Coachbuilt examples of the DB4/5/6 family of Aston Martins are extremely rare, making the unique Bertone-bodied car offered here all the more precious and desirable. '0201L' is the last DB4GT chassis completed in period (a further six 'Sanction II/III' DB4GT Zagatos were built in the late 1980s/early 1990s) and was first displayed on Bertone's stand at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, which was followed by an appearance at Turin that same year. Its designer was none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, one of the 20th Century's foremost automotive stylists and then only 22 years of age, who would go on to create some of the Italian coachbuilder's most memorable designs before leaving to join Carrozzeria Ghia. By the time he left Ghia to found Italdesign in 1968, Giugiaro had been responsible for such sublime creations as the Maserati Ghibli and De Tomaso Mangusta.
It was only appropriate that Aston Martin's top-of-the range and most expensive production model, the DB4GT, should have been selected for this very special project. As its nomenclature suggests, the DB4GT was a competition variant of the DB4 sports saloon. Launched at the London Motor Show in 1958, the Aston Martin DB4 had emphatically demonstrated that a British manufacturer could better the Italians at their own game when it came to constructing the ultimate Gran Turismo. Its specification included a completely new steel platform chassis with disc brakes all round, and a race-developed twin-cam six-cylinder 3.7-litre engine, all clothed in a perfectly proportioned aluminium body designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. Overall, the DB4 was state-of-the-art for its time, a masterpiece of robust British engineering combined with exquisite Italian styling.
Engineered under the watchful eye of Harold Beech, the immensely strong platform-type chassis replaced the DB2/4's multi-tubular spaceframe, the latter being considered incompatible with Touring's Superleggera body construction that employed its own lightweight tubular structure to support the hand-formed aluminium-alloy body panels. The trailing-link independent front suspension of the DB2/4 gave way to unequal-length wishbones while at the rear the DB4 sported a live axle located by Watts linkage instead of its predecessor's Panhard rod.
The new car's competition potential had been recognised from the outset and the factory lost no time in developing a lightweight version suitable for racing, the resulting DB4GT debuting at the 1959 London Motor Show. The model had already been proven in competition earlier that year when the prototype driven by Stirling Moss ('DP/199') won its first race at Silverstone. Extensive modifications to the standard car took 5" out of the wheelbase and replaced the rear seats with a luggage platform on all but a small number of cars. Together with lighter, 18-gauge bodywork, these changes reduced the car's weight by around 200lb (91kg).
The GT used a tuned engine which, equipped with a twin-plug cylinder head and triple Weber 45DCOE carburettors, produced a claimed 302bhp at 6,000rpm, a useful increase over the standard car's claimed 240bhp. Maximum speed, of course, depended on overall gearing but 153mph was achieved during testing with a 0-60mph time of 6.1 seconds recorded. The DB4 was also one of the first cars to go from standstill to 100mph and then brake to a dead stop on under 20 seconds, a tribute, in part, to its up-rated Girling brakes as used on Aston Martin's sports racers of the era.
Viewed from the front, the GT was readily distinguishable by its faired-in headlamps with Perspex covers, a feature later made standard on the DB5 and DB6. The rear screen and quarter windows were Perspex on many examples; bumper over-riders were deleted and the wind-down windows were frame-less within the doors. Twin Monza quick-release competition fuel fillers were added atop the rear wings, leading to a large-capacity fuel tank mounted flat in the boot. GTs were fitted as standard with lightweight Borrani 42-spoke wire wheels with alloy rims and three-ear 'knock-offs'. Trimmed to full Aston Martin road car specification, the interior boasted fine Connolly leather upholstery and deep-pile Wilton carpeting, while the GT benefited from the addition of an oil temperature gauge to the standard complement.
The DB4GT offered a strong challenge to the prevailing Ferrari dominance in GT racing, with examples entered by the works and John Ogier's Essex Racing Stable enjoying numerous victories. Driven by the likes of Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Innes Ireland, the DB4GT earned its stripes every weekend on the racing circuit. In December 1959, at the Bahamas Speed Week, Stirling Moss won driving a standard customer DB4GT 'borrowed' by the works following the demise of Moss's intended DBR2! The DB4GT was indeed a true dual-purpose car, equally at ease on both the circuit and Grand Tour. Only 30 were produced in left-hand drive configuration.
