1953 Aston Martin DB2/4 DropheadSOLD

RM Auctions - The Ponder Collection - Texas - April 20-21st, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $500,000 - $600,000

OFFERED WITHOUT RESERVE

$847,000 Sold

125 hp 2,580cc (157 cu. in.) dual overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live axle rear suspension with coil springs, four-wheel hydraulically actuated drum brakes. Wheelbase: 99”.

A Beautifully Executed Coachbuilt Design and Formerly the Property of Charles A. Ward
1953 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead Coupe Coachwork by Bertone, Designed by Giovanni Michelotti

David Brown saved Aston Martin when he acquired it in 1947. An experienced industrialist with interests in agricultural and industrial tractors and contract manufacturing gears and gearboxes, Brown was an enthusiast who’d made his mark in industry and now brought vision, resources and inspiration to the Aston Martin marque. Astons at the time were powered by the 2-liter 4-cylinder known as the “Atom,” which nicely complemented the new chassis introduced after the war.

The new chassis was built upon a very rigid twin tube frame with coil springs all around springing trailing arm independent front suspension with an anti-roll bar and a live rear axle precisely located with trailing arms and a Panhard bar for lateral location.

David Brown’s postwar buying also brought the Lagonda marque under his control and with it a new 2,580cc dual overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine freshly designed by Walter Owen Bentley. Brown recognized the potential of joining the Lagonda six with the Aston chassis. The resulting DB2 proved to be highly competitive as well as a refined, comfortable, luxurious and safe automobile for touring. Lagonda’s Frank Feeley designed the two-seat “saloon” coachwork with a hatch-style rear access.

The DB2, particularly as a “saloon” was not particularly commodious. The DB 2/4 was born when Feeley modified the chassis and moved the fuel tank to make room for two occasional rear seats. Introduced at the 1953 Motor Show, the DB2/4 also incorporated the high performance Vantage specification 2.6-liter engine making 125 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 144 lb-ft torque at 2,400 rpm. A one-piece windshield improved both the driver’s vision and the car’s design. Offered with either saloon (£1925) or drophead coupe (£2025) coachwork, some 565 of the 2.6-liter Mk I version were built from 1953-1955, followed by 199 of the 2.9-liter Mk II before it was succeeded by the DB Mk III in 1957.

Stanley Harold Arnolt II, better known as “Wacky”, owned S.H. Arnolt, Inc. in Chicago, one of Aston Martin’s five dealers in the U.S. Arnolt also sold Bentley, Bristol, MG, Morris and Rolls-Royce automobiles. He had done well during World War II with the Waukesha engine company and expanded after the war, adding consumer products to the company’s mix. At the 1952 Turin Auto Salon Wacky Arnolt spotted a pair of MG TDs designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Nuccio Bertone’s coachworks. It is said that he immediately ordered 200 and eventually took delivery of 65 coupés and 35 convertibles before MG changed over to the TF chassis.

By then the relationship between the well-heeled and well-connected promoter from the U.S. Midwest and Nuccio Bertone was cemented. Wacky Arnolt joined the board of Bertone. His first project joined Aston Martin’s then-new DB2/4 chassis and drivetrain with Bertone’s coachworks and its visionary designers to create a line of Arnolt Aston Martins. No more than eight would be built as Aston Martin, with its own coachworks at Tickford to keep busy and an expanding relationship with Carrozzeria Touring in Italy, was less than enthusiastic about supplying Wacky Arnolt with chassis to go to Bertone. The Arnolt Aston Martins bodied by Bertone are among the most rare and distinctive of all Aston Martins built.
Somehow the Arnolt Aston Martin concept came to the attention of the Brown & Bigelow Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the time the dominant factor in promotional calendars and products. Established in the late nineteenth century, Brown & Bigelow at the beginning of the fifties dominated the calendar business, employing some of the most recognized artists of the day including Norman Rockwell. Its pinup calendars by Gil Elvgren, Earl Moran and Rolf Armstrong defined the genre. No garage, packing shed, workshop, factory or loading dock was complete without one. At least one source notes that, Brown & Bigelow (at the time) was distributing some 50 million calendars a year. There were only 163 million Americans in 1953 – which means there was roughly one Brown & Bigelow calendar for every three Americans: man, woman and child.

