Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Touring
Formerly the Property of Screenwriter Bill Manhoff | Highly Original, Low-Mileage ExampleBill Manhoff, Palm Springs, California (acquired new in 1965)Seymour Kaback, New York, New York (acquired from the above in 1973)Michael Ratner, Scarsdale, New York (acquired from the above in 1978)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
AMOC Annual East Coast Meet, Lime Rock, Connecticut, August 1980
The most recognizable classic Aston Martin is the DB5, a car that represents the culmination of nearly a decade of constant improvement based on experiences gained on both road and track.
Introduced to the world in 1963, the DB5 combined the sporting qualities of the previous David Brown-series cars with a more mature and refined manner. This sophisticated feeling from behind the wheel was echoed in the beautiful aluminum coachwork crafted in the Old World Superleggera method by Touring of Milan.
Mechanically, the DB5 was a steady improvement over the already superb DB4. Every DB5 was equipped with the updated four-litre Tadek Marek-designed engine, and all but the earliest examples were fitted with an excellent ZF five-speed gearbox. Other noteworthy changes included Girling disc brakes instead of Dunlops, standard electric windows, and a more modern charging system.
As a grand touring car of unapproachable prestige and ample performance, the latest Aston Martin drew universal praise from buyers, journalists, and devoted motoring enthusiasts. When Road & Track tested the DB5 in October 1964, it suggested, “If one were planning a trip from Paris to Rome, a car such as the Aston would be hard to beat,” and concluded that the Aston represented “the essence of GT driving.” This confident and elegant image has long been associated with the DB5.
Between 1963 and 1965, Aston Martin built just 1,021 examples of the DB5, a total that includes 123 examples of the ultra-desirable DB5 Convertible. Of the convertibles, all but 39 left the factory in right-hand-drive configuration, a testament to the car’s immense popularity among British buyers. Due to their extremely limited production and prestigious status as Aston Martin’s top-of-the-line offering, the DB5 Convertible has always been prized by discerning collectors.
The exceptional Aston Martin presented here, DB5C/2112/R, is among the final group of 23 DB5 Convertibles built between December 1964 and September 1965. The remarkable history of this car can be traced back to its first owner, Wilton David “Bill” Manhoff, an established Hollywood screenwriter, playwright, and producer living in Palm Springs, California.
In his career, Bill Manhoff proved to be an incredibly prolific writer with an equally impressive range, penning scripts for television shows as markedly different as Leave It to Beaver, The Odd Couple and Sanford and Son. Though he spent much of his career producing scripts for TV series, such as The Real McCoys and Petticoat Junction, Mr. Manhoff is perhaps best known for his 1964 stage comedy The Owl and the Pussycat, which opened to rave reviews on Broadway. The play was so successful that it was made into a feature film starring Barbra Streisand and George Segal. The public’s response to The Owl and the Pussycat was undoubtedly a cause for celebration.
Mr. Manhoff originally placed the order for his new DB5 in 1965 through Brooklands of Bond Street (Eton Garages), as noted in factory records. Specified in Platinum with black Connolly leather upholstery and a black Everflex top, the exclusive Aston Martin was equipped with rare options, including a detachable headrest for the passenger seat, a Blaupunkt-Köln radio, Fiamm horns with changeover switch, and Britax safety belts.
Evidently a prized possession, the DB5 Convertible remained in Mr. Manhoff’s possession until early 1973, when it was sold to Seymour Kaback of New York. A fascinating figure in the thriving East Coast sports car scene, Sy Kaback was a wealthy businessman and gentleman driver. Having raced a Jaguar XK120 and an HRG in the early 1950s, he developed a deep appreciation for English automobiles, and by 1960 acquired his first Aston Martin, a DB4. Throughout the 1950s, he was a regular participant at major American sports car events (Bridgehampton, Lime Rock, and Sebring), and in 1961 he established Grand Prix Motors in East Rutherford, New Jersey – for a time, an official North American importer for Lotus Cars. During this time, he became close friends with Robin Read, Colin Chapman’s sales manager, and Rex Woodgate of Aston Martin.
Soon after acquiring the DB5 Convertible, Kaback refinished it in a dark metallic red – the color seen today – and, for the next five years, he drove the Aston Martin to Lime Rock and the Hamptons during summer weekends. In October 1978, Kaback sold DB5/2112/R to Michael Ratner of Scarsdale, New York, and the price paid was just $2,100.
Early in his ownership, Mr. Ratner joined the Aston Martin Owners Club, and he displayed his prized DB5 Convertible at the group’s East Coast meet in August 1980. In the early 1990s, the current owner, a New York collector with a passion for original cars, got his first glimpse of Mr. Ratner’s DB5 Convertible and began a lengthy process of negotiating its purchase. Finally, after nearly a decade of chasing the rare Aston Martin, he was able to reach an agreement with Mr. Ratner and acquired the car.
Carefully preserved and driven sparingly in its current ownership, the DB5 Convertible remains in excellent unrestored condition with just over 29,000 miles on the odometer.
As would be expected from a low-mileage, four-owner car, the Aston Martin retains many important original features. Fifty years after leaving the factory, this DB5 Convertible possesses much of its original leather upholstery, its matching-numbers engine, and many important details, including Dunlop yellow-stripe hoses, Triplex glass, Lucas sealed-beam headlights, and a seemingly unused Avon Turbospeed GT spare tire.
The engine and chassis stamping appear clear and undisturbed, with the proper red rectangle of paint surrounding the engine number and traces of red oxide primer on the undercarriage. Perhaps the most vivid testament to the car’s outstanding original character is a piece of tape affixed underneath the dashboard inscribed “Witchell 2112” – the name of the Aston Martin craftsman who helped construct the car.
A particularly complete example, this DB5 Convertible is accompanied by its original tool roll, jack, instruction book, and rare Continental parts kit still in the wooden box.
Boasting an ideal factory specification, an unbroken provenance, and extraordinary documentation, this highly original DB5 Convertible is surely among the most desirable examples of a David Brown Aston Martin. Its appearance at auction marks the first time in 50 years that this remarkable car has been offered for public sale. Discerning collectors should pay close attention to what may well be the opportunity of a lifetime.