RM Sotheby’s has already enlisted some top talent for its 2018 Monterey auction, including a Ferrari 250 GTO, Ford GT40 and Porsche 908, and now comes a significant Aston Martin race car—the vaunted 1963 Aston Martin DB 215 Prototype. And it’s expected to bring some $20 million to $25 million when the bidding starts.
By 1961, Aston Martin had buttoned up its works racing program after its successful DBR4 had run its course, opting instead to have privateers run its DB4 GT cars in competition. Still, dealers were unhappy with the decision, steadfastly explaining that the factory racing program brought cache to Aston Martin that sold road cars in their showrooms. Aston chief David Brown agreed on this premise to build a small series of four “project cars,” –DB4 GT-based specials–that would go toe-to-toe with the likes of Ferrari and Jaguar on track.
The car offered by RM Sotheby’s is the last of these four cars, dubbed DB215 by the factory. With a modified box-frame chassis, distinctive and streamlined alloy bodywork, a 4.0-liter, twin-plug straight-six with dry-sump lubrication mounted 10-inches further back in the chassis than a standard DB4 GT, and a DBR1 gearbox, the DB 215 was entered in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans with Lucien Bianchi and American Phil Hill (who was the first American to win the F1 World Championship just two years earlier at Ferrari) at the wheel.
Unfortunately, the car’s special transmission broke just two hours into the race, but while it was running, DB 215 was six seconds a lap faster than Ferrari’s new front-engined 330 LMB, 12 seconds a lap quicker than the older 250 GTOs and was the first car to break the 300 kph (186 mph) on the track’s Mulsanne Straight.
Indeed, it was the quickest of the classic front-engined cars to race at the old Le Mans circuit. The car was next brought to Reims where a missed shift by Jo Schlesser broke the engine. It was repaired with a stronger prototype gearbox for the Brands Hatch Guards Trophy, but never ran and Aston’s factory racing program was shuttered once more.
Since then, the car was crashed during testing on public roads and was cannibalized for parts–including the engine and rare gearbox–while it sat in the corner of a warehouse at Aston Martin. The car went to its first private owner in 1974 and a multi-decade process began to bring the car back to as original condition as possible. Today, the car is fitted with a newly built gearbox true to the original prototype unit fitted to the car, along with its correct engine.
According to RM Sotheby’s, those who have previously owned and driven the car, relate that it is easy to drive, very torquey and far better built than many of its period competitors. DB 215 has been used in vintage racing events through the years, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and we hope that its future owner will continue to use the car as intended.