SPORTS CAR CENTRE PRESENTS
Motoring news from around the world - September 2019
For Aston Martin, 1959 was truly an annus mirabilis. The marque started the championship season with little chance of glory, but ended it – with a little help from Stirling Moss – having bagged sports-car racing’s biggest prize.
If you submitted it as a treatment for a film it would be sent back by return post stamped “too implausible”. A marque claiming a championship it didn’t intend to enter, beating the most successful and feared race-team of them all and winning the world’s greatest motor race in the bargain? And doing it with an out-of-date car and predominantly thanks to the heroics and other-worldly skills of just one man? This is comic-book stuff.
And yet it’s also precisely how Aston Martin won the 1959 World Sportscar Championship (the first British manufacturer ever to do so). And they did it at Goodwood.
It’s a matter of record that Aston Martin had no intention whatsoever of taking part in the championship in 1959. The reason was that just one of its five races mattered more than all the others put together: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And the painful fact was that all attempts over the previous decade, since David Brown had taken over the company, had yielded three second places but never the most glittering prize in sports-car racing. What’s more, Aston’s DBR1 race-car was now entering is fourth season of competition. Team manager John Wyer knew this was the last chance. “It was to be our only race,” he said. “We wouldn’t tolerate any diversions.” Everything would be focused on Le Mans.
Roy Salvadori’s DBR1 on fire in the pits during the 1959 Tourist Trophy Race at Goodwood.
In fact there was a lone Aston at the season-opening race at Sebring in Florida but only because the organisers had paid the team for it to be there. It retired before two of the 12 hours were complete, the race won entirely predictably by Ferrari, who’d only failed to win one round of the championship the year before. The title must already have seemed in the bag for the Italian marque. True, the small and agile factory Porsches clean-swept the next race over the tight and tortuous course of Sicily’s Targa Florio, but that was to be expected. With just the Nürburgring, Le Mans and the Tourist Trophy race at Goodwood remaining, and with Aston Martin out of the picture, nothing could stop the mighty Ferrari now. Surely?
Which is where Stirling Moss enters the story. The DBR1 had already won at the Nürburgring in 1957 and ’58, with Moss himself driving in the latter race, and he thought the car could do the hat-trick. The DBR1 suited the circuit and Stirling Moss was, well, Stirling Moss. He also knew there was a spare DBR1. Wyer still said no, and continued to refuse right up to the moment Moss said he’d pay all the expenses out of his own pocket.
The spare was duly sent with a skeleton crew to take on three factory Ferraris. By the time Moss handed over to co-driver Jack Fairman after three hours’ driving, his lead was over five minutes. Which was fine until Fairman spun the car into a ditch. News came through that it was thoroughly beached, so Moss changed out of his overalls, presuming his race was run. Not so: Fairman, finding strength from who knows where, physically lifted the rear of the car back onto the circuit, fired it up and roared away. Nonetheless, by the time Moss was back at the wheel there were two Ferraris and 75 seconds between him and the lead. It took him three laps to eliminate the deficit. By the finish, and having driven the vast majority of the 1000km race, Moss won by over half a minute in what even he would call one of his greatest drives.
The Whitehead/ Naylor DBR1 leads the Clark/Whitmore Lotus Elite at the 1959 Le Mans.
Then came Le Mans, the race Aston Martin actually intended to enter. The team fielded three DBR1s in one last, desperate attempt to grasp the victory that had eluded them for so long. And not only did the Aston Martin of Roy Salvadori and Carroll Shelby win it, another came second. All the rival Ferraris retired.
And yet you won’t see Moss’s name anywhere in the finishing list. Indeed his car was parked up, out of the race, before a quarter distance. So why, then, did Wyer write in his official race report: “It is impossible to over-estimate the part played by Moss in our success at Le Mans.” It was all part of a strategy that not only took account of the fact Moss might not finish, it actually made his retirement far more likely. Indeed, Wyer himself regarded Moss’s car as “semi-expendable”.
