Manufactured by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the first Aston-Martins (the hyphen is correct for the period) rapidly established a reputation for high performance and sporting prowess in the years immediately following World War I.
The foundations were laid for proper series production with the formation of Aston Martin Motors Ltd. in 1926 under the stewardship of Augustus “Bert” Bertelli and William Renwick. Bertelli understood the effect of competition success on sales and sanctioned the construction of two Works racers for the 1928 season.
The duo featured dry-sump lubrication, and this was carried over to the International sports model manufactured between 1929 and 1932, mostly with bodies by Augustus’ brother Enrico “Harry” Bertelli.
The Le Mans label was first applied to the competition version of the (1st Series) International following Aston’s class win and 5th place overall in the 1931 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
In the early 1930s the International was redesigned, and the New International and two-seater Le Mans disappeared before the end of 1932. That year’s Motor Show had ushered in the Le Mans 2/4-seater, which was also available on the long chassis as the Le Mans Special 4-seater.
Introduced in 1934, the replacement Mark II model sported a new, stronger chassis and a revised engine with counterbalanced crankshaft. Short (eight feet) and long (10 feet) wheelbase versions were built, the latter available with stylish 4-seater sports saloon coachwork by Enrico Bertelli.
For the 1934 Le Mans race, three cars were constructed on the new Mk II chassis, but all three were sidelined by mechanical problems, prompting Bertelli to try and un-jinx the team by painting the cars — previously always finished in various shades of green — in red. The next race was the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards in Ulster, which stipulated standard chassis. Three new cars were built on unmodified frames, and the superstitious Bertelli was duly rewarded as they all finished and earned Aston Martin the Team Prize.
In October 1934, Aston Martin exhibited the spin-off model at the Olympia Motor Show. Built on the shorter of the two Mk II chassis, lightweight, door-less 2-seater bodywork was fitted and every Ulster was guaranteed to exceed 100 mph with full road equipment.
Chassis D5570U was registered on July 17, 1935, with a Middlesex number, CMF 764, and two days later was delivered new to its first owner, Brooklands racer AR (Alan) Phipps of Exeter College, Oxford. Phipps finished 1st at the Frazer Nash Car Club’s Donington Park meeting on March 28, 1936, winning the Stanley Cup, and followed that up with a Special Award in the High Speed Trial at the JCC Members’ Day meeting at Brooklands on June 27.