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Property of a deceased's estate
1933 Aston Martin Le Mans 1½-Litre Long Chassis Tourer
Registration no. AHT 276
Chassis no. L3/315/L

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 immediate post-WWI years. 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. Built at the firm's new Feltham works, the first 'new generation' Aston Martins were displayed at the 1927 London Motor Show at Olympia. Like his predecessors, 'Bert' Bertelli understood the effect of competition success on Aston Martin sales and sanctioned the construction of two works racers for the 1928 season. Based on the 1.5-litre, overhead-camshaft road car, the duo featured dry-sump lubrication and this feature was carried over to the International sports model, newly introduced for 1929. Built in two wheelbase lengths (102" and 118"), the International was manufactured between 1929 and 1932, mostly with bodies by Augustus's brother Enrico 'Harry' Bertelli.

The 'Le Mans' label was first applied to the competition version of the (1st Series) International following Aston's class win and 5th place overall in the 1931 Le Mans race. This conceit was fully justified when the model placed 5th and 7th in the 1932 race and collected the Rudge-Whitworth Biennial Cup. It may, in fact, be the first car named after the Le Mans Race, although many others have since followed Aston Martin's example.

The early 1930s was a period of economic recession and with sales of expensive quality cars falling off, some serious thinking had to be done at Feltham. The wise 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, and the worm 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 price, however, had been reduced to £475, though the Le Mans remained considerably more expensive at £595.

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 for £625. Only 85 2nd Series Le Mans models were made between February 1932 and December 1933, and of these, only 17 were long-wheelbase examples like that offered here.

This 2nd Series Le Mans was delivered new on 18th December 1933 to its first owner, a Mr G Ogilvy of Somerset. The accompanying copy record card shows that 'J3/315/L' was built as a 'Long Le Mans' with 'Standard Engine' and that the original colour scheme was green with black upholstery. The last servicing entry is dated 19th July 1956.

There is a list on file naming six further owners, the last of whom, Mr B L Etchell of Cheshire, acquired the Aston in 1966 and is the last recorded on the accompanying old-style logbook. It would appear that the car next changed hands in January 1995, passing via dealer Dan Margulies to the late owner (see purchase invoice and correspondence on file). The AMOC Register lists six concours entries for 'J3/315/L' while owned by Mr Etchell, the last being the Northern Classic Car Show of 1982 when the Aston was judged 'Best Pre-war Car'.

Nobody knows more about pre-war Aston Martins than Ecurie Bertelli so they were the natural choice to carry out the extensive programme of refurbishment that the owner had in mind. Commencing in October 1997, these works consisted in the main of an overhaul of the front axle assembly and a complete engine rebuild, as evidenced by Ecurie Bertelli's detailed invoices on file totalling almost £29,000. The engine rebuild included fitting a new Le Mans cylinder head, new crankshaft with steel con-rods and shell bearings, high-compression pistons, lightened flywheel, new oil pumps, a modern oil filter, and a Kenlowe electric cooling fan, and opening out the inlet manifold to accept 1¼" carburettors. The engine was run on the test-bed prior to being reinstalled.

Its refurbishment completed in 1999, the Aston remains in generally very good running condition, and should require only minimal re-commissioning before returning to the road. Not fitted presently, a hood, hood frame, and side screens are included in the sale. Offered with the aforementioned documentation and a V5C Registration Certificate, this delightful Aston Martin is an ideal means of participation in the Le Mans Classic and other prestigious historic events.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department