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1952 ASTON MARTIN DB2

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£114,550

This Aston Martin DB2 is an unashamedly honest and beloved example of the rare classic British sports car, which is in excellent mechanical condition, and could make a solid basis for a sympathetic restoration. As the marque’s first true post-war production car – and only the second model developed under the leadership of David Brown – the DB2 was a remarkably capable GT.

Having entered three lightweight DB2s for the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hour race, two of the cars finished in fifth and sixth place overall – and comfortably won their class. DB2s returned to Le Mans in 1951, doing even better by coming third overall in the hands of Lance Macklin and Eric Thompson. As Autosport’s John Bolster said in 1952: “Whether one would go shopping, to the theatre, on a long distance tour, or even race at Le Mans, one could have no more perfect companion that the Aston Martin”.

According to the factory records, chassis number LML/50/211 was first registered on 3 November 1952, supplied by Kennings of Manchester to its first owner, Dr John Charnley (later Sir John Charnley, who was knighted in 1977 for his contributions to orthopaedic medicine as the pioneer of the hip replacement prosthesis). Charnley had joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in May 1940, and had served in Dunkirk during the evacuation. He was later dispatched to Cairo, where he was soon put in charge of a new orthopaedic workshop, and where he also learnt to fly. By 1950, he had published his first reference book on the treatment of fractures, which would prove hugely influential for decades to come.

Having been finished at Aston Martin’s Feltham factory in Moonbeam Grey with a red leather interior, this DB2 was first registered as NNB 313. Sir John was a keen driver; so keen in fact that its original engine (LB6B/50/628) was replaced with another Lagonda straight-six (LB6B/50/606) after just four days and 384 miles. According to his biography, “One of his great pleasures in these early days was to try to reach 100 mph along the Chester Road on Sunday mornings”. The second engine required a new cylinder head just three weeks later, and a new gearbox two months after that. It is fair to say that Sir John threw down the gauntlet for every subsequent owner of this DB2 to drive it as intended.

It is perhaps not surprising that a man so preoccupied with making structural repairs to the human body also had a keen interest in engineering and mechanics. He maintained and fixed his Aston Martin whenever required, treating it as a faithful companion. His devotion to the car is perhaps best communicated in this quote from his biography:

“I am primarily interested in ideas and things and only in people in so far as they are necessary for supplying those ideas and things. I love my Aston Martin more intensely than any woman - it is as near a perfect solution to an intellectual problem as one can imagine at the present moment.”

Eventually, Sir John parted with the car, and it is believed that shortly after this was when the Lagonda engine was swapped for a 3.4-litre Jaguar straight-six and gearbox. Several other DB2s had the same conversion carried out in period, as it was both more powerful and more robust than the original motor. Should the next owner prefer a Lagonda engine in the car, then they are in luck, as it is accompanied by a separate 2.9-litre straight-six and Aston Martin DBS gearbox.

In the late 1960s, the DB2 was owned by a Mr D Jones, and the history file then records a Mr James Ryan as the keeper from 1970 to 1976, and a Mr Paul Ryan thereafter until 1999 – which was perhaps a father passing it on to his son.

From 1999 until 2003, the car was owned by Mr Duncan Arthurs. A keen member of the Vintage Sports Car Club, he used the car for numerous road rallies, including participation in the Malts Rally in 2001 – an event for which he was granted a FIVA Identity Card (No: 018878, now expired). Mr Arthurs maintained and updated the car to ensure that it was mechanically sorted and capable of the rigours of road rallying. When the car was offered at auction in 2003, it was equipped with full safety harnesses and a Brantz Tripmeter. The odometer reading at this time was 90,387 miles, and was thought to be correct.

Between 2003 and 2015, this DB2 was part of the eclectic assembly of historic vehicles owned by Duncan Pittaway. A very well-known enthusiast and competitor in the classic car community, Pittaway is perhaps most familiar as the restorer and runner of the mighty 28-litre Fiat S76 known as the ‘Beast of Turin’. He builds, restores and races incredible cars, such as a Bugatti T35 Grand Prix, GN aero-engined Specials, a Plymouth Barracuda, and the Bill Thomas Cheetah No.1. As is probably self-evident from the fact it remained in his care for 12 years, the DB2 became a much-loved part of his collection, being used regularly and variedly, from doing the school run to competing in the VSCC Pomeroy Trophy at Silverstone. It was of course kept in superb mechanical order by him, always ‘on the button’ and ready to drive, and was sold on to the current owner in 2015.

This gentleman is also a keen classic car enthusiast, having previously owned the likes of a Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS and Renault 5 Turbo 2. As a historic motorsport competitor who races a Mini Cooper S Mk1, the current owner often uses the DB2 as transport to circuits, where the car is always warmly welcomed in the paddock. During his tenure, renowned Aston Martin and Jaguar specialists have looked after the car, keeping it in very good mechanical condition.