Originally finished in light green with contrasting grey interior, the 'Jet', as it became known, was lavishly trimmed in the best Aston Martin tradition, contrasting with the less well appointed, though lighter, Zagatos. Reminiscent of some Bertone creations on Ferrari chassis, this svelte notchback coupé is unique among DB4GTs as the only example bodied in steel, and would surely have made more of an impact had its Geneva debut not coincided with that of the Jaguar E-Type. A case of unfortunate timing if ever there was one, not that Bertone could be blamed for that. Giugiaro would body only one other Aston Martin, the DB7 Vantage-based 'Twenty Twenty' concept car of 2001, while a few years later Bertone revived the original idea with its 'Jet 2' on the Vanquish V12 platform.
'0201L' is known to have spent some time in Beirut before relocating to the USA, remaining there for several years before being rediscovered by Aston Martin Chairman, Victor Gauntlett, in the 1980s and shipped back to the factory. Quoted in Classic & Sports Car magazine's May 2013 edition, Kingsley Riding-Felce, currently Managing Director Aston Martin Works, recalled: 'The car was in a pretty sad state. It had suffered an engine fire... The bonnet was badly burnt and rust had taken hold in the steel bodywork. Only the sills plus the front and rear aprons are aluminium. Everything else is steel so Bertone must have made tooling, which suggests that it was hoping for a production series.'
Its late owner, Hans-Peter Weidmann, bought '0201L' from Victor Gauntlett while the car was undergoing total restoration to concours condition at Newport Pagnell under Kinglsey's supervision. He recalled some of the problems for C&SC: 'It was a big job because we had to make new door skins and fabricate replacement bumpers out of brass. It was quite a challenge configuring them to the body and getting the clearances right, but we wanted to keep it as original as possible. The instruments had to be redone and searching out missing switchgear in Italy proved quite a task. The Jet was very well made and clearly built to be driven. The styling isn't very Aston Martin but we never tired of looking at it.'
The car has been regularly maintained by the factory since the rebuild's completion in 1988 and comes with a comprehensively illustrated album of photographs recording the restoration, together with Swiss registration papers.
Following its total restoration at Works Service, the 'Jet' went on to amass an enviable collection of concours d'élegance awards including 1st in the Italian Coachwork class at Pebble Beach (1989) and 'Best in Show' at Villa D'Este and RAID Basle (both in 2001). Bertone's 'Jet' is one of very few cars summoned back to Pebble Beach, reappearing there in 1997 as part a special tribute to Aston Martin. Further 1stin- class awards have been garnered at the Hurlingham Club, AMOC Silverstone, Bagatelle Paris, Düsseldorf, Schloss Schwetzingen and New York, the most recent being awarded at Het Loo in 2007 (the Trophies from these concours successes are offered with the Car).
In recent years Hans-Peter Weidmann spent more time driving this unique Gran Turismo as its maker intended. Interviewed by Octane magazine for a feature on the Aston Martin DB4 (November 2005 edition) he declared: 'It was intended to be a grand tourer and that's just what I use it for.' By that time he had driven some 35,000 miles in the car including a marathon trip from San Francisco to Vancouver, covering the 950 miles in one night! Only one fuel stop would have been necessary as the oversize (37-gallon/168-litre) tank all but fills the boot, making this a car with true continent-crossing
capability. Indeed, Octane found that, compared with the other DB4 variants, the steel-bodied Jet 'rides more smoothly, in keeping with its Continental image.'
The year 2013 marks Bonhams' 14th annual auction at Works Service and we are immensely proud to have been entrusted with the sale of this most important Aston Martin. The DB4GT 'Jet', most significantly, has the unique cachet of being a one-off design by Bertone, and also is uniquely entwined with Aston Martin Works Service, which undertook its concours restoration with no expense spared. Concluding the C&SC article, Kingsley Riding-Felce said: 'Hans-Peter wouldn't want the Jet to go into storage, and we hope that the new owner will take part in this year's centenary events.'
Offered for sale for the first time on almost 30 years, '0201L' embodies the precious assets of rarity, continuous history, versatile usability and superb running condition. Arguably the most desirable Aston Martin currently available, it is the perfect acquisition with which to celebrate the marque's centenary in 2013.
Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be applied to the purchase price.
£2,800,000 - 3,800,000
3,300,000 - 4,500,000
Aston Martin DB4GT Bertone Jet
1989 Pebble Beach, 1st in Class Italian Coachwork
1991 London, Hurlingham Club, 1st in Class
1991 Silverstone, Aston Martin Owners Club -1st in Class and overall winner
1992 Paris, Bagatelle, 1st in Class
1997 Pebble Beach, Second Invitation
2001 Villa D'Este, 1st in Class and Best in Show
2001 Dusseldorf, 1st in Class and Best in Show
2001 Schloss, Schwetzingen, 1st in Class
2001 RAID, Basel, Best in Show
2005 New York, 1st in Class
2007 Pebble Beach, Third Invitation
2007 Holland, Het Loo, 1st in Class