Wyer knew that if he planned a normal race, Ferrari would win. The six-cylinder DBR1 might have been more than a match for the Testa Rossas at the sinuous Nürburgring, but the long straight at Le Mans conferred a huge advantage on Ferrari’s V12 enginepower. In practice even Moss was seven seconds off their pace. So Wyer gave Moss a different engine to his other drivers, one with four rather than seven main bearings. This meant less internal friction and, therefore, more power, but at the price of greater inherent weakness. His job was to go out and drive the wheels off the car, in the hope that the Ferraris would over-tax themselves trying to keep up. The plan worked beautifully: Moss charged into the lead and instead of biding their time, the Ferraris rose to the bait. Two were out before midnight. One remained.
Whether you think Aston Martin was lucky the final Ferrari retired from the lead with barely four hours remaining, or you take Wyer’s view that the seeds of its downfall were sown over the preceding hours by the relentless pressure applied first by Moss and then by the Salvadori/Shelby car, all that really matters is that by using iron discipline, the greatest driver in the world, and just a bit of cunning, Aston Martin won Le Mans. Which meant that within two weeks and two races, Aston Martin went from having no points in a world championship it hadn’t planned to enter to being within one race of winning it.
That race was the six-hour Tourist Trophy held at Goodwood, and as the cars lined up for the start, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche all had a shot at the title, so all brought full factory teams.
But unlike Le Mans, Goodwood suited the DBR1 beautifully: the year before, they had come first, second and third, albeit without the presence of Ferrari who, title already captured, had stayed away. Even so, Moss was more than capable of winning it, and if he did, Aston Martin would become the most unlikely of champions. Easy, then? As it happened, anything but.
Carroll Shelby drives the victorious DBR1 into parc fermé at Le Mans in 1959, with (from left to right) Roy Savadori, David Brown and Stirling Moss hitching a ride.
Moss did what was expected, securing pole position and driving out of sight of the rest of the field after the flag fell. Paired with Salvadori, Aston’s second-fastest driver, it was now just a question of controlling the race. Moss handed over after an hour, and Salvadori maintained the lead. All was well – until Salvadori came in to refuel, whereupon petrol poured out of the refuelling hose before the nozzle had entered the filler and spilled onto the exhausts. In an instant, car and pits were ablaze (the pit plate, rescued from the fire, now resides in the Duke of Richmond’s office). Salvadori was lucky to emerge with only superficial burns, but for Aston Martin, not only was its lead car out of the race, it didn’t even have a pit from which to run its survivors, neither of which looked like winning. The race, the championship, the dream – all gone. Unless…
There was another Aston Martin in the race, a privately owned car belonging to one Graham Whitehead. And for the greater good, he withdrew his car from the race and gave his pit to the team. I hope he got free Astons for life after that. All that was then needed was to call in the next best Aston of Shelby and Fairman, thank the drivers warmly for their contribution, and give it to Moss. He was a long way back when he rejoined, but there has probably never been a more harmonious combination of man, machine and motor circuit than Moss, the DBR1 and Goodwood. Within half an hour he was back in the lead and while the battle for second place raged between Porsche and Ferrari behind him, out in front, Stirling reigned serene. Now there would be no more mistakes.
That day, Moss drove two cars for over four and half hours of a six-hour race. Against absurd odds, including a field comprising five former or future F1 champions and full works teams from both Ferrari and Porsche, he delivered to Aston what is considered the most important championship the company has won before or since. In the official history of the track, that race is described as “perhaps the most important race ever held at Goodwood”. It is a verdict with which few at Aston Martin would have disagreed.
Peking to Paris 2019 – Report and Photos
The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2019 was held June 2th to July 7th, with 106 crews crossing the start line at the Great Wall of China in Beijing. Organised by the Endurance Rally Association, the hardy competitors journeyed through twelve countries including Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, Kazakhstan, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before entering Europe to reach the center of Paris.
The Peking to Paris rally is one of the last great endurance motor challenges, as it follows in the wheel tracks the original pioneers made in 1907. Driving an old car nearly half way around the world with a bunch of like-minded enthusiasts, against the clock, with the added spice of timed sections, makes the event the longest and toughest driving challenge for vintage and classic cars. The 7th edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge crossed eight time zones, with more than 90 crews passing over the finish line after the 36-day, 8,500-mile rally.
The Australian team of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson finished as overall winners of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2019 in their 1974 Leyland P76. This was their third victory, making it a ‘Triple Crown’ in an event they have really made their own.
