Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1964 Aston Martin DB5
Years Produced:1963–65
Number Produced:886 coupes (plus 123 convertibles and 12 shooting brakes)
Original List Price:$14,000
SCM Valuation:$778,000
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 alternator
Club Info:Aston Martin Owners Club
Alternatives:1958–62 Aston Martin DB4 coupe, 1962–64 Ferrari 250 GT/L Lusso, 1962–64 Jaguar E-type Series I 3.8 coupe
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 432, sold for $916,682, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ Race Retro sale at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, U.K., on February 22, 2020.

The Aston Martin DB5 has long been the yardstick of the classic-car market. Its price holds steady through market variations, giving an undamped median line through a sometimes-choppy chart.

In 2010 they were basically £350k ($425k). By 2014 that had more or less doubled, and as Ferraris rise and fall around them, it hasn’t changed much since. In my “Buy/Sell/Hold” only last month (June 2020, p. 78), I noted that the price of DB5s still appeared extraordinarily resilient in a generally declining market.

Why? Several factors.

Fewer than 900 DB5 coupes were built and only about 800 still exist. These excellent cars are still half the price of a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso. And James Bond, of course, which is why so many get painted silver.

Our subject DB5

This was an interesting example, in that it’s had very few miles under its wheels in the past decade — but a lot of restoration, which must have put at least one of the prior sellers underwater.

Bought with zero miles after the last refurb, it was painted again, after which it was put away again. This time around, it was sold from “a private collection of fastidiously maintained and correctly stored classics.”

Originally Platinum (white) with blue leather, and registered 999 JUM, DB51561R had at least five owners in its first 10 years. Around 1990, Aston Martin specialist Desmond Smail owned the car. After that it spent time in Austria and Germany before being acquired by Adrian Johnson of Post Vintage Engineers as a “nice, original old car” and was later sold to an owner in York in 2002, who spent the next 10 years overseeing a massive restoration.

That restoration included the usual replacement of chassis outriggers and jacking points, but it also brought new inner and outer sills and replacement trailing-arm mounts. To do this much work to the structure of one of these Superleggera cars, you have to unpeel some of the aluminum shell. So the car also received new front and rear body sections and new door skins.

The car was retrimmed in burgundy (3171) Connolly hide with red Wilton carpet — all still presenting nicely. The brakes were rebuilt and the suspension upgraded with a Harvey Bailey kit, which tightens up the handling (and ride) a bit.

Obviously deciding his so-far-massive outlay wasn’t enough, in 2012 — near the end of the project — the owner had the engine rebuilt at JMB Services — punching it out to 4.2 liters while they were at it and finishing the head as unleaded-tolerant. That resulted in a healthy 316 ft-lb of torque at 4,165 rpm (standard is allegedly 288 ft-lb at 3,900 rpm, which is about as likely as a 3.8 E-type really making 265 bhp).

Many restored DB5s sport 4.2-liter overbores, which sounds impressive but only adds 5% to the engine capacity and doesn’t appear to affect value either way, as the appearance is unchanged. Many now have power steering — an unobtrusive electric add-on.

Well, have you driven a standard one?

After the restoration, Post Vintage Engineers, which had supplied some of the parts, was asked to help sell the car, which in the words of PVE’s Adrian Johnson, was by then “a horrible Audi modern white.”

The vendor bought it in late 2016 and promptly had it repainted in Silver Birch, the DB5 equivalent of Ferrari Retail Red, at Charlie’s Classic & Custom Bodyshop in Somerset.

None of this is cheap

Using independent specialists means the work will be cheaper than taking it to Tickford Street. A full restoration of a DB5 at Aston Martin Works — with a six-month waiting list — is in the order of £500,000 ($600k-plus) including taxes, which puts you underwater once you factor in the purchase price of the car.

Let’s just say you don’t send a car back home to be reborn if you want to turn a quick profit, but that’s always been the case. Aston Martin broker Philip Jones of Byron International (see for a useful resource on the marque) remembers sourcing tired DB5s in the early 1990s for £25k and sending them for £100k restorations, when they were worth less than half that.

Buy the car after the restoration

So, how did we get here, which is a lot of money spent on a largely static exhibit?

“People have always wanted to restore cars,” said Philip Jones.

Jones then asked if I’m old enough to remember the last boom and bust of 30 years ago (sadly, yes).

To my mind, this car has all the hallmarks of a project that ran away with itself, perhaps in the name of “investment,” quite possibly leaving at least one of the vendors underwater.

Unfortunate for them, but the resilience of the DB5 in the classic-car market means the new owner of this shiny car is probably on a fairly safe wicket, even at this price, which is at the top end of the market.

This sale just reinforces the old lesson. You rarely show a profit on a restoration, so the astute buy is always someone else’s project. ♦

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