Automobiles | RM Sotheby's

A Film Star Car: Peter Sellers's Aston Martin DB4GT

By RM Sotheby's

I n 1958, the DB4 was easily the world’s most advanced GT car. With racing deeply in the veins at Aston Martin, a track version of the DB4 was actually conceived six months before the DB4 was to be announced. The DB4GT’ s designer, Ted Cutting, famed for designing the DBR1, noted that “the DB4GT was in fact a return to the specification of the 1950 DB2. That is, a long-distance, very fast, two-seater touring car.”

1961 ASTON MARTIN DB4GT , FEATURED IN THE WRONG ARM OF THE LAW STARRING PETER SELLERS.
Estimate £3,000,000–3,400,000
RM SOTHEBY’S LONDON | 5 September
TIM SCOTT ©2018 COURTESY OF RM SOTHEBY'S

Designed with two seats and a luggage platform in the rear, the doors were lightweight aluminum and the boot was occupied by a 30-gallon fuel tank with the spare wheel on top. A front oil cooler scoop was added, and the car ran on Borrani light alloy wheels with twin circuit Girling brakes. The engine was uprated with a twin plug head and triple Webers, a higher compression head, larger valves, and uprated camshafts, with a claimed output of 302 bhp at 6,000 rpm. In 1960, a DB4GT was famously tested at MIRA by Reg Parnell, who was able to go from 0–100 mph and back to 0 again in under 20 seconds. Press reaction after the launch was very positive. Dennis May tested a DB4GT and wrote in Car and Driver: “It does our English ego good to doubt whether this Englishman’s car is in much danger of having its feat eclipsed by foreign rivals of comparable rating.” Aston Martin would go on to build 75 DB4GTs, many of which were raced with success. Today the type is acquiring increasingly mythical status and rightly being viewed as a very important Aston Martin and over twice as rare as the smaller engined Ferrari 250 SWB. Examples of the model have been recently acquired by Eric Clapton and Adrian Newey, who think very highly of the DB4GT. It is one of the most revered post-war Aston Martins, and the ever-rising prices that the cars have changed hands at in recent years is testament to its rarity and very special driving qualities.

1961 Aston Martin DB4GT
©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

Originally, Aston Martin noted that 41 DPX was a demonstrator for Ken Rudd’s Brooklands Motors and was delivered on 1 March 1961. The specification from new was unusual in having two occasional rear seats fitted and DB4 type front seats to ease access to the rear. Probably early 1962 the car was acquired by Peter Sellers and added to his collection of exotic cars. That year, 41 DPX became the only DB4GT to ever star in a movie: the Peter Sellers comedy caper, The Wrong Arm of the Law, which was released in 1963. Those unusual rear seats came in useful; the actor Lionel Jeffries had to sit in the back for the ‘getaway!’ Sellers drove the car in the film, but most of the fast driving was done by Ken Rudd, who also appeared as a gang member ‘extra.’ At some point during filming, the engine was reported to have blown up, an event first recorded by the Aston Martin Owners Club in 1988, and another DB4GT replaced it for a few final shots carrying the 41 DPX plates. Records show that Aston Martin repaired the engine in March 1963, making it the only DB4GT to be fitted with a four-liter block in period.

Further changes of ownership took place before Mr. Melville-Smith purchased the car in 1966. He entered the GT in various car club events and in 1967 achieved a 1st in class at the AMOC Curborough Sprint. In the spring of 1973, 41 DPX was featured in the AMOC Quarterly magazine, by which time the car was owned by Gerry Keane. In 1975, Kenneth Moses purchased 41 DPX, later emigrating with the car to New Zealand. When it was exported in 1981, 41 DPX had recorded 53,000 miles and in 1989 when the car was re-imported to the UK by Stephen Grey, the historic aircraft pilot and collector, the car showed a mileage of 58,000 miles. Kevin Regan purchased 41 DPX in 1999 and embarked upon a body-off rebuild undertaken by Spray-Tech and Bodylines with an engine rebuild by Rex Woodgate. Shortly after completion it was featured in the November 2003 issue of Octane magazine. A year later Regan sold 41 DPX to the current owner, though Regan later considered this to be such a mistake that he bought another DB4GT! A very eloquent statement of just how fine a car this DB4GT is, and in this case, one of the most famous DB4GTs of them all.

Adapted from an article that originally appeared in RM Sotheby’s Shift magazine.

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