Photo credit: Paul Melbert
Price: From £115,000.00 | Location: Norfolk
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When a certain secret agent picked up the keys to his new vehicle in 1964, the Aston Martin DB5 became one of the most famous cars in automotive history, and with models today changing hands for $1m, it remains one of the most desirable. However, the title of “most important Aston” goes to the DBR1, endorsed by the fact that, in 2017, one of only five cars produced went to public auction for the first time ever, and sold for an astonishing $22.5m – a world record for a British car.
The Aston Martin DBR1 was the result of company owner David Brown’s ambition to win the world’s oldest active sports car race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His dream was realised in 1959 by a team of three DBR1’s. The triumphant DBR1/2 was driven by Carroll Shelby & Roy Salvadori, Maurice Trintignant & Paul Frere finished runners-up in DBR1/4, and Sir Stirling Moss & Jack Fairman retired in their influential DBR1/3.
Start of the Le Mans 24 Hours, France, 1959. Roy Salvadori prepares to climb aboard his Aston Martin DBR1 (no 5), while Stirling Moss leaps into his (no 4). A line of Gendarmes keep the crowd at a safe distance from the cars. This type of start, where drivers had to run across the track and jump into their cars, was discontinued for safety reasons in 1970.
The epic battle between Moss and defending champions Scuderia Ferrari in the early stages of the race caused the fragile Ferraris to become overstressed, and one by one they retired from the race. Thus Moss, in his sacrificial DBR1, cleared the way for Shelby and Salvadori to claim the chequered flag. He did, however, secure victories driving the car in other important races, including the 1000km Nürburgring that same year (breaking the lap record 16 times in the process).
Our interest in the DBR1 was piqued by a wonderful painting by Geoff Bolam, who has recently joined our roster of automotive artists. It features Moss driving to victory at the Goodwood Easter Meeting in 1956. The 70th anniversary of Aston Martin’s first race at Goodwood was celebrated at the historic racing circuit in 2019, and the centrepiece of the event was another piece of art – an incredible sculpture featuring a replica of Aston’s crown jewel.
Celebrating the 70th anniversary of Aston Martin racing at Goodwood's Festival of Speed (2019)
The journey to find the makers of the magnificent reproduction took us to a farm in rural Norfolk, where Andrew Soar of AS Motorsport has been building the ASM R1 Le Mans for private clients since 2007. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of replica products, as the thought can sometimes conjure images of fake watches and knock-off handbags, but Andrew’s cars are fine examples of great British craftsmanship, providing joy to the dozens of customers who’ve commissioned his work and (given that only one original DBR1 has surfaced for sale since they were first built) offering the only real chance of acquiring such a vehicle – no matter how much it is possible to justify spending.
The ASM R1 Le Mans
Andrew originally produced the cars using GRP bodywork, then went on to create a wooden buck that offered the opportunity for customers to specify a more authentic hand-crafted aluminium body – now accounting for approximately 50% of production. The majority of cars are built using a Jaguar XK engine and gearbox, available from 2.4 litre through to 4.2 litre displacements, and the choice of installing an Aston Martin engine is also an option.
The chassis shares many features with the original design, and offers the possibility of having seat, foot-well, pedal and steering locations designed to suit individual requirements. The period feel of the interior is provided with Mota-Lita wood rim steering wheel, Smiths instruments, alloy panelling and leather-trimmed seats, and the body can be painted in any colour… as long as it’s Aston Martin Racing Green!