Its dark green paintwork is faded and cracked and there are more than a smattering of cobwebs within, but with its long bonnet and curving, aerodynamic shape it is still every inch a classic racer.
And that is one reason why this extremely rare 1949 Aston Martin DB Team Car changed hands at Bonhams’ Festival of Speed Sale in June for an impressive £679,100.
The historic car, registered as ‘UMC 65’ had something of a chequered past prior to its recent sale. Having spent several decades quietly decaying in a Hertfordshire garden is was stolen in 2002 and disappeared for more than 10 years, before being discovered in Holland and finally returned to its rightful owners earlier this year.
James Knight, Bonhams’ international group motoring director, said: ‘This ex-works Le Mans Aston Martin is the ultimate ‘barn find’. Despite its neglected condition, connoisseurs of racing cars regard it as a truly historic time machine. Its wonderfully original patina, reminiscent of the days when it raced at both Le Mans and in the Spa 24-Hours, explain this special appeal.’
The car was seen was one of the most serious British challengers at the first post-war Le Mans 24-Hour race (in June 1949). Writing in the The Autocar magazine a few days before the event, motor racing journalist and former Le Mans winner Sydney ‘Sammy’ Davis’ wrote: ‘Of the British teams, the Aston, in particular, should be very fast and it has experienced drivers, which is a great factor in the battle.’
UMC 65 finished in a creditable seventh place at Le Mans but, despite Davis’ prediction, it was the only one of the three Aston Martin factory team cars to finish. Of the others, one pulled out after six laps because of overheating. The other crashed two hours short of the finish, killing its driver.
Two weeks later, on July 10-11, 1949, UMC 65 came home in fifth place at the Spa 24-Hour race in Belgium.
Aston Martin’s then-owner, David Brown decided that those 24-hour race cars should form the basis for a production vehicle – the Aston Martin DB2. He also announced that in 1950 Aston Martin would embark upon a full racing programme to promote and publicize the brand.
‘UMC 65’ took part in this and continued to appear in races throughout the 1950s and 1960s, before appearing at the Le Mans demonstration parade prior to the 24-Hour race in 1971.
By now it belonged to Christopher Angell, a former war correspondent whose intention was to restore the car. Unfortunately, the job was never done and the car gradually decayed until its theft in 2002.
The car’s new owners face an comprehensive rebuilding task, but what they’ve bought is an outstanding survivor from not just two 1949 24-Hour races that is was also a progenitor of the Aston Martin DB2 production model.
For more about the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017, click here.