The ex-Edith Field/Innes Ireland 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead Coupé Coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone Registration no. 117 YUF Chassis no. LML 506 Engine no. VB6E/50/337
'The Aston Martin DB2/4 is an expensive car designed to cater for the connoisseur of sports cars who is not limited by financial considerations.' - Autocar, 2nd October 1953.
Of all the Aston Martin production cars of the post-war era, those with bespoke coachbuilt bodies (as opposed to the factory's standard bodywork) are by far the rarest, amounting to only a tiny percentage of the manufacturing run. In the DB2/4's case, only 12 cars were supplied in rolling chassis form for bodying by independent coachbuilders out of a total of 565 produced between October 1953 and October 1955. Of those 12, eight were bodied in varying forms in Italy by Carrozzeria Bertone, chassis number 'LML 506', the car offered here, being the fifth of this most exclusive run.
With the introduction of the '2+2' DB2/4, Aston Martin had extended the DB2's appeal to the hitherto untapped yet increasingly important market comprised of 'sports car enthusiasts with a family'. Modifications liberated sufficient space for two occasional rear seats that could be folded, creating a load-carrying platform accessed via the rear door a pioneering example of the now commonplace 'hatchback' concept. Standard specification included the 2.6-litre 'VB6E' engine in 125bhp Vantage tune. This was one of the fastest cars then built in Great Britain - with around 120mph maximum - possessing impeccable handling plus a level of comfort rare in any high-performance car.
'LML 506' was ordered new by Mrs Edith C Field of 2755 Scott Street, San Francisco, California, a lady for whom the description 'connoisseur of sports cars who is not limited by financial considerations' would seem most apt. Liz Coppel, ex-wife of Al Coppel, a noted racer and one of the founders of the San Francisco Region SCCA, was one of Edith Field's friends at that time. She recalled that Edith Field (née Chamberlain) was in her late 40s or early 50s and came from a wealthy family on the Peninsula (south of San Francisco). She said that Edith was a 'wealthy eccentric' with 'panache found only in people of significant means'. Edith had very good taste in cars and was quite knowledgeable, owning an AC Ace-Bristol that she entered in many races for California sports car racer James Orr. 'LML 506' though, was purchased for street use.
The initiative that resulted in the eight DB2/4 chassis being bodied by Carrozzeria Betone had come from American industrialist Stanley Harold 'Wacky' Arnolt. Having made his fortune supplying engines to the US Marine Corps during WW2, 'Wacky' Arnolt was able to indulge his lifelong love of automobiles and by 1952 was a regional BMC distributor and US distributor for Bristol cars. In 1952 a meeting between Arnolt and Bertone at that year's Turin Show led to Arnolt buying a stake in the Italian company, joining its Board of Directors and arranging manufacture of Bertone-bodied Arnolt MGs. By this time under the direction of Giuseppe 'Nuccio' Bertone, son of founder Giovanni, the Torinese firm was well placed to undertake Arnolt's commission, having only recently moved into a large new factory at Grugliasco.
The first results of this US-Italian collaboration were sold as Arnolt-MGs in the USA. When the supply of MG TC chassis dried up, Arnolt's next venture made use of his Bristol connections, the UK manufacturer's '404' getting the Bertone treatment in 1953. The following year, after a meeting with Aston Martin's owner David Brown, Arnolt had eight Bertone-bodied cars built on the DB2/4 chassis, the stylists being Franco Scaglione and Giovanni Michelotti, the latter responsible for 'LML 506'. A copy of the guarantee/order form on file shows that 'LML 506' was originally fitted with engine number 'VB6E/50/1240' while a telescopic steering column and left-hand drive are the only particulars listed on non-standard equipment.
As illustrated here, in 1955 Edith Field showed 'LML 506' at Pebble Beach, taking home a 3rd place trophy in Class C, 2-seater sports cars $4,500-10,000. The car is pictured in Robert Devlin's book, 'Pebble Beach: A Matter of Style' (page 175).
In the mid/late 1980s legendary Grand Prix and sports-racing driver, the late Innes Ireland, imported the Bertone-bodied Aston into the UK. An ex-Team Lotus Formula 1 driver and many-time Le Mans competitor, Innes was intimately involved with Aston Martin throughout the firm's racing heyday and assisted with the development of the DB6. However, before Innes could embark upon the DB2/4's restoration he was persuaded to part with it by an even more determined enthusiast, the car dealer/collector David Clark (see sales invoice dated February 1988 on file). As it happened, the Aston was destined to spend many years in storage before its next owner (the current vendor) purchased the car and finally got the project under way.
The restoration of 'LML 506' began in 2007 and was managed by John Goldsmith of respected marque specialists Goldsmith & Young, with specific suppliers commissioned to undertake some of the many tasks. Upon delivery in 2007 the car was nominally complete but in need of full restoration. Fortunately, the body needed only minor repairs to bring it up to the high standard required, with a new bonnet and boot supplied by Bodylines. The paintwork was entrusted to Adrian George at Spray Tec while the interior trimming was carried out by Larry Piper of LA & RW Piper in Sparkford, who also made the hood. All material and re-assembly work was undertaken by Goldsmith & Young Ltd in Mere.
The car is now offered for sale fresh from this concours-standard restoration with fewer than 30 miles on the odometer, mostly done on the rolling road. The engine is therefore still running in. Goldsmith & Young's invoice forms part of the documentation offered with the car, as does a CD produced by them telling the restoration story. In total just under £200,000 has been spent over a four-year period to bring this very special Aston Martin back to life. In addition, the car comes with a file containing all the available history prior to its purchase by the current owner, including various articles about Bertone-bodied Astons. The car is of course EU taxes paid and is expected to be taxed, MoT'd and UK-registered by time of sale.
Presented in exquisite condition, 'LML 506' represents possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a David Brown-era Aston Martin fitted from new with beautiful hand-built coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone, typical of Italy's 'Golden Age' of automobile styling.