Courtesy of Bonhams
Chassis 1653R was completed at Newport Pagnell on July 3, 1964, and delivered on September 22, 1964, to Bryce, Hamer & Isherwood, Paul McCartney’s accountants at the time. McCartney ordered the car prior to his departure for the Beatles’ world tour in the summer of 1964. The DB5 was subsequently registered in the musician’s name. Accompanying paperwork shows the price was £3,800 10s 0d plus purchase tax of £793 6s 8d. The BMIHT certificate on file shows that the Aston was originally finished in Sierra Blue with black interior, registered BYY 379B (subsequently CLX 654B). Factory options listed include Armstrong Selectaride rear shock absorbers, Motorola radio, powered aerial, two Marchal fog lamps, chrome road wheels, heated rear window, two Britax safety belts, three-ear hubcaps and detachable headrests. Unusually, the car was also supplied with a Philips Auto-Mignon record player and, reportedly, the original interior leather featured musical-note-styled patterns in the stitching. Presented in truly immaculate condition, 1653R comes with copy guarantee form, a V5C registration document, current MoT; invoices relating to its recent restoration, and the BMIHT certificate. The full story of its life, celebrity owners, and restoration is also detailed in a beautifully presented full-color 141-page book by Bespoke Photobooks.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1964 Aston Martin DB5
Years Produced:1964–66
Number Produced:886 coupes (plus 123 convertibles and 12 station wagons)
Original List Price:£4,175 ($12,775)
Tune Up Cost:$500
Distributor Caps:$81
Chassis Number Location:Plate on right side of scuttle
Engine Number Location:On left of cylinder block next to generator
Club Info:Aston Martin Owners Club
Alternatives:1960–64 Maserati 3500 GTi, 1961–64 Jaguar E-type 3.8, 1954–57 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 132, sold for $1,814,818, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ New Bond Street Sale in London, U.K., on December 2, 2017.

I last saw this car at RM’s Battersea, London, sale on October 21, 2012, after it had been cosmetically restored in its original blue, with 8,742 miles recorded. It sold for $554,875/£344k, which was then about market price for a tidy DB5.

I wrote: “Recently restored in France and Italy. Excellent all around, with new leather and paint. Original under-dash Philips record player is included with the car but stored loose in the footwell.” And I went on to opine: “Originally supplied to Paul McCartney. But that didn’t appear to count for much here, selling for decent DB5 market value. Offered but not sold at H&H’s September 2011 Duxford auction at an undisclosed high bid (SCM# 187591), so the seller was probably glad to take the money.”

Life with a Beatle

McCartney owned this DB5 for six years. Although his subsequent DB6 LLO 840D got more press, this was probably his first Aston. It was ordered at a high point, just weeks after the Beatles’ famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and the completion of filming “A Hard Day’s Night,” their first film.

In a September 1967 profile of Paul McCartney, Time magazine wrote: “Bachelor Paul, 25 (his favorite “bird” is 21-year old actress Jane Asher) is a movie addict, loves ‘the look of London’ and tools around town in a spiffy blue Aston Martin DB5.”

That was then. Now the car looks somewhat different — including changed colors in and out, and a slightly altered spec.

If after another massive restoration the aim was to create the best DB5 in the world, the restorers have just about succeeded here. But the car is now nearly all new, and I would have thought it more important to keep a car considered of historical importance as original as possible.

Baby, it’s a new car

Even Chris Evans, who repainted his entire Ferrari collection white with blue trim a few years ago, kept this DB5 in its factory color when he had it freshened up six years ago, although he added the “64 MAC” plate.

The need for the “Baby, you can drive my car” inscription it now wears inside the glovebox lid underlines how far this car misses the point: There’s no part of it, save perhaps the gearknob, that might have been touched by the hand of McCartney.

The car’s signature feature, the Philips record player mounted under the glovebox, which was still present in 2012 though not fitted, loose in the footwell, was nowhere to be seen during viewing.

The original leather trim with musical motif, if it ever existed, was lost two re-trims ago.

One has to ask why Evans climbed out of it, although in this period he was buying and selling quite a few high-end cars. Perhaps it became apparent that after the cosmetic resto, more work was needed under the skin.

Something like 75% of the body is new. To be fair, it sounded as if it needed a lot of structural steelwork, as Alan Smith Motors replaced sills, outriggers, wheelarches, inner fenders, radius arm mounts, doorframes and hinge pins in the course of the extensive four-year restoration completed in 2017.

To reach some of those frame parts, you have to peel back the aluminum skin, which then gets wrinkled at the edges and generally spoilt. So it’s neater to replace with new. Re-skinning does, however, wipe away history by reducing the content of the car that left the factory.

Even the mechanical specs have changed, although the changes are near invisible. As well as motor enlarged to 4.2 liters, there’s power steering and an electric cooling fan. One might surmise that with so much changed, there was no sense in keeping it original — which makes the trying-too-hard glovebox inscription a bit of an enigma.

It could be put back to original, of course. RM’s 2012 catalog description said that an authentic sample of the original interior material remains with the car, in case a future owner wished to re-create the car in its original livery. But that would mean that the DB5 as McCartney knew it becomes another stage removed: three restorations don’t leave much of the original character of a hand-built car.

So, let’s be clear. Not much of McCartney’s DB5 remains here.

An outlier price

I thought this was an overpriced trinket. It is unlikely to ever sell again for such an inflated price. It’ll probably appeal to Beatles fans somewhere who don’t “get” cars. I suspect its next home may be in a museum.

Interestingly, in the same sale was a beautifully original left-hand-drive DB5. It was not as sparkly as our subject car, but it wore its history as testament of a cherished life in Portugal. That car sold for a much more realistic $1.14 million, and I know which one I would have had.

Let’s call this correctly valued at about £800k for a beautifully restored DB5, plus £500k for the McCartney connection, which was lacking from the price paid last time.

Further on the Beatles theme, the last lot of the sale was the ex-Ringo Starr custom Mini hatchback, although looking slightly different than when he had it, which sold for a huge $137,353 — to ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, who was there en famille with her husband, Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner. There’s no business like show business… ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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