. Mike had earlier crashed the ex-Phil Scragg Monza Lister Jaguar whilst driving to a race meeting at Rufforth, the Lister having been loaned to him by the then owner Keith Schellenberg.
A friend then purchased PUM6 from the executors of Mike Gray’s estate and completed the installation of the Jaguar engine and gearbox. He had just got the car on the road when he had the offer of a cheap
E-type Jaguar. Being a Jag Man, he sold me the Aston for £250.
As a member of the Yorkshire section of the BARC I had been competing in hillclimbs and sprints with various cars, so the Aston was entered for the Harewood hillclimb. At this event I was approached by Arnold J. Burton, who actually owned the farm on which the event was held. He told me that he had bought PUM6 new and had competed in the 1950 Alpine Rally with it, failing to finish when one of the front spring towers cracked, at the same time pointing out the reinforcing he had fitted in case the same thing should happen again, which it never did and he went on to win the three litre class in the 1951 Alpine. This was the first I knew of the car’s competition history and it came from the car’s original owner and driver in the event.
The Aston was used as my everyday car for some time but as with youthful exuberance, I could wear out a set of Avon Turbospeeds in 3000 miles and it tended to soak up money like a sponge!
On a visit to a scrap yard in Darlington one day I met a chap looking for headlamp units for an Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk3 he was rebuilding. He said his name was Bloomfield and was an officer in the RAF at nearby Catterick and he had a DB2 which he wanted to sell. An appointment was made for that evening and along with a friend we went to Catterick in PUM6. The photographs show PUM6 and VMF65 outside the Officer’s Mess that evening. Bloomfield knew VMF6 had some racing history but had no details. The car drove well enough, even though the haze of blue smoke from the exhaust was ominous, the lightweight alloy body was a bit dented and the Perspex rear and side windows difficult to see through. A deal was done at £250 and a very happy 23 year old had the two Astons pictured for 500 quid!
On arriving at work the next morning the boss showed great interest in VMF65 and after taking the car for a drive asked if I would sell it to him. I think now he was aware of the car’s history. As I had already told him what I had paid for the car this made things a little difficult so I said at that stage I did not know which car I would keep. After a week of owning both cars the boss settled matters by offering me £450 for VMF65. This was £200 profit and as a young man, an offer I could not refuse!
After running the car for a few months, its new owner sent it to the paint shop where most of the dents were removed and the bodywork had a new coat of very dark green paint, almost black, the factory racing colour in the early 50s. After enjoying the car for over a year the boss advertised it for sale in Exchange and Mart.
Strangely it was I who answered the early Thursday morning phone call from Nigel Mann ringing from his home in France. He had been a member of the Works team in 1951, when VMF63, VMF64 and VMF65 were the team cars.
After giving him details of the car, an arrangement was made for the boss to meet up with Mann’s engineer who would travel up to York by train. Later in the day on returning from York the boss surprised us all by announcing he had sold the car for almost £15,000. My own DB2 PUM6 was to be sold shortly afterwards, as in 1964 I was to start up in the motor trade on my own account.
In 1967 I bought PUM6 back from a dealer in Newcastle upon Tyne who had taken the car in part exchange. Much work was needed to be carried out on the bodywork due to electrolysis around the rear wheel arches. This involved cutting out the entire corroded alloy and welding in a four or five inch wide strip of new metal. The front of the bumper also needed to be rebuilt.
It was around this time when a friend turned up at my garage with a DB4GT which his father had just bought him from racing driver Mike Salmon. My friend had little knowledge of Astons, simply liking the look of the car and knowing nothing of its history. I was very impressed with it and made him aware of my interest should he ever wish to sell, which at the time he had no intention of doing. Over the following year or so I saw my friend with the car on odd occasions. Out of the blue I received a telephone call one day asking if I was interested in the DB4GT. An employee had attempted to start the car in order to move it, the engine had backfired and the car had caught fire. The insurance company was to pay out the owner as a total loss and I was asked if I wished to buy the salvage, which I was told had to make £350. I bought it on the phone unseen!
After getting the wreckage back to my garage and ordering the parts I required from the stores manager at Newport Pagnell, who I had got to know quite well, he asked me for the chassis number. When I said DP199/1, he informed me that I had got the works prototype DB4GT which had been driven by Moss in competition, later had been the works demo car and after that, sold to the Queen’s cousin the The Honourable Gerald Laselles. Not a bad buy for 350 quid!
I was fortunate in having a very skilled old craftsman available to undertake the making of large sections of each front wing which had melted due to the tyres catching fire as petrol had burned under the car. Old Bill had carried out all the experimental work for Blackburn Aircraft at Brough during the war and to him nothing was impossible, given time.
After the bodywork was completed, all the front suspension was renewed along with the shock absorbers and anything else which was required. The DB4GT was eventually sold around 1970 along with PUM6 and my Vincent series D Black Shadow motorbike in order to buy a farm. The DB4GT made £1500, the DB2 £500 and the bike £350. The farm cost £6750.
Prior to coming to live in New Zealand in 1999, I had seen the DB4GT sell for nearly £300,000 and sometime after settling here, the old DB2, VMF65 made over £80,000 at auction.
I consider my rebuilding of DP199/1 from a burnt out write-off to be my greatest achievement with Aston Martins. At the time another purchaser wished to buy the wreckage to remove the engine and fit it in a speedboat!
Had that happened, DP199/1 would have been lost forever. The fact that I had the services of a man with such metalworking and welding skills available should never be forgotten either, for without these rare skills, the job would have been impossible to complete.
Today there would be little chance of anyone having such luck in acquiring such historic cars at such an affordable price in such a remote area of the country as I did all those years ago. I seriously believe that my generation have had the best of it, we never had to fight in a proper war, had freedom of the road with no silly speed limits, four gallons of petrol for a quid and then some change, what more could one ask?
There were to be lots more Astons over the years from DB2/4 Mks 1, 2 and 3, DB4 /6 and DBS V8 but none ever matched PUM6, VMF65 and DP199/1.
Strangely, there is another quirk to the story. In 1966 I purchased a DB2 2.6 litre convertible, SPC100, selling this to a friend, John Ridsdale of Skelton, North Yorkshire a few months later. I understand that this car still resides in John’s garage 47 years later. There can be few motor traders who have ever sold a customer a car which he has kept for such a length of time. This must be the ultimate in customer satisfaction. The Triumph Spitfire I took in part-exchange no doubt parted this life many moons ago!
Looking back today it is interesting to reflect that the appreciation in value of the Aston Martins was matched almost exactly by the increase in value of the farm they were sold to purchase in 1971. For when the farm was sold in 1999 prior to our leaving the UK for retirement in my wife’s home country of New Zealand, the sale value of the farm would have purchased the figures they made at auction. David Starling Kapiti Coast
David Starling and his Mk V Buckler
The Bentley tour story in Issue 48 along with Eoin Young’s piece about travelling to Le Mans in the ex-works Aston Martin has prompted David Starling to raid his photo albums. Here are a Bentley 3 litre and a Porsche 356
And again, when David owned it. Right The works prototype Aston Martin DB4GT, brought back from the dead by David Starling
The works Aston DB2