A 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato described as ‘the most important in history’ is set to go under the hammer at Bonhams at Goodwood. Raced by Formula 1 legend Jim Clark, it could become the most expensive British car to ever sell at auction in Europe – with an estimated price of over £10m pushing it far beyond the previous record holder, a ‘Blower’ Bentley which made £5.4m in June 2012.
James Knight, of auction house Bonhams motoring department explains the car’s appeal:
It sort of epitomises everything that’s so great about Britain – bespoke, handmade, beautiful quality – and then when you clothe the car in this Italian Zagato style, you get the best of both worlds.
It’s unofficially known as ‘2 VEV’ in a nod to its registration and boasts a 3.7-litre straight-six engine developing around 314bhp. That gives it an impressive performance, even by today’s standards – 0-60mph takes 6.1 seconds and top speed is pegged at 153mph.
Note that while the Aston’s £10m estimate would make it the most expensive British car to be sold on European soil, it would not be the most expensive British car ever sold. That distinction belongs to an Aston Martin DBR1 which sold for £17.5m in August 2017. That car, however, sold in the USA.
2 VEV’ is the most important DB4GT Zagato in history for several reasons. It is one of only two of the legendary ‘VEV’ quasi-works cars, and one of only three configured in the ultra-light DP209 specification. If that were not enough, it was also driven, in period, by the legendary racing superstar Jimmy Clark and comes from long-term, single-family ownership of nearly 50 years. These are attributes that none of the other 18 DB4GT Zagatos can boast.
A truly great car is judged by the company it keeps, and ‘2 VEV’ raced internationally throughout 1961-62 against rival Ferrari 250 GT SWB and Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinettas, vehicles which now count amongst the most valuable cars in the world. ‘2 VEV’ was campaigned by owner John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable team as a quasi- works Aston Martin entry against some of the most notable grids ever assembled in GT World Championship history. Driven by the revered Jim Clark, two-time Formula 1 World Champion Driver and winner of the world’s richest single race – the American Indianapolis 500-Miles – this is a ‘DP209’ lightweight version of the already rare Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato model – of which only 19 were made.
Jim Clark most notably drove ‘2 VEV’ for John Ogier and Aston Martin to confront the Ferraris in the RAC Tourist Trophy race at Goodwood in both 1961 and 1962. He brought the car home fourth behind contemporary team leader Roy Salvadori’s sister car ‘1 VEV’ in the 1961 race, but in 1962 he became involved in a multi-car accident. Just after re-joining the race following a pit stop, the future World Champion spun at Madgwick Corner in the path of race leader John Surtees’s Ferrari 250 GTO. The two cars collided and crashed into the safety bank, only to be joined a few laps later by Robin Benson’s Ferrari 250 GT SWB which careered into both of them. The scene, involving three of the most valuable 1960s motor cars in today’s market, has become one of the most celebrated and extraordinary images.
By that time, the DB4GT Zagato had already been reconfigured by Aston Martin into the factory’s latest ‘DP209′ ultimate-lightweight specification following a crash while being driven by Belgian Lucien Bianchi at Spa-Francorchamps earlier in 1962. In 1961, it had competed in the Le Mans 24-Hour race and the Paris 1,000 Kilometers in which it finished 6th, driven by Jim Clark/Innes Ireland. In 1962, the car was repaired after the TT incident to reappear at Montlhéry, this time co-driven by Jim Clark (yet again) and Sir John Whitmore.
The car later achieved tremendous success in historic racing throughout the 1980s-90s campaigned by Roger St John Hart and then, for the family, by prominent Aston Martin Owners’ Club personality Nick Cussons. It has now been in one caring stewardship for nearly 50 years. Its racing career has taken a gentler pace since a full Aston Martin factory restoration in the mid- 90s, but it remains ready for track action.
Note: Press release courtesy of Bonhams Auctions.