Rally veteran Crown, aged 87, said, “Our third win in the Leyland was the toughest yet but it was also very enjoyable. What we really needed though was a few more 87-year old’s in the field to keep me company. I must also congratulate the organisers for keeping the spirit of the rally alive, it’s the Blue Riband event of the historic world and it needs to be tough.”
The win in the Vintage category for pre-war cars went to Graham and Marina Goodwin (GB) in a 1925 Bentley Super Sports in their first attempt. After a hard-fought battle, the team eventually beat the 1931 Chrysler CM 6 of Artur Lukasiewicz (PL) and Bill Cleyndert (GB) by five minutes.
Regardless of their place in the standings though, all teams that reached the journey’s end in Paris achieved something great. Travelling halfway around the world, in vintage and classic cars, traversing some of the toughest roads the world’s largest landmass has to offer was no small feat. All crews battled fatigue, the weather, mechanical issues and the emotional stress of completing such an epic endeavour against the clock.
The endurance element was of course what all the competitors came to pit themselves against, and of this Mark Trowbridge (USA), competing in a 1968 Volvo P1800 had these thoughts, on a tough but enjoyable event: “We had some really gruelling days, but we recovered and are fired up again, lots of fun, fast and flying around a lot.”
The remote and turbulent roads were another attraction that draws people to this challenge, and this year saw some of the trickiest yet. Peking to Paris rookie Bill Holroyd (GB) gave his thoughts on the contest: “In effect they are mountain roads and farm tracks. If you were driving from Manchester to London and then back to Birmingham on farm tracks and mountain passes, you’d go bloody mental.”
The finishers roster contained many personalities and characters, but special mention went to Patrick Debussere (B) and Bernard Vereenooghe (B), winners of the Spirit of the Rally award. The self-titled “Dodge Brothers” from Belgium were a constant source of entertainment throughout the rally, despite tough conditions.
Patrick Debussere said, “We had enormous fun and we decided three years ago to do the rally, the fun started with the car prep’ social media has been great for us. It’s adventure and this must be fun for every waking hour.
History was made and an historic journey completed as Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan (B) completed the event on a three-wheeled Contal Mototri, finishing the race started, but not finished, by Auguste Pons in 1907. The special significance of the event was not lost on an emotional Gonnissen: “This was the journey of a lifetime. August Pons failed in 1907 and there was a gap to be filled. Today history has been written, we have put the ghost of AP to rest after 112 years.”
Seated at the front of the Contal, in the ‘suicide’ seat was Gonnissen’s navigator, Herman Gelan. It was a position few would wish to be in, but for 8,500 miles he had a unique view of the rally: “In my seat I was closer to nature than any of the other competitors and the sheer beauty of the route and the surroundings are what will stay with me for a long time.
There was a potential record set by Mitch Gross (USA) and Christopher Rolph (GB) in Gross’ 1910 White MM Pullman steam car. If driving halfway around the world in a 109-year-old vehicle isn’t hard enough, to complete it in one powered by a steam engine must be doubly difficult. It was perhaps the longest journey ever completed by a steam car and life-long steam fan Gross had this to say: “We set a world distance record for steam powered cars but had to have three engine rebuilds on the way. We also almost ran out of fire extinguishers. But, with the help of our great support crew we made it.”
Once the dust settled the 2019 edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge will surely go down in the archives as one of the toughest and best ever. Preparations are already in place for the eighth edition of this gruelling endurance event that will take place in in 2022. For more information, visit EnduroRally.com.
Austria’s Magna-Steyr museum is full of strange, forgotten, and fantastic treasures
On paper, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class and the Jaguar I-Pace have as much in common as an oak tree and a cactus. They move people from point A to point B, but they’re two completely different answers to the same question. And yet, each traces its roots to the same company based in Graz, Austria.
Magna-Steyr (formerly Steyr-Daimler-Puch) has spent decades developing and manufacturing cars for other automakers. It has also produced its own vehicles, either after designing them in-house or purchasing a license from the firm that created them. It remains one of the underappreciated companies in the automotive industry; many motorists rely on Steyr’s technology every day without knowing it’s there, and the museum is just as inconspicuous.
