Introduced at the 1934 Motor Show, the Ulster Aston Marin is simply regarded as the epitome of pre-war Aston Martin achievement. The narrow two-seater coachwork by Bertelli was a replica of the 1934 Team Cars and featured a flat scuttle and a long streamlined tail with the spare wheel laid flat in its base. The Ulster chassis was very similar to that of the MkII model but assembled, tuned and split-pinned to the Works specification, and the engine featured dry-sump lubrication, a special Laystall fully balanced crankshaft, twin SU carburetors, domed pistons and highly polished inlet and exhaust ports.

Approximately 21 Ulsters were built and were regularly seen racing at Ulster, Le Mans, Donnington Park, Brooklands, in the Mille Miglia and in the Belgian and South African Grand Prix. Each had a guaranteed maximum speed of 100 mph and Aston Martin claimed they were sold "ready to race without further preparation;" indeed, a Motor Sport road test in 1935 reported that "the car inspired confidence, had an inherent sense of rightness and moved like a rocket."

The Ulster described here is one of a handful of desirable low radiator cars produced by the factory. It has a fascinating history, having been first owned by Prince Birabongse Bhanubandh of Siam, or "B. Bira" as he preferred to be known. (Prince Bira was the famous amateur racing driver of various cars including two ERAs, an MG K3 and a Riley Imp).

With this Ulster he was entry number 20 in the 1935 RAC "Ulster" Tourist Trophy race although unfortunately on his third lap the car was engulfed in grey smoke as oil poured through the bonnet louvers onto the hot exhaust at Comber. After managing to reach his pit the mechanics replaced a burst oil pipe, although the whole operation was to be repeated on the fifth lap before re-occurring on the seventh, finally causing Bira's retirement.

Photographs of the Ulster were featured in "The Autocar" on 6 September 1935 and it is also pictured in "Wheels at Speed" by Prince Chula and "Aston Martin 1913-47" by Inman Hunter and Alan Archer.

According to the AMOC Register, the original engine was replaced by the Works in 1935 by a new Ulster engine, which was stamped with the same number. Following this replacement the car went on to win its class in the 1936 Belgian 24 Hour Race at Spa driven by Headlam and Wood.

CMX 743 has remained in the same ownership since the early 1950s. Soon after its purchase the owner decided to commence a sympathetic rebuild of the car and it was dismantled and various work undertaken. The restoration was never completed; indeed, the car has remained in the same dismantled state since the early 1960s - confirmed by the newspaper used to protect the greased pushrods which is dated October 4 1963!

The car still retains its correct engine no. G5/588/U, chassis, chassis plate, gearbox, front and back axles, coachwork and bulkhead, although unfortunately a few items such as carburetors and radiator shell are missing. Christie's auction house stated that "it is the responsibility of the purchaser to satisfy himself as to what other, if any, parts are missing."

Most items are in remarkably good condition having been stored covered in grease and in dry conditions. The original bodywork is basically strong and certainly restorable and the car comes with its original bucket seats, which appear to retain their original leather.

The Aston Martin Owners Club is very active and, if required, most items should be available brand new through specialist dealers/restorers.

This car is almost certainly the last "unrestored" Aston Martin Ulster in existence and is ready for restoration to its new owners specification. It is made still more desirable by its famous and documented history and, as such, is perhaps one of the most significant pre-war Aston Martins to be offered for sale in recent years.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:Aston Martin Ulster Basket of Bits

CMX 743 was offered by Christie’s at their 19 February 1996 sale, with a reasonable estimated reserve of $39,000 – $46,800. Proving that the heart can indeed rule the head and the pocketbook, the spirited bidding finally stopped when the car sold at an astounding $138,840, commission included.

It will probably require nearly this much spent on it again before it puts a tire to the tarmac.

As the global economy continues to improve, serious, sophisticated collectors of means are prowling the pre-WWII market, spending what it takes to acquire motorcars that have true, documented provenance.

While the amount paid seems high at the moment, when CMX 743 is finished, the new owner will have “the only” Prince Bira Aston, and will be able to set his own price. – ED.

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