Few Aston Martins contribute much to the trophy cabinet, but fewer still have been raced by two-times F1 world champion Jim Clark and also by F1 world champion Denny Hulme, which in part contributes to this old car’s mystique.
Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’ sells for record £10.1m
It’s not even the same car that was originally supplied, it’s been smashed beyond recognition three times, but it is one of the world’s most recognisable Aston Martins and yesterday 2 VEV, the ex-Jim Clark/Essex Racing Stables DB4 GT Zagato, set a new record for a British car sold at a European auction at the Bonhams Goodwood sale when it sold for £10,081,500 including buyers’ premium.
Despite rumours of a price that might spiral up to £15 million, and interest from celebrity American car collectors, the auctioneer’s managing director Jamie Knight has always said that 2 VEV would fetch about £10 million.
“We’re more than happy and the family are happy,” said a Bonhams spokesman.
Wearing a registration number of 2 VEV, the car was originally delivered to wealthy poultry farmer John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stables in 1961 and, fresh out of the factory, the team ran it in that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, although it retired with a blown head gasket. It was collected by Ian Moss, a former Aston Martin works mechanic who had been poached by Ogier.
“I was taken into the racing department and there she was,” recalled Moss, “with straight-through exhaust pipes – you’ve never heard a noise like it. That night I drove it on the road to where I lived in Datchet and the following day I had to take her to Clermont-Ferrand in France; it was an ear-bending experience.”
After the 1961 Le Mans, Lex Davison drove 2 VEV to victory in the GT support race for the 1961 British Grand Prix and Clark drove it at Goodwood’s Tourist Trophy race in August, where it was scuppered by its weight and prodigious tyre wear, coming in fourth behind sister car (registered 1 VEV) and two Ferrari 250 GTs.
And apart from an undistinguished performance at Montlhéry in October that was 1961 for 2 VEV. The following year bought the first of three major crashes, this one involving the controversial loan of 2 VEV back to Aston Martin to be fitted with an experimental 3,995cc engine. Ogier lent the car to Aston Martin again for the Spa Grand Prix meeting but it was comprehensively wrecked by Lucien Bianchi.
What Ogier eventually got back from Aston Martin was actually a different car; an experimental DP209 lightweight car but bearing the same chassis number as the old 2 VEV, built up with as much as they could salvage from the original. It had a restyled body with a lower roofline, broader rear wings and longer overhangs.
Ogier entered Tony Maggs in a non-championship GT race in France in July where 2 VEV came in seventh. Clark drove it again at the 1962 Goodwood Tourist Trophy where it suffered its second major crash after he spun at Madgwick, collecting the leading Ferrari 250 GTO of John Surtees and landing both in a ditch, where both cars were then hit by a spinning Ferrari 250 SWB.
Completely rebuilt for the second time, the car was entered for Clark and Sir John Whitmore to race in the Paris 1,000km but despite getting up to sixth it was retired with a holed piston.
That was the end of 2 VEV’s top-line competition career and, like all ex-racers, it was sold off for a song. It eventually ended up in the hands of talented gentleman racer Nick Cussons, who campaigned it in club meetings. In 1971, after a night in the pub with Roger St John Hart, he agreed to sell it for £3,600. Hart reportedly telephoned Cussons the following morning to sportingly ask if, in the cold light of day, he wanted to withdraw his offer.
Toni Hart (Roger’s widow) lent it back to Cussons for several events, including the 1992 FIA Historic European GT Championship, which he won – which is when Hulme drove it. But a third disaster befell the car when Cussons crashed it heavily which necessitated a third total rebuild, with help from Aston Martin. The body was consigned to Clive Smart at Shapecraft in Northampton, who teased out the special lines of its DP209 configuration under the watchful eye of Works Service managing director Kingsley Riding-Felce.
When it was finished, Toni Eyles (nee St John Hart) and her husband David Eyles, declared that 2 VEV’s competition life was at an end save the occasional demonstration run.
The price isn’t as much as that achieved by Sotheby’s at its Monterey sale in America last year for the first Aston Martin DBR1 sports racing car, which was raced at the Nürburgring by Sir Stirling Moss – that fetched $22,550. It does, however, surpass the $14 million achieved by Sotheby’s for the 14th of 19 DB4 GT Zagatos at an auction in New York in 2015.
So now it’s new hands (the buyer is unknown at present), a beautiful, noisy and fragile thoroughbred with a liking for burying itself in the scenery. As they say in motor racing circles: “Enjoy the drive, but keep it on the island.”