The leader of this highly successful company was Charles A. Ward, Brown & Bigelow’s President and General Sales Manager. For his 1953 Christmas present, Brown & Bigelow’s sixty sales managers got together and bought one of Wacky Arnolt’s Bertone-bodied Aston Martins, an opulently equipped DB2/4 3-seat drophead coupé. These were successful salesmen who practiced what they preached with their gift to their boss, although by several orders of magnitude more expensively than the calendars and keychains they promoted to their customers. It is the car offered here, and one of only two built to this design.

Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, LML/504 carries unmistakable Aston Martin design cues, first and foremost the distinctive Aston Martin radiator grille but also incorporating a gently curved body top line and Aston Martin’s curved windshield with body-colored frame. Michelotti carefully raised the radiator grille and topped the hood with a scoop, both complementing the tall W.O. Bentley-designed Aston Martin engine. He underscored the grille with a thin and shapely bumper. The effect is to minimize the overall impression of height, techniques which the Michelotti-designed Astons share with their Scaglione-designed counterparts and the later Arnolt Bristols.

The features specified by the Brown & Bigelow sales managers for their boss’s Bertone Aston Martin are manifold, including a monogrammed horn button, a fine quality two-piece fitted luggage set complete with china and picnic accessories, a full bar with glassware in a custom picnic hamper that fit next to the single rear seat snugly behind the driver’s seat, a set of chrome plated tools in a varnished wood box, a large brass plaque on the radiator support under the hood commemorating the gift with all sixty Sales Managers’ names engraved in it and another plaque on the dashboard stating “This motor car especially designed and created for Charles A. Ward by S.H. Arnolt, Chicago and Carrozzeria Bertone, Torino, Italy.” It was a gift of stunning largesse, appropriate to a time when business gifts were not yet actionable under Federal law and when being a “businessman” was an honored, and honorable, calling.

The Arnolt Aston Martins, with special emphasis on Charles A. Ward’s DB2/4 drophead coupé, were featured in the Fourth Quarter 1988 issue of Automobile Quarterly (V.26, No. 4).
Now finished in red with matching red leather upholstery piped in white, Charles A. Ward’s Bertone-bodied Aston Martin has matching red and white carpets. A red and white tonneau cover protects the interior when the top is not raised. It is presented to the highest possible standards, is spotless throughout and is equipped with all the accoutrements, accessories and features specified by Charles A. Ward’s sixty Sales Managers in 1953. LML/504 is the first of the Bertone-bodied Aston Martins to reach the U.S.; its counterpart, equally beautifully bodied but much less richly accessorized, was eventually sold by Arnolt’s San Francisco counterpart, Kjell Qvale’s British Motor Car Distributors, to Grand Prix driver Innes Ireland.

Brilliantly presented, the Charles A. Ward, Brown & Bigelow Arnolt Aston Martin Bertone drophead coupé is as opulently equipped as the finest Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Its subtly accented Bertone coachwork is the culmination of the period when bespoke, individual coachwork was available to discerning clients. The Aston Martin DB2/4 chassis and W.O. Bentley’s high performance 2.6- liter dual overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine give it outstanding performance to match its elegant, sporting appearance.

Aston Martin has now, arguably, been saved again with the recently announced acquisition of Aston Martin by a group headed by Prodrive’s David Richards, American collector John Sinders and deep-pocketed Middle Eastern investors. The Bertone bodied Aston exudes wealth and opulence in so many ways and represents the desirability of the marque with excellence. As a testament to this, when sold in 1989 to its previous owner the car is reported as selling for over $1,000,000. There has never been a better time to own a one-off classic Aston Martin. The Aston Martin is without question one of the highlights of the Ponder Collection, it is bespoke of its owner in every respect and the occasion of its sale is a rare one, indeed.

Reference Number 7597

as of 2/27/2007

Overview
Car 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead
VIN R22803045 
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