1966 Aston Martin Short-Chassis Volante
RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND 2017 - A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
- The most desirable touring Aston Martin of its decade
- The very first example of 37 built; the most rare convertible Aston model
- Matching-numbers original engine – professionally upgraded to Vantage specification
- High-quality restoration by renowned marque specialists Steel Wings
- Sympathetic mechanical upgrades for thrilling driving
- A seldom-seen opportunity
It is a remarkable story but true: that one of the most desirable Aston Martins ever built began as a way for the factory to use up its leftovers.
As production of the new DB6 got underway in October 1965, the factory was left with 37 of the previous DB5 chassis that had remained unbuilt and unused. Featuring a sportier shorter wheelbase than its successor DB6, the chassis were unusable for the new model, but Aston management thought that they could be the basis of a striking “interim” convertible, essentially the last of the DB5Cs with all of the DB6’s numerous refinements and marketed alongside their new DB6.
The result was dubbed by factory man Kent Monk the Volante, or “Flying,” the first Aston to use this name to distinguish their convertibles and roadsters, and since used on every open production car since. And so is the story of the birth of the Short Chassis Volante, as distinguished from the longer DB6 and DB6 Mk II successor Volantes. The car featured the race-proven all-alloy, twin-cam straight-six powerplant, in original 4.0-liter form, with triple SU carburetors, and originally rated at 282 brake horsepower at 5,500 rpm.
Bodywork was produced using Touring’s patented Superleggera process, of wrapping handcrafted alloy panels around an open lattice of small-diameter steel tubing, for featherlight but rigid coachwork. Aside from its obviously more sporting proportions, the Short Chassis Volante was visually distinct from the earlier DB5 convertible by the DB6-specification quarter bumpers on all four corners, “adding lightness.” The taillight treatment was unique to the model, neither DB5 nor DB6, creating an attractive finishing point, set off by this first use of the “Volante” logo on the rear deck lid. The interior featured the expected high level of comfort and finish, including Connolly leather, stitched in the V-pattern introduced for the DB6, while the lined convertible top was made of high-quality Everflex and pebble-grain vinyl, as was used by Rolls-Royce.
As production of the Short-Chassis Volante was strictly limited by the number of leftover DB5 chassis available, only 37 were made, making this the lowest-production convertible Aston Martin ever. The survivors are quite highly prized and are justifiably considered the most desirable of all touring Astons, held in treasured esteem by enthusiasts worldwide.
CHASSIS NUMBER DB5C/2301/L
As the very first of the 37 Short-Chassis Volantes built, chassis number DB5C/2301/L retains its correct DB5C (DB5 Convertible) chassis number. (The designation later to appear in a factory record as DBVC/2301/LN – the prefix used for the 36 Short Chassis Volantes to follow. The “N” suffix, first used with the introduction of the DB6 range, indicates the fitment of factory air conditioning, N or “Normalaire.”) It is an original factory left-hand-drive car from new, delivered to Mr. David Davies of Park Avenue, New York City, in Dubonnet over black. Mr. Davies, later created Sir David, was and remains a well-known British financier and philanthropist, noted for his relationships with socialites such as Christine Onassis; at the time of his acquisition of this car, he was married to financial heiress Deborah Loeb.
More latterly, starting in the 1990s, the car was the prized possession of Aston Martin Owners Club (AMOC) North America stalwart Vincent Young, a noted perfectionist, who placed it with the renowned marque specialists Steel Wings of Ivyland, Pennsylvania, for a comprehensive restoration to the top specification conceivable.
In a recent telephone conversation with RM Sotheby’s Research & Editorial staff, Steel Wings principal Jon Clerk noted that in their care it was cosmetically restored, both inside and out, with bodywork refinished in the unmistakable Aston Racing Green and an interior in beautiful butterscotch tan leather, and also completely rebuilt mechanically.
Mr. Clerk is a highly respected engine builder. To increase power without compromising drivability, he had the cylinders overbored to 4.5 liters of displacement, with new pistons and camshafts, and upgraded beyond the most desirable factory Vantage specification, including the installation of the expected triple Weber carburetors. An original ZF five-speed transmission was replaced with a Tremec five-speed gearbox, a swap that Steel Wings heartily endorses. Further, Steel Wings supplied its own proven, high-quality suspension kit, used to upgrade the springs with better ratios for improved stability at speed, Koni shock absorbers, and a more robust front anti-roll bar for more sporting yet still supple handling. A contemporary Sony radio provides happy tunes for summer days. Modern, period-look air conditioning was also specified, as the factory-supplied units are considered woefully inadequate, and completes this desirable package.
Following conclusion of the restoration, Mr. Young used the car with pleasure in AMOC North America events and concours d’elegance, where it received special Club awards. It was eventually acquired by Orin Smith and has remained a treasured favorite, used for driving with pride, while remaining a prominent cornerstone in his collection ever since. The restoration remains thoroughly satisfying cosmetically, with fine paintwork; it was done properly and well, and that still shows today, with the only signs being minor road wear and stretching to the upholstery as expected from occasional use. It is accompanied by a Volante instruction book, and at the time of cataloguing showed a recorded 10,437 miles.
The opportunity to acquire a Short-Chassis Volante is extraordinarily rare. This marks a new owner’s chance to become a member of a very small crowd of connoisseurs – and to own and enjoy the very first “SCV” ever built.