1935 Aston Martin Ulster
Year of manufacture1935
Number of seats2
The Ex-Alan Phipps, Harold Bevan, Bill Burton
1935 Aston Martin Ulster 2/4-seater Tourer
Coachwork by Enrico Bertelli
Registration no. CMF 764
Chassis no. D5/570/U
Engine no. D5/570/U
'Based on the MkII chassis, the Ulster was the apotheosis of the pre-war sporting Aston Martin. A replica of the 1934 team cars which had finished 3rd, 6th and 7th in the Ulster TT race, it was made available to amateur racers for just £750.' Michael Bowler, 'Aston Martin The Legend'.
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' 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 1½-litre road car, the duo featured dry-sump lubrication a feature that would stand them in good stead in long distance sports car events and this was carried over to the International sports model, newly introduced for 1929. Built in two wheelbase lengths (8' 6" and 9' 10") 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 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.
Introduced in 1934, the replacement Mark II model sported a new, stronger chassis and a revised engine with counter-balanced crankshaft. Short (8' 7") and long (10') wheelbase versions were built, the latter available with stylish four-seater sports saloon coachwork by Enrico Bertelli.
Racing was still at the forefront of company policy under the stewardship of new owners the Sutherlands, Robert Gordon Sutherland having assumed the post of joint managing director alongside 'Bert' Bertelli in March 1933. For the 1934 Le Mans race, three competition cars were constructed on the new MkII chassis, the frames being copiously drilled for lightness. In the race all three works Astons were sidelined by trifling mechanical problems, prompting Bertelli to try and un-jinx the team by painting the cars previously always finished in various shades of green in Italian Racing Red. The next race on Aston Martin's calendar was the RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards in Ulster, regulations for which stipulated standard chassis. Three new cars were built on unmodified frames and the superstitious Bertelli was duly rewarded with a 100% finishing rate. The trio finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in class, earning Aston Martin the Team Prize. In 1935 another works car, chassis number 'LM20', finished 3rd overall at Le Mans, winning its class and the Rudge Cup.
In October of 1934, Aston Martin exhibited the resulting spin-off model at the Olympia Motor Show, introducing it as 'a Replica of the three cars which ran so successfully in the 1934 TT race.' Built on the shorter of the two MkII chassis, the Ulster differed little from its more run-of-the-mill siblings, though the engine was subjected to tuning and more careful assembly. Modifications included polishing the inlet and exhaust ports, and raising the compression ratio to 9.5:1 by means of domed pistons and a 'stepped' cylinder head, the result of these changes being an increase in maximum power to around 85bhp. The Laystall crankshaft and the valves and valve springs were of higher specification than those of the other MkII models. Lightweight, door-less two-seater bodywork was fitted and every Ulster was guaranteed to exceed 100mph with full road equipment, a phenomenal achievement for a 1½-litre production car at that time.
A serious competition machine, the Ulster abounded in mechanical refinements resulting from the factory's years of endurance racing experience. These included painting the dashboard matte black and the radiator surround in body colour reflected early-morning sunlight had been found to be a serious problem when flat out at Le Mans and securing every chassis nut with a split pin.
In his book 'Aston Martin 1913-1947', Inman Hunter comments: 'If ever a car looked right for its purpose it was the Ulster, but like all Bertelli Aston-Martins, with a dry weight of 18cwt, it was absurdly heavy in comparison with Rileys, Magnettes and Nashes, so lacked their acceleration. Yet its unique qualities of stamina and superb handling earned the respect of enthusiasts all over the world.'
Of the 31 Ulsters built, including 10 team cars, 28 survive and the whereabouts of all are well known. No doubt the car's legendary robustness played a part in this quite exceptional survival rate. Chassis number 'D5/570/U' was registered on 17th July 1935 with a Middlesex number, 'CMF 764', and two days later was delivered new to its first owner, Brooklands racer A R Alan Phipps of Exeter College, Oxford. It is one of only four Ulsters produced with special order 2/4 seat bodywork. Like all its fellows, this car is featured in Alan Archer's definitive book on the marque 'Aston Martin Ulsters', published by Palawan Press (pages 279-282).
