1934 Aston Martin 1½ Litre Mark II Short Chassis

Courtesy of Bonhams

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 The Great War.

Unfortunately, the management’s concentration on motor sport, while accruing invaluable publicity, distracted it from the business of manufacturing cars for sale, the result being just 50 or so sold by 1925 when the company underwent the first of what would be many changes of ownership.

The foundations were laid for the commencement of proper series production with the formation of Aston Martin Motors Ltd. in 1926 under the stewardship of Augustus “Bert” Bertelli and William Renwick. Bertelli was an experienced automobile engineer, having designed cars for Enfield-Allday, and an engine of his design — an overhead-camshaft 4-cylinder of 1,492 cc — powered the new 11.9-hp Aston. Built at the firm’s new Feltham works, the first new-generation 1½-liter Aston Martins were displayed at the 1927 London Motor Show at Olympia. These new Astons were available on long and short chassis, the former being reserved for saloons and tourers and the latter for the sports models.

The early 1930s was a period of economic recession, and with sales of expensive quality cars falling off, some serious rethinking had to be done at Feltham. The prudent decision was taken to redesign the International chassis using proprietary components to reduce cost.

A Laycock gearbox was adopted, mounted in-unit with the engine, while the worm rear axle, which had never been completely satisfactory, was replaced by an ENV spiral bevel. There was a redesigned chassis frame and many other modifications resulting in what was virtually a new car, although it carried the same coachwork and was sold as the New International.

The original line-up of what would become known as the 2nd Series did not last long. The New International and 2-seater Le Mans disappeared from the range before the end of 1932. That year’s Motor Show had ushered in the more familiar Le Mans 2/4-seater, which was also available on the long chassis as the Le Mans Special 4-seater.

By this time, the chassis numbers were being suffixed “S” or “L” depending on wheelbase length (8 feet, 7 inches and 10 feet respectively).

Introduced in 1934, the replacement Mark II model sported a new, stronger chassis and a revised engine with counterbalanced crankshaft. Short- and long-wheelbase versions were built, the latter available with stylish 4-seater sports saloon coachwork by Enrico Bertelli.

The car offered here is on the highly desirable short chassis shared with the Ulster competition model. Both the chassis and engine are numbered E4438S.

Bertelli-era Aston Martins were never common, even when new, since annual production at that time was counted in tens rather than hundreds. Robust and durable thoroughbreds, they are highly sought-after today, and this example warrants the closest inspection.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst - %%page%%

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

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