- The most significant one-off Works Aston Martin
- A unique Works Design Project, developed to compete at Le Mans
- Driven by Lucien Bianchi and Phil Hill at Le Mans, 1963
- Clocked at 198.6 mph on the Mulsanne Straight
- Restored with the consultation of Ted Cutting, the original designer
- Fitted with its original engine and correct-type 5-speed gearbox
- 1963 Works-built Hiduminium body
- An exceptional and important part of Aston Martin racing heritage
- The final David Brown competition Aston Martin
|Vehicle:||1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Prototype|
|Original List Price:||N/A|
|SCM Valuation:||$21,455,000 (this car)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Left side on front cross member near suspension point|
|Engine Number Location:||Forward end of the block, left side under head|
|Club Info:||Aston Martin Owners Club|
|Alternatives:||1961–62 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, 1962–61 Ferrari 250 GTO, 1963 Ferrari LM Berlinetta|
This car, Lot 141, sold for $21,455,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction in Monterey, CA, on August 24, 2018.
There are surprises — and then there are downright shocking moments in the passionate world of collecting cars.
The sale of this car was a shocking moment.
“Polarizing” and “contentious” were words commonly heard ever since this car was announced for RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction.
The seller was savvy, as the car was offered with a guarantee. So everyone meant business and the auction company was bullish — and rightfully so, from this rear-view mirror.
Looking back at all of the results from the Monterey weekend, I don’t think I’m the only one who muttered, “The Project Aston sold for what again? $21 million-plus? Come on, now.”
Two sides of an amazing sale
I was lucky enough to capture a conversation on my iPhone between two car guys who were feverishly debating this result. I’ve changed their names to Eustis and Phlegman to protect the innocent.
These two dilettantes have great points, so let’s read the transcript and try and decide who was more right:
Eustis: Not one of my colleagues understood the estimate of this car. $18m–$22m seemed like at best a wild guess, wouldn’t you agree? RM nailed it in the end, but who saw that coming?
Phlegman: No, I think RM Sotheby’s did their homework and valued this car as an objet d’art that could have limitless upside. It’s not always about factory certification and matching numbers at this supersonic level. How do you put any dollar amount on a one-of-a-kind, iconic, gorgeous rolling sculpture that cannot be duplicated? After all, the Aston Martin Zagato 2 VEV just sold for $14m and a DBR1 recently sold for $22.5m. What’s to understand? The world has spoken, end of story.
Eustis: Really? 2 VEV has a bona fide long race history, and the DBR1 is arguably the most important Aston Martin of all time and it will go down as a great contemporary alternative to a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Isn’t it fair to say that the DP215 was a massive racing failure that was also, unfortunately, involved in a big — no, huge — road accident? What was sold here? I understand that sometimes race cars have engine swaps and body damage that needs mending, but this car was rebodied and reworked more than Caitlyn Jenner (the essence of the original is still an Olympian) and lived as more or less a nod to the original car for much of the last 40 years.
So talk slowly and explain it to me in a pure history form. What was for sale other than the romantic notion of a great “if only”? David Brown gave up on racing for a reason, no? John Wyer went on to develop the Ferrari-killer Ford GT40, and he wasn’t interested in developing Project Astons any more. Who cared in 1963 other than no one?
A unique, once-in-a-lifetime car
Phlegman: You’re missing the bigger picture and the opportunity this car is providing the new owner. There is no other car that looks like this, sounds like this and drives like this. Take it for coffee or race it at Goodwood. There are only three Project Astons, and this was the most developed car that was ready to outgun the competition at Le Mans in 1963. Heady bragging rights and owning a significant racing chapter from one of the most celebrated car manufacturers of all time is just the tip of the iceberg. Have you looked at it and put into perspective what Aston was trying to do with aerodynamics? Ted Cutting was the man! He was the David to Ferrari’s Goliath. Oh, and by the way, once it is sold, you might be waiting a lifetime to see it offered up again.
Eustis: Stop right there. Aston Martin Racing had peaked in 1959. Aston was Glenn Miller and the world was listening to the Beatles, capisce? Their competition was well on the way to developing mid- and rear-engine cars that were going to revolutionize racing.
Have you not heard of the Ferrari P cars or Lotus rear-engined Indy cars? As you stated, John Wyer bolted and went on to help lead the way with the GT40. Championing Aston Martin and their racing prowess in 1963 is like telling me how the Soviet Union was going to beat the USA in their space race to the moon. Yeah, both countries had programs, and which one do you remember? Who walked on the moon?
Phlegman: Different tack here. Give me some latitude and open that mind up a little. You have a garage with a Ferrari GTO, a Jaguar D-type, a Porsche 917, a GT40 and maybe something like a great racing Bugatti. You need an Aston race car to fill a space; would this do the trick to really round out your collection? Again, it can’t be duplicated and it would look great in there.
Well sold and well bought
Eustis: So if I had lottery-ticket money and a never-ending supply of cash, would I spend $21m-plus on this Project car? Ummmmm… well, RM Sotheby’s did an intoxicating display with a very convincing write-up, and the last owner did, after all, replace the mismatched engine with the long-lost original, and he even built up a proper gearbox. I guess I could overlook the rather ragged history and get over squinting when I looked at it. I’ll agree that it’s cool and gorgeous even if it isn’t all original and proper to Le Mans 1963.
Phlegman: So you get it?
Eustis: I would have really understood this result had this “legendary beast” been acquired directly from Le Mans and saved from the various indignities bestowed upon it later in life, but at half of $21.5m, I would have shrugged less and begrudgingly agreed to it as a price mate to 2 VEV.
Those two fellows’ opinions aside, I personally believe that this is an extreme example of paying whatever it takes to capture a romantic illusion created by passing time. One is literally buying into the notion that they can own a part of the heyday of motorsports racing, versus acquiring a true historical artifact that has actually, miraculously survived the ravages of time. Folklore versus authentic history. To that I say well sold and extremely well promoted. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)