Phipps had already gained experience of Brooklands racing his Le Mans model, 'F3/274/S', and on 19th October 1935 debuted his Ulster in the BARC's Second October Mountain Handicap. Secretary of the Oxford University MDC, Phipps led its team at the Frazer Nash Car Club's Donington Park on 28th March 1936 and finished 1st, winning the Stanley Cup. He followed that up with a Special Award in the High Speed Trial at the JCC Members' Day meeting at Brooklands on 27th June. At some point during this period the car was fitted with a supercharger and it was listed in this form when entered for the 1936 Spa 24-hour race, but it failed to appear for this event.
By the end of July 'D5/570/U' was back at the works where the engine was disassembled to investigate low oil pressure. The car was still in this dismantled state when it was sold to Bellevue Garages & Service Stations of Wandsworth Common, South London, Phipps having bought a two-seater Speed Model. He went on to race other Astons and MGs.
Bellevue Garages advertised the car as a '1935 Aston Martin 1½-litre Ulster T.T. engine, 2-4 seater Le Mans body, fitted supercharger, one owner, colour black completely overhauled, very good acceleration, many extras, owner going abroad'. The car was subsequently advertised 'with or without Centric supercharger' and in 1937 was bought by well-known Brooklands competitor Harold L Bevan, a Bentley driving Le Mans participant who had been one of the founding members of the AMOC in 1935. On 26th June 1937 Bevan's Ulster formed part of 'Dick' Anthony's Aston Martin team in the LCC relay race at Brooklands, helping them to a 6th place finish. Bevan's last known outing with 'D5/570/U' was on 5th September 1937 at the VSCC/AMOC Speed Trials at Croydon.
The Ulster was next owned by a Dr Ferraby in London and then (in 1948) by one K Smith of Enfield. In December 1948 Smith advertised the ex-Phipps Ulster for sale in Motor Sport and in May 1950 the car was registered by John A W Parker of Hendon, North London. In June 1951, Parker entered the Ulster in the Bol d'Or 24-hour endurance race, held that year at St Germain near Paris, and despite various mechanical problems managed to finish 11th. On 28th July he was an entrant in the AMOC's St John Horsfall Trophy Race at Silverstone.
In January 1952 the Ulster was registered to William 'Bill' Burton, who had purchased the car to replace his written-off Le Mans. In 'Aston Martin Ulsters', Archer remarks: 'The Ulster soon became one of the most familiar 1½-litre Aston Martins competing enthusiastically at the meetings of many clubs. His first AMOC St John Horsfall Trophy race was on 26th July 1952, the last on 12 July 1975; he won the Trophy in 1974.' After 1977, Burton switched to using his Aston Martin 15/98. He retired from competition in 1987, aged 72.
In December 1989, 'D5/570/U' was offered for sale at a UK auction where it was purchased by businessman Eddie Shah, proprietor of the Messenger Group. Marque specialist Chris Shenton then undertook a comprehensive restoration to concours standard, retaining the original body frame and panels, which was completed in 1993 at a cost of some £43,000.
In June 1997 Brooks offered the Ulster for sale at its Goodwood auction (Lot 874) where it was purchased by the next owner. The car was then stored. The current owner purchased the Ulster in 2002. Further restoration was carried out by Ecurie Bertelli in 2003, which was followed by a complete engine rebuild, including a new crankshaft, con-rods and camshaft, in 2007.
Including the cost of the engine rebuild, in excess of £25,000 has been spent on the Aston during the current ownership. The wings are new (originals included in the sale) and the car also benefits from a rebuilt gearbox. All work has been carried out by Ecurie Bertelli. Accompanying documentation includes FIA HTP papers (2005); FIVA papers categorising the car as A/3 (2005); VSCC 'Buff Form'; an old-style logbook (1950); V5C registration document; and a full photographic record of the restoration carried out by Chris Shenton Engineering together with related invoices.
With its ultra-rare 2/4 seat body, 'D5/570/U' affords greater practicality than the more commonplace two-seater since it not only has the same style, eligibility and performance but also doors, a hood and far greater luggage space, making it considerably more comfortable and civilised. This performance and practicality is perfectly illustrated by the current owner who has combined a successful racing campaign with 'D5/570/U' including victory in the famed St John Horsfall Trophy Race at Silverstone in 2006 with an equally successful long distance rally campaign in events such as the Scottish Malts Rally.
Representing a once-in-lifetime opportunity to acquire a famous and well-documented example of Aston Martin's finest sports car of the pre-war era, 'D5/570/U' is eligible for all the most important historic motor sports events including Le Mans and the Mille Miglia.