Monterey

18-19 August 2017

Previous Next

Lot 149

1949 Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports 'DB1' Le Mans

  • Chassis no. AMC/49/5
  • Engine no. VB6B/50/51

$1,050,000 - $1,300,000


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

  • 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours; 4th in Class, 11th Overall
  • Engine upgraded by Aston Martin in 1953
  • Extensive history file, including many rare period documents
  • A highly original ex-Le Mans Aston Martin; never restored


RACE AND ROBBERY

Retrospectively called the ‘DB1’, the 2-Litre Sports was the first car produced by Aston Martin after David Brown’s acquisition of the company. Described in advertising as a ‘true thoroughbred in the very best British tradition’, the DB1 drew passionately on Aston Martin’s decades-long racing history. Only 13 examples were built and nine are known to exist today.

Made to order for pioneering English explorer and gentleman racing driver Robert Lawrie, chassis AMC/49/5 was originally delivered in June 1949 with a host of competition modifications, including a lightweight body and a ‘Spa Replica’ racing engine (SPA/49/3), a specification that would make this Aston Martin unique. Prior to his involvement with Le Mans, Robert Lawrie had been a successful mountaineer but he became extremely well known throughout the exploration world for his boot-making skills; Lawrie provided specialist mountaineering equipment to every British expedition for over 50 years (including the first successful ascent of Everest) and would result in him having a glacier in Antarctica named after him.

Lawrie had long held a keen interest in motorsport and over several visits to Le Mans became friends with members of the ACO. Knowing his desire to compete in the race, the ACO extended an invitation to Lawrie to compete in the 1949 edition despite the fact the he did not even hold a competition licence or have a suitable car. Not letting these small details stop him, Lawrie approached Aston Martin at the London Motor Show to commission a specially built car and asked the Royal Automobile Club for a licence on the basis of the Le Mans entry, a request that surprised them greatly but eventually they agreed. Paired with his friend Dr Richard Parker, also an amateur driver, the two men entered as privateers alongside the Works DBs; in correspondence to Parker, Lawrie explained that his brief to Aston Martin was that he wanted to be charged for every nut and bolt but above all he needed reliability with minimum maintenance. Despite first appearances Lawrie’s approach was anything but amateur with regular visits to Aston Martin and enlisting the help of Bentley Boy Sammy Davis to help prepare for the challenge of Le Mans. Lawrie’s great ambition was to complete the first post-war running of the race so he abandoned hopes of a podium finish and drove conservatively, with Lawrie advising Parker to ‘drive with a frame of mind that you are trying to keep a dinner date rather than running in a Grand Prix’. Thanks to great preparation and a mature attitude, Lawrie and Parker drove an uneventful race with the DB1 finishing 11th overall, a result that would have been 10th had Parker not made a gentlemanly stop as he wanted to give Lawrie the honour of taking the flag. This DB1 was one of only two Aston Martins to complete the gruelling race of 1949, making it the second David Brown Aston Martin to cross the finish line at Le Mans, an association that would culminate in the DBR1. Following the end of the race, Lawrie and Parker were warmly congratulated by the President of France, Vincent Auriol, before taking the long way home, driving the DB1 on an extended tour back to the UK.

Following its success at Le Mans, this DB1 was returned to the Works where it was made ‘as standard’, including the installation of a full windscreen, but still retaining its racing-type pistons and unique centre-folding Le Mans bonnet, before being returned to Lawrie in September 1949. The Aston Martin build sheet notes the second owner as Mr C. Redhead; he is most likely the one who brought the DB1 to Aston Martin in 1953 to upgrade the engine and for a change of colour from Suffolk Green to the current Botticelli Blue. This engine upgrade saw the current engine (VB6B/50/51) installed into the car; this engine is a 2.6-litre straight-six first developed by W.O. Bentley for Lagonda (prompting David Brown to purchase the entire company) before being used for the DB2. By the 1970s, this DB1 was in the hands of Julian Booty and had been repainted Suffolk Green; Booty took the decision to repaint it back to Botticelli Blue and this paint remains on the DB1 today.

In a story that seems straight out of a James Bond novel, AMC/49/3’s recent history is as exciting as its early years. After passing through a series of owners including Robert Edwards, in 1991 the car was acquired by Colin Gordon of New Zealand. In 1994 he believed that he sold the DB1 to a wealthy Japanese buyer; however, once the car was shipped to Japan it was stolen off the wharf and ended up with a Yakuza boss. For over a decade Mr Gordon tried everything to regain possession of his car, including going to Japan and meeting with the thief, to no avail. Finally, in 2007, a court established his right of ownership, and he was able to sell the car on – this time to a more reputable buyer.

This 2-Litre Sports is presented in extremely original condition with its original chassis, body and interior trim and its 1953-upgraded engine; it is also reported to be in good mechanical condition. Additionally, this DB1 is accompanied by an extensive history file with letters from Robert Lawrie to Richard Parker, period ACO Le Mans documents and many historic photos and memorabilia from the race and two drivers’ tour home.

A very significant sport scar from a romantic era when you could drive to Le Mans, compete successfully and take a driving holiday home, this versatile DB1 is eligible for many of the best historic racing events today. Having been out of the public eye for most of its life, this Aston Martin is potentially a great entry for the preservation classes of some of the world’s top concours. AMC/49/5 offers the perfect opportunity to own a highly original and unrestored Le Mans Aston Martin open sports car with a truly fascinating story.

Addendum

Please note that an import duty of 2.5% of the purchase price is payable on this lot if the buyer is a resident of the United States. Please also note that the title is in transit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more