1966 Aston Martin Short-Chassis Volante
$1,400,000 - $1,800,000
RM | Sotheby's - MONTEREY 15 - 17 AUGUST 2019 - Offered on Thursday
- One of just 37 short-chassis Volantes ever produced
- Purchased from new by the Burton family, founders of Burton and Top Shop
- Presented in concours condition; converted to left-hand-drive configuration
- Complete with a comprehensive and fascinating history file
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.
As production of the new DB6 got under way in October 1965, Aston Martin was left with 37 DB5 chassis that remained unused. Featuring a sportier, shorter wheelbase than its successor, the chassis were unusable for the new model, but Aston management thought they could be the basis of a striking “interim” convertible, essentially the last of the DB5 convertibles, but with all of the DB6’s refinements.
The result was dubbed the Volante, or “Flying,” by factory man Kent Monk. The first Aston Martin to use this name, it has since been used on every open production car since. The short-chassis Volante, as distinguished from the longer DB6 and DB6 Mk II Volantes, featured the race-proven all-alloy, twin-cam straight-six power plant in original 4.0-liter form, with triple SU carburetors, and originally rated at 282 brake horsepower at 5,500 rpm, though this car’s engine was dynamometer tested to 289 bhp during restoration.
Coachwork was produced using Touring’s patented Superleggera process of wrapping handcrafted alloy panels around an open lattice of small-diameter steel tubing for a featherlight but rigid body. Aside from its obviously more sporting proportions, the short-chassis Volante can be identified from the earlier DB5 convertible by the DB6-specification quarter bumpers on all four corners. The taillight treatment was unique to the model, neither featured on 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 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 open-top touring Astons, held in treasured esteem by enthusiasts worldwide.
As is the case with certain limited runs of supercars today, the short-chassis Volante was only available to Aston Martin’s best and most honored customers of the day. Fittingly, DBVC/2310/R was delivered to Montague Burton Ltd. of Hudson Street Mills, Leeds, on 13 May 1966. The company, founded by Montague Burton in 1903, had become a powerhouse in the retail industry by the First World War and made a quarter of all British military uniforms. Post-war, Burton was a leading figure in the development of employees’ rights and was knighted in 1931 for “furthering industrial relations and world peace.” By the 1950s, the company was the largest multiple tailor in the world. As the elder Burton had already passed by the time this car was delivered, it is believed that DBVC/2310/R was purchased for one of Burton’s twin sons, believed to be Raymond Burton, who was a part of the family business.
Not content to simply live in his father’s shadow, Raymond became a famous retailer in his own right, acquiring the now-extinct lady’s clothing business Peter Robinson for Burton. During his time there, Raymond cornered the young fashion market by opening Peter Robinson’s Top Shop in the basement of the department store at Oxford Circus. While the larger department store disbanded, Top Shop remains a famous British and international clothing brand. Furthermore, in 1995, Raymond was awarded a CBE for his charitable work. As founder and chairman of Peter Robinson, Raymond sponsored a ladies race at Oulton Park, and there is a photograph in DBVC/2310/R’s history file of Raymond chauffeuring two lady drivers on a lap of honor around the UK’s Cheshire-based circuit in the Aston Martin. To this day, the Montague Burton Hillclimb is run every August in honor of the patriarch’s participation in motor racing.
In 1971, DBVC/2310/R was sold out of the Burton family and landed in the hands of Ken Hipwell. He embarked on a three-year restoration, including a bare-metal repaint to lime green. The Volante appeared at many Aston Martin Owners Club events but largely remained in storage, covering less than 20,000 miles in Mr. Hipwell’s 38-year custodianship. In 2013 the short-chassis was purchased by the current owner, who commissioned a meticulous restoration by marque specialist Desmond J. Smail Limited.
Using only the finest specialists, there followed a painstaking three-year restoration, during which the engine was rebuilt to 4.2-liter Cosworth specification and the car was converted to left-hand drive. Modern upgrades including heat proofing and discreet electric power steering only increase the usability of the rare Aston Martin. At the same time, the vehicle was repainted and the interior retrimmed in Claret leather—by the same Aston Martin employee who had first trimmed it 50 years prior!
Finished to exacting concours condition, the new owner took possession of DBVC/2310/R exactly 50 years to the day that it was delivered to the Burtons. It has since been entered in a selection of high-profile concours events in 2016, including the Blenheim Palace Concours, “A Festival of Aston Martins” at Burghley House, Salon Privé, and the Autumn Aston Martin Owners Club Concours at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, which it won outright.
Complete with a comprehensive history file, this short-chassis Volante is a fully documented example of one of the rarest David Brown–era Aston Martins, with a provenance including one of Britain’s greatest retail families.