Aston Martin DB1 Le Mans 1949 For Sale In London (RHD)
- Campaigned in 1949 Le Mans 24 Hour
- 4th in Class
- 11th Overall
- Mille-Miglia eligible
- One of only 13 cars built of which only 9 survive today
- 1st of the DB lineage and of the highest historic importance
- Extremely original
- Eligible for many major historic racing events
- Extensive history file, including many rare period documents from Royal Automobile Club.
- Chassis number AMC/49/5
Aston Martin DB1, chassis number AMC/49/5, finished 11th overall and 6th in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949 and it carries with it an incredible story, as does its first owner-Robert Lawrie.
Lawrie was once a British boot maker who dreamed of competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After learning how to make shoes with his father, seasoned mountaineer Robert “Rob” Lawrie began specialising in the fabrication of shoes for Himalayan expeditions in the 1930s. As a result of his success, the adoptive Londoner soon began providing customised equipment necessary to hikers and pole explorers, which earned him a glacier in his name in Antarctica.
In his spare time, Robert Lawrie – who supplied the Army during World War II – decided to compete in the first post-war edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after overcoming every obstacle one by one. The word impossible was not in Rob Lawrie’s vocabulary!
First of all, he managed to convince Aston Martin to design a 2-Litre Sports – which would become the DB1 retroactively (the first car produced under the helm of David Brown who had bought the British manufacturer) – expressly for him, and as a frequent visitor to the 24 Hours circuit, he managed to score an invitation to the 17th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Once he had the invitation in hand, he requested a license from the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), sine qua non condition, to enter the race. The RAC, aware of the official invitation and in the face of Robert Lawrie’s unfailing determination, issued the license to a complete and total novice in motorsports!
Determined to cross the finish line, Lawrie, joined by amateur Robert W. Parker, brought his car to 10th position. Shortly before the end of the race, Parker made a quick pit stop to allow the driver-owner the honour of crossing the finish line. To his dismay, only the top 10 were rewarded and Parker’s classy gesture relegated the car to 11th place overall. Still, it was an exceptional performance for a rookie, especially given that only 19 out of 49 competitors made it to the finish line!
On the heels of its success, the duo returned to Great Britain by road with the Aston Martin DB1 sporting the #29 and headed to Aston Martin’s workshops to be refurbished. Soon thereafter, the car was sold by Robert Lawrie and shortly before his death was involved in a traffic accident. Its green Suffolk livery was then traded for its current Botticelli blue.
Many years later, a New Zealander came into possession of the AMC/49/5 chassis and became embroiled in an unbelievable story, straight out of a Hollywood movie. Believing he had sold the car to a respectable Japanese buyer, Colin Gordon expedited the car to Japan, but the car was stolen from a port warehouse and fell into the hands of a member of the Yakuza.
In good faith, the New Zealander traveled to Japan to attempt to assert his rights, but the long arm of the country’s mafia made him understand, by way of a few broken ribs, that he would do better to go home. As resolved as was Robert Lawrie to take the start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949, which Lawrie repeated three times until 1952, Colin Gordon was ultimately successful in the Japanese courts after the Yakuza member died a violent death…in 2007!
Nearly ruined financially by the court battle, Colin Gordon sold AMC/49/5. Indeed, the Aston Martin’s track record is minimal, having only participated in one race, but its history and that of its owners, is enough to inspire Hollywood screenwriters.
Eligible for many important historic motoring events.
This unique 2-Litre Sports is presented in extremely original condition with its original chassis, body and interior trim and its 1953-upgraded engine; it is in overall quite good mechanical condition. Additionally our DB1 is accompanied by an extensive history file with letters from Robert Lawrie to Richard Parker, period ACO Le Mans documents and many historic photos and memorabilia from the race and two drivers’ tour home.
David Brown, representing the third generation in a highly successful gear cutting business which had developed into a large industrial corporation purchased the Aston Martin Company in 1947 and the Lagonda Company the following year. He then set about making sense of both companies with native Yorkshire acumen, while indulging to the full his private love of motor racing. Famously quoted ” I bought Aston Martin for a hobby and a bit of fun, but then, when we got Lagonda as well, we had to start taking things a little more seriously. ” The first postwar Aston Martin was a revamped ‘Atom’ with special bodywork, it was this car which covered the greatest distance in 1948 at the Spa 25-Hours, so it was in a spirit of happy optimism that the company leased a stand at the 1948 London Motor Show to display the Aston Martin DB1, the Spa Replica and the 2.5 litres Lagonda. the latter, like the Astons, was to be built in the London suburb of Feltham, which had been Aston Martins home for over twenty years. It’s Cotal gearbox was replaced by a David Brown unit and the bodies were made at the far-off Newport Pagnell by the old-established Salmon/Tickford coach-building company, which was also taken over by David Brown.
