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Aston Martin DB3

All beginnings

You can actually think of it this way: W.O. Bentley spent much of World War II in a darkened pub near the Lagonda factory in Staines. There he was able to spread out his design drawings on a billiard table and develop a 4-, a 6- and an 8-cylinder ready for construction. Only the in-line six-cylinder, LB6, with a bore x stroke of 78 x 90 millimetres and a displacement of 2580 cm3 and 105 hp, was built. W.O. Bentley envisaged a Cotal pre-selector gearbox for power transmission, but when Lagonda owner Alan Good sold his company to David Brown for 52’000 pounds in August 1947, the first post-war Lagonda, the 2.6 Litre, had to be a DB gearbox. And W.O. Bentley soon quit, not getting on at all with the new owner.

In 1950 Brown sent the Aston Martin DB2 into the race, also powered by the not very rev-happy Bentley engine. And because David Brown loved Aston Martin much more than Lagonda for some unknown reason, racing soon became an issue again. In 1951 the DB3 was launched, in the first versions with a meagre 118 hp, later with the engine from the DB2 Vantage with about 140 hp. These DB3s were not really fast, but at least reliable – there were a few first places, for example at the 9 Hours of Goodwood 1952, and also, as the greatest success, a second place at the 12 Hours of Sebring 1953. At the Mille Miglia 1953 Reg Parnell drove a DB3 to a respectable 5th place, the best placing of an English car at this Italian classic.

A total of 10 of these DB3s were built, the first five for the works team, the second five for customers. They also tried coupé bodies, but quickly abandoned them – the DB3s did not become any faster as a result. Not even with the 163 hp 2.9-litre, which was used from around June 1952. It wasn’t until the DB3S that things got better, but we’ll tell you about that later.

The car we can show here is the fifth and last works car, which won the 9 Hours of Goodwood in August with Collins/Griffith. And which finished second at Sebring. And in the Mille Miglia to 5th place. Later DB3/5 was given a closed body but was reverted back to the Goodwood configuration in the 1990s. Despite being an important car in British racing history, DB3/5 could not be sold by Bonhams at Goodwood 2022; the estimated price was £2.8 to £3.3 million.

We have a small overview of Aston Martin racing cars: here. And everything else in the archive.

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