Housed in a low-key warehouse on the north side of Graz, the collection is made up of dusty, leaky, and generally neglected-looking production models, could-have-beens, should-have-beens, one-offs, and b-sides. It’s unlike any museum I’ve ever seen, and it’s fascinating to walk through. Don’t expect photogenic displays and a café selling Puch logo-shaped cookies. This is straight, unfiltered automotive history for the nerdiest of the nerds. I loved it.
Steyr Type 50 (1936)
The Steyr Type 50 could have competed directly against the Volkswagen Beetle. It looks like a Beetle viewed through the wrong end of a telescope, but the two cars share no components and they have no common heritage. The Type 50 was designed in-house by Steyr starting in 1934, and it was considerably more advanced than its would-be competitor.
Built using unibody construction, the Type 50 featured a water-cooled, 978-cc four-cylinder engine that delivered 22 horsepower at 3800 rpm. It could carry four passengers at 55 mph.
Like the Beetle, the Type 50 was envisioned as a people’s car: cheap to build, buy, and drive on a daily basis; and easy to repair. Steyr never planned to bring the model to production on its own. Instead, they hoped to sell the basic design to a manufacturer or government looking for a fast, relatively affordable, turn-key way enter the segment.
In hindsight, the Type 50 was born at the wrong time. In the late 1930s, car manufacturers put their expansion plans on hiatus as Europe spiraled into World War II. The Type 50 remained available when the war ended, but it was far less appealing because by then it was over a decade old. The Type 50 remained a prototype—a common theme in this museum.
Steyr-Puch 500 (1957)
Before World War II, Steyr developed and built the Type 50 to form a partnership with an automaker seeking a people’s car. Despite good initial prospects, the tables turned on the Type 50 during the war. In the 1950s, the firm found itself searching for an economy car to build in Graz and sell locally. Turin-based Fiat heard the call from across the Alps and wasted no time answering.
At the time, Fiat was willing to license its products to anyone who could afford to pay for them. Fiat sold Steyr the right to build the tiny, rear-engined 500, an entry-level model released in the summer of 1957. However, the Austrians took it for a quick spin and found several areas that needed improvement.
The Fiat 500 launched in Italy with an air-cooled, 479-cc straight-two engine rated at merely 13.5 horsepower. Steyr replaced it with a 493-cc flat-twin tuned to 16 horsepower and bolted to a fully synchronized four-speed manual transmission. This combination made driving the 500 in the Alps far less of a chore.
Graz-built 500s featured several visual tweaks, including a brand-specific front end, bigger rear lights fitted to some variants, and a redesigned engine lid with lower, wider air vents. Steyr also offered the 500 with a full metal roof; Austrians commuting to work in the middle of winter presumably didn’t appreciate the luxury of a sunroof.
Like Fiat, Steyr made the 500 between 1957 and 1975. Steyr’s 500 sold 60,000 examples, mostly on the Austrian market.
Steyr-Puch’s sportier 500s (1964)
Austrian motorists zig-zagging across the Alps in Steyr’s pocket-sized 500 quickly concluded the model would be a blast to drive if the accelerator pedal unlocked more power. Steyr developed a 643-cc evolution of its flat-twin that made up to 25 horsepower and installed it in the wagon model based on the 500 Giardiniera. This family-friendly model wasn’t exactly sporty, though.
The process of unleashing the 500’s performance potential began in 1962 when Steyr installed the 20-horsepower version of the wagon’s 643-cc engine in the standard 500. Called 650 T, it became a common sight at motorsport events held in Austria. The 650 TR launched in 1964 benefitted from a 660-cc engine with 27 horsepower, while the 650 TR II released the following year pushed the performance envelope further thanks to a 41-horsepower evolution of the twin.
The humble 500 had morphed into a true high-performance machine. The TRs elbowed their way into FIA-sanctioned Group II events around Europe; Polish driver Sobiesław Zasada notably raced a 650 TR in the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally, and he won the 1966 European Rally Championship in a nearly identical car.
In 2019, the sporty variants of Puch’s 500 remain popular in historic races, including hill climbs. They’re also a relatively common sight during the Historic Monte-Carlo Rally.