Considering the bodywork is unrestored, it is in fair condition. The bonnet has had a section cut out some time ago, apparently to accommodate a V8 engine, though it was stitched back in again, which suggests the conversion was never completed, or that it was not a great success. There are visible repairs on both front wings, and damage to the front bumper, with cracks in the metal on the nearside, and a riveted patch repair on the offside. A thorough review of the photo gallery will illustrate various chips, scratches, flaking and bubbling in the patinated paintwork – but it certainly looks like a good basis for improvement.

Upon stepping inside, the dark red leather upholstery is assumed to be original. It is worn and creased, but fundamentally looks sound enough to be retained if the next owner wants to preserve the decades-old appearance. The carpets are moth-eaten in places, and more noticeably worn under the pedal area. Its door panels are worn, but intact, and the dashboard is scruffy but functional. The dials are a mixture of Aston Martin dials and switchgear and Jaguar gauges that are mated to the Jaguar engine and gearbox. The four-spoke Jaguar steering wheel ahead of the driver has been bound with leather, though this is now worn and coming loose. The original Aston Martin wheel is included in the sale.

As well as the currently installed Jaguar engine, this DB2 also features a strengthened Salisbury 4HA rear axle, telescopic shock absorbers, and bespoke square-section front springs with re-engineered front spring mounts. The cooling system has also been substantially re-engineered, to ensure this is a reliable driver in modern stop-start traffic.

This Aston Martin is reported to be in excellent mechanical order, and was serviced in July 2020 by marque specialist Davron. This consisted of new bushes for the rear suspension, new fuel lines and repairs to the exhaust. In 2017, Sigma Engineering of Dorset carried out a full rebuild of the Jaguar engine and cylinder head, at a cost of nearly £10,000. Around six months earlier, it had a total rebuild of the front and rear suspension, and various other work, at Aston Martin specialist Wren Classics, with further invoices for just over £15,000 on file.

The spare engine that accompanies this DB2 is a 2.9-litre twin-cam VB6H type Lagonda straight-six from a 1955 Mk2 saloon. It was removed from a car that had around 43,500 miles on the odometer.

Exempt from the annual MOT test on the basis of age, it has not been subject to this annual inspection since August 2012, when it achieved a first-time pass with no advisories. The vendor reports that the cross-ply tyres are all three years old and remain in very good order.

Accompanying the car is a workshop manual and parts catalogue, as well as some previous registration documents, MOT certificates, and invoices for parts and maintenance. The Salisbury 3HA rear axle, original steering wheel and column, and other spare parts shown in the gallery are also included.

This Aston Martin DB2 represents an opportunity to acquire a unique example - one which is in mechanically strong condition with a recent engine rebuild, but which wears its shabby chic bodywork with confidence. Its first owner’s ethos of thoroughly enjoying this Aston Martin on the road, and keeping it in fine running order, has continued through the decades, and it would be ideally placed to join a collection of well-loved but not over-restored classics.

However, the beauty of this car is the different possibilities that it offers to its next owner. It could continue being used as-is, turning heads and eliciting smiles wherever it goes, or could be treated to a thorough restoration. A fine candidate for international road rallies and other historic events – perhaps even the Mille Miglia if you are fortunate enough to secure a place – this is a charming 1950s GT that is sure to provide a delightful ownership experience.

Specifications

Engine:

  • Jaguar 3.4L 6-Cylinder
  • Block No: G5989-8
  • Engine No: C22251
  • SU carburettors x 3
  • 210bhp

Gearbox:

Jaguar 4-speed with overdrive on 4th

Wheels:

  • 16-inch wire wheels with knock-on twin blade spinners
  • 6.00 x 16 Dunlop racing cross-plies (road legal)
  • 6.00 x 16 Spare wheel

Brakes:

  • Drum brakes all round.
  • Front suspension:
  • Re-engineered and uprated front steel spring mounts
  • Square section front springs

Rear suspension:

  • Salisbury 4HA rear axle
  • Spax adjustable telescopic shock absorbers

Exhaust:

Bespoke exhaust system with slash-cut side pipe

Cooling system:

New expansion tank, radiator and Kenlowe fan

Interior:

  • Jaguar steering wheel
  • Red leather tilting seats
  • Centre armrest
  • Red Wilton carpets
  • Light grey fabric headlining
  • Battery cut-off with key
  • USB charger

Spares and books:

  • Complete 1955 ‘3 Litre’ Lagonda engine, with all ancillaries. Engine No: VB6H/479
  • Aston Martin DBS gearbox with gearshift. Gearbox No: DBLCW 187 RH
  • Stainless steel bumper strips
  • Salisbury 3HA rear axle
  • Aston Martin steering wheel and column
  • Transmission tunnel cover
  • Various engine mounts
  • Heater matrix box
  • DB2 workshop manual
  • DB2 parts manual

The description of this auction lot is, to the best of the seller's knowledge, accurate and not misleading. Collecting Cars requests a range of detail about the lot from the seller, and performs a level of due diligence through HPI checks and MOT history where available. However, bidders must satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of the description, and conduct any research they feel is necessary before committing to a bid. Please see our Terms and Conditions for full details.

All UK-registered cars and motorbikes on Collecting Cars are run through an online HPI check. This vehicle shows no insurance database markers for damage or theft, and has no finance owing.

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