1934 Aston Martin 1½-Litre Mark II Short-chassis Tourer Registration no. Ex-UK Registration no. ANW 354 Chassis no. E4/438/S
The 1½-litre Aston Martin occupies its position among the best sports cars available, first, of course, because it has the essential performance...and...probably most important of all, there is about the car that suggestion of being exactly right for its work, which means so much and yet is extremely difficult to convey in words...' ? The Autocar, 18th September 1930.
Manufactured by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin, the first Aston-Martins (the hyphen is correct for the period) rapidly established a reputation for high performance and sporting prowess in the years immediately following The Great War. Unfortunately, the management's concentration on motor sport, while accruing invaluable publicity, distracted it from the business of manufacturing cars for sale, the result being just 50-or-so sold by 1925 when the company underwent the first of what would be many changes of ownership.
The foundations were laid for the commencement of proper series production with the formation of Aston Martin Motors Ltd in 1926 under the stewardship of Augustus 'Bert' Bertelli and William Renwick. Bertelli was an experienced automobile engineer, having designed cars for Enfield & Allday, and an engine of his design - an overhead-camshaft four-cylinder of 1,492cc - powered the new 11.9hp Aston. Built at the firm's new Feltham works, the first 'new generation' 1½-litre Aston Martins were displayed at the 1927 London Motor Show at Olympia. These new Astons were available on long and short chassis, the former being reserved for saloons and tourers and the latter for the sports models.
The early 1930s was a period of economic recession and with sales of expensive quality cars falling off, some serious rethinking had to be done at Feltham. The prudent decision was taken to redesign the International chassis using proprietary components to reduce cost. A Laycock gearbox was adopted, mounted in unit with the engine, while the worm rear axle, which had never been completely satisfactory, was replaced by an ENV spiral bevel. There was a redesigned chassis frame and many other modifications resulting in what was virtually a new car, although it carried the same coachwork and was sold as the 'New International'.
The original line-up of what would become known as the '2nd Series' did not last long, the New International and two-seater Le Mans disappearing from the range before the end of 1932. That year's Motor Show had ushered in the more familiar Le Mans 2/4-seater, which was also available on the long chassis as the Le Mans Special four-seater. By this time, the chassis numbers were being suffixed 'S' or 'L' depending on wheelbase length (8' 7" and 10' respectively).
Introduced in 1934, the replacement Mark II model sported a new, stronger chassis and a revised engine with counter-balanced crankshaft. Short and long wheelbase versions were built, the latter available with stylish four-seater sports saloon coachwork by Enrico Bertelli.
The car offered here is on the highly desirable short chassis shared with the Ulster competition model; both the chassis and engine are numbered 'E4/438/S'. This car's AMOC Register entry states that it underwent a 'total rebuild' in 1989/1990 and that in 1991 it won its class at the Stanway Concours. For the last 20-or-so years the Aston has resided in Holland.
In 2012, the engine was rebuilt by Ecurie Bertelli to the enhanced Ulster specification. Extensive further restoration was carried out by Gert Jan van der Meij, and finally the car was fine-tuned in 2013 by Speedcenter at Geldermalsen. This car had participated in the Mille Miglia twice before the restoration.
Bertelli-era Aston Martins were never common, even when new, since annual production at that time was counted in tens rather than hundreds. Robust and durable thoroughbreds, they are highly sought after today and this example warrants the closest inspection.