Mercedes-Benz/Puch G-Class (1979)
Mercedes-Benz and Steyr began working on the G-Class project in 1972. Both companies needed the model. Mercedes wanted to offer an alternative to the Land Rover widely used in rural and mountainous parts of Europe. Steyr sought a more civilized replacement for the Haflinger—the G was code-named H2 (Haflinger 2) internally during its development phase.
The two partners ultimately agreed on several key points. First, the G needed to look current for at least a decade. Second, it had to be exceptionally capable off-road. Third, they wanted an off-roader that was easy to build and easy to repair with only basic tools. These requirements played a significant part in shaping the G, literally and figuratively.
Steyr and Mercedes knew the G would need to fill many roles. They consequently experimented with several variants, including a four-door soft top that never reached production.
Mercedes released the G-Class in dozens of global markets in 1979. However, the off-roader was sold with a Puch emblem in Austria, Switzerland, and select Eastern European countries. Puch’s variant of the G was identical to the Mercedes-badged model save for brand-specific emblems.
In 2019, Magna-Steyr builds the current-generation G-Class, but there is no longer a Puch-badged alternative made for the local market.
Volkswagen T3 Syncro (1984)
Several Volkswagen engineers developed and tested a four-wheel drive bay-window Bus during the late 1970s, but the drivetrain never reached mass production. Instead of using in-house technology, executives solicited Steyr’s help to design and build the Syncro system made available on the Vanagon and its derivatives between 1984–1992. The flat-four spun the rear wheels in normal driving conditions; its power traveled to the front wheels if the back axle lost grip.
Steyr helped Volkswagen launch its first mass-produced four-wheel drive van, but its contribution to the Vanagon’s career wasn’t limited to the Syncro system. It took over production of the two-wheel drive model in the spring of 1990 because Volkswagen needed the production capacity in its Hanover, Germany, facility to make the front-engined T4.
The last T3s—including the desirable Limited Last Edition models—all came from Austria, regardless of whether they were two- or four-wheel drive. Production for the European market finally ended in 1992, but Volkswagen’s South African factory continued manufacturing the model until 2002.
Civilian Puch Panda 4x4 prototype (1991)
Steyr ended its collaboration with Fiat after briefly making the 126, the 500’s successor, from 1973 to 1975. The two companies kept close ties, and Fiat sought Steyr’s help to turn the Panda city car released in 1980 into a go-anywhere off-roader capable of taming the Alps. The Austrians, consequently, knew the Panda inside and out; and they identified potential the Italians either couldn’t see, or chose to ignore.
The once-popular beach car segment dominated by the Citroën Méhari and the Mini Moke was on the brink of extinction during the late 1980s. To rejuvenate it, Steyr took a Panda 4x4 and chopped off the roof after the B-pillar. Steyr also added roll bars, a plastic body kit, and a rear-mounted spare tire to give the Panda 4x4 a tougher look. The Austrians had created a Jeep Wrangler-esque off-roader scaled for Europe.
There were no mechanical modifications under the sheet metal. The 4x4 prototype came with a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 55 horsepower. It wasn’t quick, but the four-wheel drive system easily made it one of the most capable off-roaders on the European market. Demand for beach cars must have been at an all-time low, because the production-ready prototype remained just that.
Treser Cabrio (1991)
In 1981 Walter Treser, a German engineer who worked on the original Audi Quattro, created the tuning company that bears his name. His first project was turning the Quattro into a convertible with a folding hardtop, a modification Audi never even considered making. The conversion was expensive, and the car was out of reach for many motorists, so Treser began chopping the top off the second-generation Volkswagen Polo in 1991 in a bid to reach a wider audience.
Volkswagen never envisioned the Polo as a convertible, so the conversion process was easier said than done. Steyr helped make it a reality. Volkswagen was so impressed by the final product that it agreed to sell Treser’s Polo though its official network. At the time, the second-generation Polo was getting seriously old, so executives hoped a hip, tuner-friendly model would help draw younger buyers into showrooms.
The regular Cabrio came with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generated 55 horsepower. Those who wanted performance on par with the car’s head-turning design could pay extra for a 75-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder sourced from the Polo GT.
Treser sold approximately 290 examples of the Cabrio between 1991 and 1993.
