After winning the World Sportscar Championship in 1959 following 1st-place finishes at Le Mans, RAC Tourist Trophy, and Nürburgring, David Brown pulled Aston Martin out of sports car racing. The racing department shut its doors at the end of 1960.
It was not long, however, before the Aston Martin dealers on the continent were begging for a return to Works racing. Their thinking being, rightly so, that factory competition helps sell cars – and so David Brown approved what would become the first of what would eventually come to be four “Project cars” – sports car racing vehicles all developed from the DB4GT chassis.
Design Project 215
A wholly unique competition car, the Aston Martin Design Project known as DP215 was to become the last racing car built by the factory, and the ultimate evolution of the Aston Martin GT racers. It was ordered by John Wyer, designed by Ted Cutting, had an engine from Tadek Marek, and was driven by Phil Hill – the great names associated with DP215.
Phil Hill and Lucien Bianchi drove DP215 in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans. It recorded at 198.6 mph along the Mulsanne Straight and had not even reached top speed yet! Indeed in practice, the car became the first car to officially break the 300 kph barrier. Its lap time put it in amongst the Ferrari rear-engined prototypes. It was six seconds a lap faster than the Ferrari 330 LMB running in the same class and 12 seconds a lap faster than the Ferrari 250 GTOs in the GT class. DP215 looked to be a sure winner. Unfortunately, the DBR1-type CG537 gearbox failed due to the high torque of the four-liter engine, and DP215 retired after two hours.
Repaired and entered the next month at Reims and driven by Jo Schlesser, DP215 again looked to have a win in its sights. However, the since repaired transmission caused Schlesser to miss a gear and over-rev the engine – forcing DP215 to retire while leading the race. With two DNFs behind them, the engineers were able to fit the gearbox originally intended for the car: the S532. Though entered at the 1963 Brands Hatch Guards Trophy, tax regulations kept David Brown from racing the car. With John Wyer turning in his resignation, the racing department lost its lynchpin. In November 1963, the British press reported the Aston Martin Racing Department officially closed.
After shutting down its racing department, Aston Martin sold the team cars but kept DP215 for development in the hopes of an eventual return to racing in 1965. These hopes were shattered, however, when DP215 was in an accident during night testing on the M1 motorway.
Sold to Malcolm Calvert from Aston Martin in 1974, DP215 had by this time lost some of its original parts. Not interested in racing DP215, however, Calvert also fitted a DB6 engine and ZF gearbox. For several years he used the car on the road, before selling it in April 1978.
Purchased then by Nigel Dawes, a noted Aston Martin collector, the restoration work continued. Determined to make all aspects of DP215 as original as possible, Dawes began working with Ted Cutting, the original designer. With Ted on board as a consultant, Dawes searched for several years for the original engine. In lieu of the original and with Ted’s full support, Dawes managed to obtain the Indianapolis Cooper-Aston 4.2-liter engine. A true success, Nigel Dawes’ restoration saw DP215 restored to its former glory, excepting the original engine and the S532-type gearbox.
Having left his mark on DP215, in 1996 Nigel Dawes sold it on to the next custodian, historic racer Anthony J. Smith. Now of a condition to be used on the road and track safely, Smith enjoyed DP215 at a variety of events, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed and TT Revival.
In 2002, the current owner and his son contacted Ted Cutting once again and requested his help to rebuild a brand-new correct-type S532 transmission utilizing Ted’s original plans and the box from DP212 as the standard. Only six of these gearboxes were ever made.
Stunningly beautiful, with an engine that is as comfortable at 40 mph as it is at 180 mph-plus, it is not hard to see how unbelievable this car would have been in 1963. Although it might represent the end of an era for Aston Martin, DP215 is looking toward a fresh start.
The 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype is offered by RM/Sotheby’s on Friday, August 24, 2018, in Monterrey
Estimated Price: $18,000,000 – $22,000,000