By Will Silk
Our latest classified ad from the past comes from an April, 1986 edition of Hemmings Motor News and is none other than a pristine Aston Martin DB3S Coupe; a rare variant of one of Britain’s greatest sports cars.
The 1950s saw a new breath of life come into Aston Martin, as Sir David Brown, a wealthy entrepreneur in England who was widely known for his agricultural machines, had acquired Aston Martin in 1947 after reading an ad in a London newspaper for an upscale car company that had been placed for sale. The same year, Brown acquired Lagonda, another ailing British sports car manufacturer that had claimed quite a name for itself prior to the Second World War. With both Aston Martin and Lagonda under the organized leadership and corporate structure of David Brown Ltd; work commenced under Sir David’s personal oversight to return Aston Martin to the glorious ranks of the sports car racing realm that the marque once thrived in.
The saga of the DB3S actually starts in 1953, as a roadster built for competition as a revised DB3. Sporting the Aston dual overhead cam straight six engine and a lighter chassis, the DB3S roadsters looked to be staunch competition when they appeared at Le Mans that year for the annual 24 hour classic with Reg Parnell having taken a win and a 4th place at two English National events early in 1953. The winning would not last however, as none of three works entries would finish the classic French race that year. Once home on British soil, the winning ways of the DB3S would return, particularly in the hands of factory ace Reg Parnell. The first international podium for the DB3S would come at Buenos Aires in the hands of Peter Collins and Pat Griffith coming home 3rd in the January, 1954 1000km event.
Aston Martin engineers were looking to gain even more from the DB3S, as the wins in England showed the car had much potential. Early in 1954, two competition coupes were produced and tested with the competition specification 220+ horsepower engine. One car was even fitted with a supercharger for the Le Mans race in June, giving it 240 horsepower. While the slippery coupes achieved much in terms of aerodynamic gains, their sleek body shapes would give the rear of the car lift at high speeds, thus leading to poor handling characteristics. This unfortunately occurred at Le Mans in 1954 causing both the Whitehead/Stewart car, and the Peter Collins/Prince Bira entry, to leave the event prematurely due to shunts. It is important to note that both of the competition coupes were re-bodied at the factory into competition roadsters for the 1955 season. International results continued to elude the DB3S until Paul Frere took an overall win at Spa in 1955 driving a works entered car. Frere would again see a fine result at Le Mans that year with a 2nd place finish co-driving with Peter Collins.
The lads in the competition department at Aston went on to build three DB3S coupes for customers that were active in club and regional events during 1955. These cars were fitted with the 2,922cc in line six cylinder engine that produced 210hp at 6,000 rpm. This was down from the power rating of the twin spark competition engine which the works cars were laden with and was rated at 220+ horsepower depending on state of tune. Backing up the big British six was a David Brown 4-speed gearbox that sent the power to the rear differential. Suspension was via trailing links and torsion bars at the front, and a de Dion rear axle set up utilizing trailing links and transverse torsion bars. Brakes were drum at all four corners. Top speed for the Aston Martin DB3S Coupe was stated to be 129 mph, making the ad’s claimed performance stats of 0-60 in 6.6 seconds and 0-100 in 14.4 to seem realistic.
Of the three customer coupes that were constructed, one has since been re-bodied to a roadster configuration, leaving just two of these incredibly beautiful competition coupes left on the planet. Whomever obtained this week’s feature car in 1986 surely struck gold, as the rarity of the two remaining Aston Martin DB3S Coupes will mean that they will forever be sought after among collectors for years to come.