Lifestyle

Understated Aston


The 1961 Aston Martin DB4 Series III car lacks the verve of the five DB4 Series but that it was what many connoisseurs like most about it

The car offered here is a DB4 Series III Aston Martin, which differs from the previous two series due to a better oil cooling system, including a bigger sump. The car condition is as exceptional as its history. On September 30, 1958, its future and sole owner, Mr. Claude Rouzaud, was invited by David Brown and Marcel Blondeau (the French importer) to the introduction of the new DB4 at the Garage Mirabeau, 71 Avenue de Versailles, in Paris.

On that very day, Claude Rouzaud was convinced by what he had seen and driven. While testing a DB4 belonging to the Garage Mirabeau, he found a four-leaf clover, which he carefully kept in a small envelope that is still clamped in the owner's manual.

Recognizing the qualities of the car, he ordered from the Garage Mirabeau a black DB4 with beige leather interior. This car, DB4621L, was delivered on March 28, 1961, and registered 6010 KZ 75 on April 7. More than 47 years later, this car is still the property of Mr. and Mrs. Rouzaud.

An Aston Martin is in any case a splendid automobile. The fact that this is a first-hand car with a well-documented history makes it highly desirable. What more can be said about a car that adds to these features an exceptional original and almost-new condition? The finish, the chrome-plated parts, and the light patina of the leatherwork are all proof of the good life enjoyed by the car, which shows a fresh condition that even many newly restored cars are lacking.

This DB4 had been overhauled recently, with new brakes and new stainless steel exhaust. It works very well, does not overheat, and shows good oil pressure. The steering wheel and gearshift show no wear.

It will be delivered with its owner's manual, tool set, and spare wheel, along with some documents, many of them coming from Aston Martin and signed by David Brown.

This is a rare opportunity to acquire such a superb Aston Martin and perhaps a unique one.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $464,963 on February 9, 2008, at Artcurial's annual Paris sale.

Visiting Rétromobile and the two coinciding auctions to perhaps gather some inventory was ultimately just a pipe dream. The nights were better spent dining out than in trying to buy an Aston Martin, as it turns out.

Hoping to score this car, lot 21, at the Artcurial auction was a real schooling in today's collector car climate. The combination of a weak dollar and rabid interest in original one-owner cars worldwide meant the car was completely unattainable at a price that would enable any dealer to remarket it. It set a record by a significant margin and blew the roof off the catalog estimate. Nevertheless, I say it was well bought.

The DB4 seemed unremarkable at first

Upon first inspection, this Series III DB4 seemed unremarkable on every level. I also admit that I hadn't yet read the catalog description (even with its quirky English translation), so I really didn't know what to expect, and I didn't know it was a one-owner car.

The car had very little visual "pop," plus the auction room was crammed with inventory; these cars were not displayed with any great forethought. Upon cursory inspection I noticed just the negative side. The original paint was dull, the steering wheel was from a DB2/4 Mk III (I'd have to see the build sheet to know if it was ordered as such), somehow DB5 Selectaride (just a bad idea) was added, two nasty non-original chrome strips were fitted to the rockers below the doors, the bumpers were pitted, two dings pocked the passenger door, and the whole thing needed detailing. And what's with the little hand-painted triangle on the doors? But like a little kid in a toy store, I was hooked.

With Tom Papadopoulos from Autosport Designs as my wingman, we both agreed on one thing—it looked like an honest car. More a quiet golf clap than resounding approval.

Being a Series III car, it is arguably the red-headed stepchild of the five DB4 Series; it's neither fish nor fowl for looks. In 22 years, no one has ever asked me for a Series III car specifically. To me, that signifies something in the Aston Martin world. Series I and II cars are in many ways purer looking, and the later Series IV and V cars benefit from covered headlights or triple carb set-ups, or simply from being the much cooler Vantage version. The Series III is a bit of a yawn in my view, but nonetheless something kept grabbing me about the car.

I slowed down and took a long, hard look

I think it was my third pass when I slowed down and had a long, quiet look. It finally struck me that the whole ride was really original and unrestored (I blame jet lag for not picking up on this). The nose was perfect, the chassis unmolested, and the interior possessed that glorious old Connolly leather smell that cannot be replicated. The underside of the rear seat had the original chalk marks, the engine retained the original red paint around the serial number, the tools were all there, the manual was like new, it had warranty paperwork, the Avon Turbospeeds looked 30 years old, there was Indian jute under the carpet and trunk mat, and so on and so forth. Nice.

So mental midgets Tom and I happily concluded that it "could be" a $300,000 car back home. Hmmmm...let's try to buy it. What a laugh that turned out to be. I came, I nodded, I left empty handed, mon ami.

Suffice to say that the French auction arena that night may as well have been the bar scene from "Star Wars" compared to anything we were used to back home. The crowd was lifeless, the auctioneer incomprehensible, the auditorium was 98 degrees and getting warmer, and we weren't witnessing any real crazy numbers on the lots that were selling (we were foolishly lulled into thinking the French weren't paying attention).

And what about the bidding?

What really puzzled us was how folks were bidding. It was beyond subtle. A guide dog, night-vision goggles, and a Black Beret sniper would sure have been helpful. Okay, here comes lot 21. How do we get the auctioneer's attention? No need...this was a spirited lot and the bidding exceeded by 50% any number we thought was sensible. $463,000! Sacre bleu! A minute later it was over, except for our slack-jawed reaction.

Our previously mentioned red-headed stepchild was the darling of the evening. However, this one sale does not constitute the re-jiggering of price guides. This anomaly can be explained easily. Savvy collectors are willing to chase down and pay for the car that is original only once.

In my (occasionally) humble opinion, I truly believe there is no price guide for something that has few or no peers with regard to originality.

If originality appeals to you—and the trend has gotten a lot stronger for that—you have to pay up, as someone is right there bidding with you and waiting for you to hiccup. Your other option is to go find another one at the used car factory. Good luck with that.

The DB4 that struck me as incredibly unremarkable was in fact "amazingly remarkable." To the new owner, I say well done.

Details

Years Produced: 1958-63 (Five Series)

Number Produced: 1,110, (165 Series III) including 70 convertibles

Original List Price: $10,500

SCM Valuation: $125,000-$275,000

Tune-up Cost: $1,200 / $2,400

Distributor Caps: $95

Chassis # Location: Plate in engine compartment, right side near firewall; more forward on earlier Series cars; stamped in chassis, lower left hand side, near bottom of front suspension wishbone

Engine # Location: Top of block, front left, originally marked with red paint

Club Info: AMOC, 645 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900, NY, NY 10022

Website: click to visit

Alternatives: 1960-63 Ferrari 250 GTE; 1957-65 Maserati 3500, 1966-68 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2

Investment Grade: B


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