DB1, the 2-Litre Sports was the first car produced by Aston Martin after David Brown’s acquisition of the company. Described in advertising as a ‘true thoroughbred in the very best British tradition’, the DB1 drew passionately on Aston Martin’s decades-long racing history. Only 13 examples were built and nine are known to exist today.
Made to order for pioneering English explorer and gentleman racing driver Robert Lawrie, chassis AMC/49/5 was delivered in June 1949 with a host of competition modifications, including a lightweight body in the style of the ‘Spa Replica’ racing engine (SPA/49/3), a specification that would make this DB1 competive for what Lawrie had intended. Prior to his passtion to enter the 24 hour Le Man, Robert Lawrie had been a successful mountaineer but he became extremely well known throughout the exploration world for his boot-making skills; Lawrie provided specialist mountaineering equipment to every British expedition for over 50 years (including the first successful ascent of Everest) and would result in him having a glacier in Antarctica named after him.
Lawrie had long held a keen interest in motorsport and over several visits to Le Mans became friends with members of the ACO. Knowing his desire to compete in the race, the ACO extended an invitation to Lawrie to compete in the 1949 edition despite the fact the he did not even hold a competition licence or have a suitable car. Not letting these small details stop him, Lawrie approached Aston Martin at the London Motor Show to commission a specially built car and asked the Royal Automobile Club for a licence on the basis of the Le Mans entry, a request that surprised them greatly but eventually they agreed. Paired with his friend Dr Richard Parker, also an amateur driver, the two men entered as privateers alongside the Works DBs; in correspondence to Parker, Lawrie explained that his brief to Aston Martin was that he wanted to be charged for every nut and bolt but above all he needed reliability with minimum maintenance. Despite first appearances, Lawrie’s approach was anything but amateur with regular visits to Aston Martin and enlisting the help of Bentley Boy Sammy Davis to help prepare for the challenge of Le Mans. Lawrie’s great ambition was to complete the first post-war running of the race so he abandoned hopes of a podium finish and drove conservatively, with Lawrie advising Parker to ‘drive with a frame of mind that you are trying to keep a dinner date rather than running in a Grand Prix’. Thanks to great preparation and a mature attitude, Lawrie and Parker drove an uneventful race with the DB1 finishing 11th overall, a result that would have been 10th had Parker not made a gentlemanly stop as he wanted to give Lawrie the honour of taking the flag. This DB1 was one of only two Aston Martins to complete the gruelling race of 1949, making it the second David Brown Aston Martin to cross the finish line at Le Mans, an association that would culminate in the DBR1. Following the end of the race, Lawrie and Parker were warmly congratulated by the President of France, Vincent Auriol, before taking the long way home, driving the DB1 on an extended tour back to the UK.
Following it’s success at Le Mans, this DB1 was returned to the Works where it was made ‘as standard’, including the installation of a full windscreen, but still retaining its racing-type pistons and unique centre-folding Le Mans bonnet, before being returned to Lawrie in September 1949. The Aston Martin build sheet notes the second owner as Mr C. Redhead; he is most likely the one who brought the DB1 to Aston Martin in 1953 to upgrade the engine and for a change of colour from Suffolk Green to the current Botticelli Blue. This engine upgrade saw the current engine (VB6B/50/51) installed into the car; this engine is a 2.6-litre straight-six first developed by W.O. Bentley for Lagonda (prompting David Brown to purchase the entire company) before being used for the DB2. By the 1970s, this DB1 was in the hands of Julian Booty and had been repainted Suffolk Green; Booty took the decision to repaint it back to Botticelli Blue and this paint remains on the DB1 today.
In a story that seems straight out of a James Bond novel, AMC/49/3’s recent history is as exciting as its early years. After passing through a series of owners including Robert Edwards, in 1991 the car was acquired by Colin Gordon of New Zealand. In 1994 he believed that he sold the DB1 to a wealthy Japanese buyer; however, once the car was shipped to Japan it was stolen off the wharf and ended up with a Yakuza boss. For over a decade Mr Gordon tried everything to regain possession of his car, including going to Japan and meeting with the thief, to no avail. Finally, in 2007, a court established his right of ownership, and he was able to sell the car on – this time to a more reputable buyer.
A very significant sport scar from a romantic era when you could drive to Le Mans, compete successfully and take a driving holiday home, this versatile DB1 is eligible for many of the best historic racing events today. Having been out of the public eye for most of its life, this Aston Martin is potentially a great entry for the preservation classes of some of the world’s top concours. AMC/49/5 offers the perfect opportunity to own a highly original and unrestored Le Mans Aston Martin open sports car with a truly fascinating story.
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