Austria-friendly 500s, combat-ready Panda offshoots, and rear-engined roadsters that never saw the light at the end of a production line are fascinating to unearth. However, the most interesting part of walking through the aisles of the Steyr museum is seeing the wide array of cars the company touched.
Steyr turned the second-generation Golf into the off-roading Golf Country; one of the roughly 6300 examples built lives in the museum. The Pinzgauer and the Haflinger are relatively well represented, and two-wheeler fans won’t be disappointed, either. There are hundreds of bicycles, mopeds, scooters, and motorcycles displayed in and above the museum. Some are in like-new condition, while others look like they were pulled out of a barn (probably because they were).
What’s with the Lincoln Blackwood? Magna-Steyr participated in the project, and the issues it encountered with the tonneau cover quietly forced Lincoln to delay the truck’s launch. And, is that a Pontiac Aztek in the next row? Yep—Steyr designed and manufactured the available all-wheel-drive system. The cars built in Graz through a partnership between Chrysler and Steyr are all part of the collection, too, including a third-generation Voyager minivan proudly wearing a “made in Austria” sticker on the tailgate.
BMW’s Hydrogen 7 prototype? Check, Steyr made the tanks. An all-wheel-drive second-generation Saab 9-3 convertible? Present! It was a one-off that decision makers at the Swedish brand didn’t want. Indeed, Magna-Steyr’s history is rich, weird, and fantastic. These days, the hodgepodge of manufacturers associated with the company lives on—the BMW-platformed 2020 Toyota Supra? Magna assembles that, too.
Bonneville Speed Week is a sight for salty eyes, even when the racing is on hold
The Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) has hosted land speed racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats every year since 1949. Well, almost every year. The salt flats racing surface is at the mercy of mother nature more than just about any other racing surface, so the weather in the days (even months) leading up to the event can have serious consequences. Wet weather led to several Speed Week meets being cancelled; most recent examples were in 2014 and ’15.
Hopes were high for Speed Week 2019 after great salt conditions at Speed Week 2018, but a wet winter made for a precarious racing surface that needed all the help it could get leading up to the salt’s biggest week of racing. A storm passed through just days before racing was set and really threw a wrench into the gears.
Racers, crew, and spectators met on Saturday morning to kick off Speed Week. This year, SCTA president Bill Lattin and the rest of the volunteer crew that preps the salt told racers that they’d have to wait at least another day before racing would start. The salt dries quickly, but if they start racing too soon the salt will get churned up and make for a terrible surface—ruining weeks of work put in by the SCTA to grade the salt.
The plan for Speed Week 2019 is to start racing on Tuesday morning after three days of delays and run on only one course, rather than the two or three in recent years. The course will also be shorter than in previous years, which should mean slower speeds from the most powerful cars that typically need five miles to get up to speed.
Lucky for spectators, Speed Week offers plenty to see even when the track is silent. Starting Friday night, classic cars show up at the Nugget casino, spattered in salt.
Once on the salt, spectators can get up close with some of land speed racing’s most beautiful and fastest cars. The 1959 Mooneyes Moonliner was powered by an Allison aircraft V-12, and although the engine is gone, its 24 exhaust zoomies still look the part.
When they’re not feverishly wrenching before a run, drivers and crew are often happy to answer questions.
The tech inspection area is another good vantage point, as cars are opened up and scrutinized for safety.
Target 550, piloted this year by Valerie Thompson, hopes to take advantage of its all-wheel-drive and twin 2500-horsepower, 500-cubic-inch Hemi V-8s to challenge for the top speed of the meet.
The Slat Slush team travelled from Sweden to race its Volvo Amazon wagon, which is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged Volvo inline-six.
LM-spec F1 is most expensive McLaren ever sold at auction
Sometimes history folds back on itself, and, like Damascus steel, the results are dazzling. An LM-spec McLaren F1 broke the record for most expensive McLaren sold at public auction with a hammer price of $19.805M. And it did so by a solid margin, besting the 1995 McLaren F1 that hammered sold in 2017 at Bonhams in Carmel, California, for $15.62M.
