1931 Aston Martin 1,5 LitreInternational Le Mans
- Year of manufacture1931
- Car typeConvertible / Roadster
- Competition carYes
- Interior colourBlack
- Number of doors1
- Number of seats2
- Exterior colourBlue
- Fuel typePetrol
Raced at Brooklands in the 1930s
Continuous history from new
Rare Le Mans-type two-seater body
Last of the First Series Aston Martins
Extensive history file
From racing at Brooklands with its first owner to spending decades in the hands of notable enthusiasts in Portugal, this Aston Martin International has led a full and fascinating life. Chassis number L1-126 was completed in December 1931 – the end of what had been a turbulent year for the British marque. Having gone into receivership in 1926, Aston Martin had been saved by William Renwick and Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli, and relocated to new premises in Feltham. Renwick and Bertelli had developed their own 1.5-litre overhead-camshaft engine, which was fitted to each of the three models that were displayed on the Aston Martin stand at the 1927 Motor Show. One of those models was a short-chassis prototype, and it quickly became clear that this sports car held far more potential than the rather more staid long-chassis T-type.
In 1928, that prototype was developed into the Standard Sports Model, which in turn was developed into the International by the end of 1929. Even though Aston Martin was producing cars in tiny quantities during this period, it was still investing in a works competition programme and developing the legendary Team Cars for races such as Le Mans and the Tourist Trophy. The International model capitalised on that sporting success and featured dry-sump lubrication plus twin SU carburettors for its 1,495cc ‘four’. Almost every component was produced in-house and the price tag fell very much into the ‘reassuringly expensive’ category.
Sadly, however, the company’s finances remained precarious. Much of the workforce was laid off during the winter of 1930-1931 and production came almost to a complete halt. Early in 1931, HJ Aldington of AFN Ltd stepped in to help shore up the accounts, and when that arrangement came to an end, Lance Prideaux-Brune invested in Aston Martin and joined the board. Amongst all of this behind-the-scenes upheaval, it’s thought that only 32 chassis were constructed in 1931, the very last of which was L1-126. With the impending introduction of the much-revised Second Series cars, it was also the last of the First Series Astons.
THIS MOTOR CAR
L1-126 was sold new in 1932 to WA Cuthbert, who had been born in 1902 and was a works Riley driver during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He also ran a tuning company in Guildford that was called Cuthbert & Houghton until the departure of Mr Houghton in 1932, after which it was renamed WA Cuthbert Ltd. A period advertisement in the Aston Martin’s history file states: ‘Cars tuned for track or road by experts with actual racing experience.’ He even went on to patent a clinometer – a device for measuring elevation and height – in 1940.
Cuthbert had specified the Aston with the compact Le Mans-type two-seater body that was offered on the last of the First Series models, and is not to be confused with the later Second Series Le Mans model. It’s thought that just five First Series cars were given this motorsport-style coachwork, and L1-126 was the only one of them to be fitted with the optional external gearlever and handbrake – a modification that transforms the driving position and makes long journeys a far more comfortable proposition. This particular car also featured a dummy driver’s door.
Cuthbert raced the Aston at Brooklands, but at the same time he was also developing the Riley-based Cuthbert Special. He shared the driving of that car with Richard Robert ‘Mike’ Milbank, the Marquis of Belleroche. Milbank also lived in Guildford and bought L1-126 from Cuthbert in February 1933.
Two years later, the car was exported to Portugal, where it would stay for almost 70 years. It was registered N-15423 with its new owner, Joao A Gaspar de Porto – a garage owner who became the Portuguese Ferrari agent following World War Two. His son, Carlos Gaspar, would go on to be a notable racer in his own right and competed at the top level of sports car racing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. L1-126 was raced in Portugal during 1936 and 1937 and was apparently fitted with a supercharger during that time. In both of those years, it appeared in the Circuito de Vila Real, held on a challenging 7km road course. Although it failed to finish in 1936, the following year the Aston Martin crossed the line an impressive fifth overall in the hands of Mario da Rocha Teixeira.
In August 1949, L1-126 was sold to Lisbon-based José de Castro Perreira, but he owned it for only a month. It was re-registered MN-54-25 and sold to Mario Goncalves Amado, who was originally from Brazil but was then also living in Lisbon. José Ernesto Borges da Roche Cunha acquired the Aston in April 1953, before selling it in October 1954 to Lisbon-based Frenchman Jacques Fernand Eugene Touzet, who would end up keeping it until 1979. At some point in the 1950s, the Aston Martin acquired six-spoke wheels that were thankfully discarded during Touzet’s ownership.
L1-126 didn’t move far throughout these years because its next custodian was Lisbon-based German national Helmut Christian Peitz. After problems with the original engine, Peitz fitted a 1.5-litre Jaguar engine and the correct Aston Martin ‘four’ wouldn’t be installed until the car had passed to Portuguese collector Filipe Simoes Costa Vaz. He bought it in July 1984 and had an extensive restoration carried out by British specialist Vintage Coachworks of Hartley Wintney. The work involved is meticulously recorded in the car’s history file.
British enthusiast Peter Hannen acquired L1-126 in December 2004 and brought it back to the UK, where it was eventually reissued with the registration number GY 6822. It was sold four years later to Toshiharu Sekiguchi and competed on the 2017 Mille Miglia, before once more returning to England in early 2020.
L1-126 boasts not only period competition history but also a continuous ownership record. A First Series International is already a rare car, but they’re even more scarce with the rakish two-seater Le Mans-type coachwork. This charismatic and well-known Aston Martin perfectly evokes the marque’s famous Bertelli era and is eligible for the world’s most prestigious motoring events.