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Lot 128

2013   |   Pebble Beach Auctions 2013

1953 Aston Martin DB2 Vantage Drophead Coupe

SOLD $341,000

Estimate

$300,000 - $400,000

Chassis

LML/50/373

Engine

VB6B/50/1196 Body No. 78080

Car Highlights

One of Only 19 Lef t-Hand-Drive DB2 Vantage Dropheads
Fascinating New England Provenance
Exceptionally Original Condition Throughout
Matching-Numbers Chassis, Engine, and Bodywork
Off the Road from 1965 to 2013; Just 38,600 Miles from New
Sympathetic Mechanical Restoration by Marque Specialist Kevin Kay
Offered with Spare 2.9-Litre Engine and Gearbox
Complete with Books, Documents, and Literature
A Must for the Serious Aston Martin Collector

Technical Specs

2,580 CC DOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Twin SU H6 Carburetors
125 BHP at 5,000 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Alfin Drum Brakes
Independent Trailing-Link Front Suspension with Coil Springs, Torsion Bars, and Shock Absorbers
Live Rear Axle with Parallel Radius Arms, Coil Springs, and Shock Absorbers
Register to Bid

Formerly the Property of Bill Bedford and Bob Hodgson

This Car

Introduced in 1950, the DB2 Drophead Coupe – with its fashionable all-aluminum body, highly tuned twin-cam straight six, and peerless reputation among sports car enthusiasts – was one of the most exclusive sports cars money could buy. All told, just 99 examples were built, of which 76 were specified in left-hand drive for export markets. Of the left-drive chassis, only 19 were equipped with Aston Martin’s race-proven 125 bhp Vantage engine.

According to factory records, LML/50/373 was completed on April 28, 1953, and delivered to famed Chicago dealer S.H. “Wacky” Arnolt. Finished in the elegant color combination of Glades Super Black with Muirheads Red trim and a beige fabric top, the Vantage Drophead Coupe must have been quite a car in its day.

On July 10, 1953, the Aston Martin was sold to its first owner, Thomas Powell of Providence, Rhode Island. In August 1954, at just 1,458 miles, Powell brought the car in for service to have an oil seal leak rectified and the brakes relined. He also took the opportunity to install twin wing mirrors and Alfin drums up front, as they were already on the rear.

Powell returned the DB2 to Wacky Arnolt in late 1954, and the Vantage Drophead Coupe was sold to Bill Bedford through his friend Preston Gray.

Both Mr. Gray and Mr. Bedford were New England sportsmen, automobile enthusiasts, and sometime business partners. Mr. Bedford was an early SCCA member and served as the Activities Chairman for the club’s Northeast region. Mr. Gray was perhaps the better known of the two, as he successfully raced Allards, Healeys, and a yellow Ferrari 340 Mexico that Mr. Bedford had paid for.

Two black-and-white photos, taken in 1954 or 1955 at Mr. Bedford’s home in Scituate, Massachusetts, show that the DB2 kept company with an Allard, a Porsche 356, an Austin-Healey, and an MG TD. Mr. Bedford also owned a custom Cadillac-powered Jeep, which he used during monthlong trips through Baja, Mexico.

When Aston Martin began offering a 2.9-litre engine in 1955, Mr. Gray obtained a new engine (VB6J/923) and gearbox through Arnolt, and installed them in Mr. Bedford’s DB2. At this point, Mr. Bedford had the original engine completely disassembled and stored in various boxes. He also repainted the car bright blue, though not in the wide doorsills or inside the engine compartment.

During his ownership, Mr. Bedford would regularly drive his DB2 – always with the top down – from Cape Cod to the Maine Turnpike. He particularly enjoyed that the tollbooths along the turnpike recorded the time of passing at each stop – an effective way of monitoring his average speed. On one occasion, a surprised tollbooth operator exclaimed that his time was “off the charts.” Mr. Bedford, who coolly explained that he was racing the car that weekend and testing it out for practice, was let go.

In 1957, Mr. Bedford moved to Colorado and gave the DB2 to his friend Bob Hodgson – chairman of Thompson Raceway and an engineer at Anaconda American Brass. At some point, Mr. Bedford and Mr. Hodgson owned Rolls-Royce Phantoms and they would frequently race each other through Boston early in the morning. The police would just wave them through.

Mr. Hodgson drove the DB2 regularly and kept it running with his own clever fixes. When the engine threw a rod through both sides of the block, he repaired it with fiberglass patches. Not only did this hold up quite well, Mr. Hodgson liked to hold a light next to the fiberglass to show off the internals of the running engine.

