Hertfordshire Aston Martin specialist Nicholas Mee & Co has an exciting car in stock. It’s a one-of-two Aston Martin DB Mk III Drophead Coupé with high-performance engine and many other competition-specification parts from new and might well be the only one surviving. The thrilling Aston is presented in its original livery of Black with Beige leather.
Buyers of luxury cars were spoilt for choice in the mid-1950s. Rolls-Royce and Bentley built impossibly expensive limousines for their traditional market of heads of state, royalty, businessmen and the landed gentry. Ferrari and Maserati supplied fast GTs for sportsmen, playboys, film stars and racing drivers. Porsche was beginning to make a name for itself building the ‘thinking man’s sports car’, one constructed to high standards and with individual character. Mercedes-Benz (300 SL ‘Gullwing’) and BMW (507 Roadster) proved that series-production manufacturers could build desirable, ultra-expensive models.
Aston Martin stood somewhere in the middle, an unmatched combination of style, sophistication and performance, all presented as a roomy 2+2. One journalist described the hatchback DB 2/4 as “a very sporting car that you can drive in a dinner jacket.” You could also race it at Le Mans and rally it on the ‘Monte’. With or without DJ.
The DB Mk III was the fastest and final model in the DB2 series introduced in 1950. Although always referred to as a ‘Feltham car’, by the late 1950s when the DB Mk III came out, the production process was increasingly based at Newport Pagnell. Polish engineer Tadek Marek, creator of the DB4/5/6 straight-six and 1970s V8, worked-over the WO Bentley-designed six-cylinder engine to give it more power and reliability. In ultimate ‘DBB’ specification with triple Weber carburettors, a higher compression ratio, special camshafts, strengthened con rods and twin exhausts, it produced 195bhp – some 20 per cent more than a regular engine.
This was a competitive figure, enough to make the fastest DB Mk IIIs perform on a par with touring Italian GTs and Jaguar XKs. Even the production racing car DB3S – 20 built – could not boast much more muscle, though it was significantly lighter.
Far rarer than the exotic DB3S was the pair of DB Mk III Drophead Coupés delivered new with ‘hot rod’ DBB engines. An example of this is now available from Nicholas Mee & Co and is believed to be the sole surviving car.
Aston Martin DB Mk III Drophead Coupé chassis 300/3/1555 was ordered new in Black with a Beige Connolly leather interior. The car’s build sheet is clear: it was built for serious driving. Not only did it have the highest-specification engine, it also sported newly introduced front disc brakes and Alfin rear drums, competition shock absorbers, chrome-plated wire wheels, a twin exhaust system, fly-off handbrake and, appropriately for its first Canadian owner, a high-capacity heater.
Although right-hand drive, the car was delivered new to Montreal. Amazingly, it stayed with this family from May 1958 to 1987 – almost 30 years – when it passed to a collector in North Carolina. From there it returned to the first owner’s son in 2005, who kept it for seven years, at which point it came back to the UK with only 31,000 miles covered from new. It has been displayed in the Rotunda at the Royal Automobile Club’s HQ in Pall Mall and, while in America, in 1989 it was invited by Aston Martin to be shown at the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
With such low mileage and enthusiast ownership throughout its life, successive owners have been careful to preserve as much originality as possible. It is presented in as-delivered Black with Beige leather, a stunning livery that suits the sporting Aston, now totally ‘on the button’ thanks to a rebuilt engine. With just 36,500 miles recorded, the car is one of a line-up of desirable Aston Martins available from Nicholas Mee & Co’s state-of-the-art showroom in Essendon, Hertfordshire.
Company director Neal Garrard is a fan, and places it high up in the hierarchy of collectible Aston Martins, commenting: “We all admire DB5s. They are the quintessential 1960s Aston and, with the 007 connection, carry a price that reflects that today.
“Move the clock back only a few years and Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks and Peter Collins were thrashing allcomers at the very top level of international sports car racing. The famous David Brown Racing Team could beat anything Jaguar, Ferrari or Maserati might throw at it. It won the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Sportscar Championship in 1959.
“This is the road car of those days, with many shared components, and was built alongside those famous DB3S and DBR1 racing cars. The classic and collectors’ market today prizes originality and unique specification: our DB Mk III Drophead Coupé is in its original colours, just one of two cars with the powerful DBB engine. After 65 years, the other’s whereabouts are unknown.
“This, therefore, is the only known survivor of the ultimate DB Mk III DHC, a jewel in the crown of 1950s hand-built Aston Martins, wonderful to drive, roof up or down.
“It really is something special, undoubtedly rare and bristling with British engineering excellence – and in the context of later ‘DB’ prices, we think surprisingly affordable. It’s no wonder Ian Fleming chose a DB Mk III for James Bond in ‘Goldfinger’.”