Still, the massive result fell shy of this F1’s low estimate. RM and our experts both predicted that the headlining McLaren of this year’s Monterey Car Week—an LM-spec F1, chassis no. 018—would hammer between $21–23M. As the dust settled, LM-spec chassis no. 018’s final price aligned more closely to the 2017 F1’s sale than expected. Hagerty valuation expert Greg weighs in: “The record sale of this F1 is bigger than just the price paid, regardless of its pre-sale estimate. It speaks to the importance of the car and how it has defined what we recognize as a hypercar today.”
About that “LM-spec” moniker: This particular F1 didn’t race at Le Mans, satisfy homologations for the Le Mans racers, or belong to the 1995-win-commemorating special editions. Though it does not slot neatly into any one organizing category, this LM-spec F1 pulls behind it the accumulated legacy of McLaren at Le Mans. The chassis framing the GTR-spec engine in the gold-plated bay belongs to a ’94 “base” F1 (the irony is… rich, we know)—chassis no. 018. This car, and one other base chassis, received a makeover in the image of the five F1 LMs made to commemorate that ’95 Le Mans win—McLaren’s first entry and first win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The F1 GTRs were the track-exclusive models. Chassis no. 018 got a GTR engine and outstrips its track-only brethren in the downforce department. Race regulations being what they were, the GTRs didn’t get the magic combination of the Extra-High Downforce Kit (see: giant wing) and the full awesomeness of the BMW-derived 6.1-liter V-12. The track-exclusive variants slashed weight, yes, but also lost some power due to FIA-mandated air restrictions.
As tonight’s all-time McLaren auction record attests, chassis no. 018 benefits from a potent combination of key elements—the race-trim GTR engine, the extreme aero package, and the road car’s more suave interior. Each component of this car points to a layer of McLaren history—the road-going F1, the dedicated race GTRs, the first-try Le Mans win, and the enduring resonance of all three.
Naturally, the crowd in Monterey this year that got an eyeful of the silver, black-winged LM-spec F1 was starstruck. Whether this is the price ceiling for the McLaren F1 remains to be seen, but at least for now, this LM-spec ‘90s supercar is king.
James Bond 1965 Aston Martin DB5 sells for $6.38M in Monterey
We knew the sale price of a verified 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Bond car was likely to exceed RM Sotheby’s pre-auction estimate of $4M–$6M, but frankly, we thought it would go much higher. As a result, we’re more stirred than shaken, but no matter how you slice it, $6.38M is one stiff drink—and the most expensive DB5 ever sold at public auction.
Prerequisite Bond pun out of the way, let’s take a closer look as why this DB5 movie car—chassis 2008/R—captured so much attention at RM’s 2019 Monterey sale.
Most striking is that this Aston is one of only four examples built in Goldfinger-spec, During the production of Goldfinger (1964), film company Eon Productions sourced two DB5s—one for driving and one for tighter shots featuring a few of the franchise’s most iconic gadgets. Cue oil slick.
Goldfinger was a smashing success. When Eon doubled down to produce Thunderball in 1965, it ordered two more DB5s from Aston Martin for promotional use. Unlike the DB5s used in the filming of the Bond movies, these cars had real, working gadgets. One of these promotional models was DB5/2008/R.
DB5/2008/R was owned by Lord Bamford for a spell, before it was sold stateside to the Smokey Mountain Car Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where it lived for 35 years. During that time, in 1997, one of the four DB5s disappeared off the map, making the remaining three that much rarer.
Unlike Sean Connery, the car looks like it did during the filming the release of Thunderball—another reason why it fetched massive dough. After DB5/2008/R sold in 2006 for $2.09 million, it underwent a four-year restoration by the Roos Engineering in Switzerland. Roos is an Aston Martin-appointed Heritage Specialists, which means they’re one of 13 certified authorities in marque restoration. Damn. Also, RM Sothebys’ verified that all of the Bond modifications were restored to full functionality as originally built.
It’s one thing to see this car in pictures, but in person it is sublime. Stunningly, perfectly restored, and awash in the mystique of England’s most debonair secret agent. You can’t help but feel like a kid standing next to this car.
The new owner, we’re sure, will enjoy that singular pleasure with great satisfaction when this Aston arrives at its new home. Diamonds are forever, but so are the DB5’s smashing good looks.
Sports Car Centre also designs and manufactures custom and enhanced parts for some vehicles.