1934 Aston Martin 1½-Litre Mark II 2/4-seater Sports
Coachwork by Enrico Bertelli
Chassis no. C4/406/S
•One of only 61 short-wheelbase 2/4-seater Mark IIs**Only 48 known to exist.
•Well documented ownership history
•Long-term family ownership in the USA: 1988-2016
•An older restoration
•Comprehensive history file
'Big-car enthusiasts are apt to think that effortless, fast touring is a quality exclusive to vehicles of high horsepower rating, but their views will be considerably altered after they have taken the Aston Martin over a 300 mile journey.' – Motor Sport magazine on the Aston Martin MkII.
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, and 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. A total of 166 Mark IIs had been produced when production ceased in 1935.
One of only 61 short-wheelbase 2/4-seat Mark IIs built, this beautiful example offered here boasts particularly fine sporting coachwork by Enrico 'Harry' Bertelli. Chassis 'C4/406/S' was delivered new in May 1934 to Miss M C Smith of Keighley, Yorkshire, passing into the ownership of one R G de Quincey of Oxford on 31st January 1936. Various other owners are named on the factory car record card (copy available). One of these – John Godfrey, its owner from October 1953 – wrote an interesting article about the car for the AMOC magazine (copy on file). The car's UK registration was 'AYR 801'.
In 1956, the Aston was purchased from John Godfrey and imported into the USA by its next owner: Whitney H Gordon, a professor at Purdue University, Indiana, and subsequently was enjoyed by various other owners before being purchased in 1988 by Christopher Salyer of Oklahoma City. 'C4/406/S' would remain in the Salyer family's ownership for more than 25 years, and it is worthwhile noting that this car's entry in the AMOC Register lists several 1st place concours awards at venues such as Monterey, Lime Rock, Topeka, and Dallas while owned by the Salyers. This Aston has also competed in various 'Vintage' motor sports events in the USA, as evidenced by copies of illustrated magazine articles on file. The current vendor acquired the car from the Salyer family (via a US auction) in September 2016.
'C4/406/S' is finished in red with black interior, and is an older restoration that still presents beautifully today; it benefits from a recent service, is ready to go, and comes complete with wet weather equipment. Containing correspondence, bills, photographs, and other documents, the accompanying file is comprehensive, documenting the car's history back to when it was new in 1934 (inspection recommended). Ranked among the finest of surviving Bertelli-era Aston Martins, 'C4/406/S' affords the prospect of a delightful driving experience for the fortunate next owner.
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