Later on, he added reinforcing clamps to the front coil fittings, a small 90˚ cast iron plumbing cap near the front axle and, in the early 1960s, he replaced the original rear window with “groovy” red plastic.

The DB2 was last registered in Connecticut in 1964, and it spent the next decade parked in a barn on Hodgson’s property.

In 1975, a young New England car enthusiast named Paul Carima learned of Mr. Hodgson’s DB2 and went to see it. When he arrived, the Aston Martin was sitting in the barn with an elaborate metal grid and studio microphone suspended above it. This apparatus was connected to a sound system in Mr. Hodgson’s kitchen, so that he could hear if something was around the car. Mr. Carima was in the kitchen discussing the car when there was a noise; Mr. Hodgson turned to his wife and said, “The dog is in the barn again.”

After negotiating a purchase, Mr. Carima brought the Aston Martin home to Boston. He removed the 2.9-litre engine and gearbox, and put it on a stand with the intention of reassembling the original 2.6-litre engine; however, many other cars came along and the project was put on hold. Although the DB2 sat for the next 37 years, Mr. Carima continued to go out to the garage and spray WD-40 on the various parts and surfaces.

In January 2012, the current owner bought the DB2 and had it shipped to his home in California. When it arrived, the original 2.6-litre engine was divided among 40 different boxes, each piece carefully wrapped. The 2.9-litre engine – complete with yellowed fiberglass patches – and its gearbox were still on the wooden pallet from 1975.

The DB2 and the collection of boxes were then sent to renowned Aston Martin specialist Kevin Kay of Redding, California. The current owner, who maintains a passion for unrestored cars, commissioned a complete rebuild of the original engine and a sympathetic mechanical recommissioning – one that would not disturb or contrast with the car’s original finishes.

During this process, the 2.6-litre Vantage engine was rebuilt with new valves, springs, guides, tappets, chains, pistons, liners, rings, and bearings. Other mechanical systems were addressed as well. The fuel pump, radiator, carburetors, and electrical units were rebuilt; a new aluminum fuel tank, clutch assembly, and strengthened front hubs were installed; the original gearbox was inspected and resealed; the brake drums were turned; and the master and wheel cylinders were refurbished. Receipts totaling more than $70,000 document this effort and are included with the sale of the car.

In summer 2013, the DB2 returned to the road for the first time since 1964. Although the current owner has driven the car less than 500 miles since its return, he has thoroughly enjoyed its baritone exhaust note and quintessentially English character.

With the exception of its 1955 respray from black to blue, this rare DB2 Drophead Coupe is an exceptionally original, low-mileage car. Dented and cracking in places, the lightweight aluminum coachwork clearly displays 60 years of human interaction. The interior features original black paint in the doorjambs and beautifully patinated red leather upholstery, carpets, and individually wrapped pedal gaiters. The original beige soft top remains intact along with the boot cover and boot-cover bag.

Not only do the engine and chassis stampings match the riveted data plate, the original body no. “78080” is stamped inside the left front fender, on both front bumper strips, the grille frame, the rear-deck lid, the gas-filler box, and the seat frame. It is also etched under the dash, marked on the seat webbing, and chalked on the seat brace.

Additionally, this DB2 is complete with rare original and period-correct accessories, including the Wilmot Breedon keys, Millennium jack, battery cables, starter crank handle, Kismet Car brass foot pump, a brass fire extinguisher, accessory badges, and a Duckhams Oil key fob. The spare 2.9-litre engine and gearbox are also included, as is the original 1952-dated steel gas tank.

LML/50/373 is offered with significant documents – copies of the original Aston Martin build sheets, archival photos, and many original correspondences and invoices dating from Bob Hodgson’s ownership – among them, a letter signed by the legendary Rex Woodgate. An original instruction book, service manual, and spare parts manual are presented along with three reference books: Aston Martin in Detail, The Aston Martin: A Collection of Contemporary Road Tests 1948–1959, and Frostick’s Aston Martin and Lagonda.

The current owner has also gone to great lengths to build a marvelous collection of period Aston Martin literature that includes an original factory sales brochure, period ads, road tests, a J.S. Inskip postcard, a Shell service data sheet, and the 1953 issue of The Ambassador, the official British export magazine.

Combining the unique character and history of a long-lost barn find with the meticulous mechanical preparation of a leading marque specialist, this rare Aston Martin presents the discerning collector with a rare and exciting opportunity.