If you’re one of those fortunate holiday shoppers who possesses an unlimited budget and a penchant for buying gifts tagged “To me, From me,” might we make a suggestion? When it comes to automotive exclusivity and distinction, it doesn’t get much better than this 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Lightweight Sports Saloon (and no, DB doesn’t stand for Delightfully Beautiful, although it could).
One of only nine built and offered from the estate of the late Malcolm Cramp, who owned it for more than 50 years, the gorgeous DB4GT will cross the block at Bonhams’ Bond Street Sale on December 7. Offered at no reserve, it carries an estimate of £2,000,000–£3,000,000 ($2,600,000–$3,900,000).
“For many Aston Martin enthusiasts, the DB4 was the best of the post-war cars,” Mike Twite wrote in Motors magazine in 1967. “Previous cars were lacking in power, while the later DB5 [made famous by James Bond] and DB6 put on weight and were more like fast tourers than high-speed thoroughbreds…
“Amongst the DB4s, the DB4GT was the most thorough all-round Grand Touring car of the lot.”
That common assessment hasn’t changed in five decades. In fact, Hagerty valuation expert John Wiley says DB4GT values have risen 52 percent in the last five years alone. “Unlike some other high-end vehicles, an Aston Martin DB4GT Lightweight has remained in demand,” Wiley says, pointing out that the car’s #1 (concours) value rose from $2.6 million in September 2014 to $4.25M in September 2019. The DB4GT Lightweight’s current #2 (excellent) value is $3.5M, while its #3 (good) value is $2.9M, and its #4 (fair) value is $2.65M.
Launched at the London Motor Show in 1958, the Aston Martin DB4 “emphatically demonstrated that a British manufacturer could better the Italians at their own game when it came to constructing the ultimate Gran Turismo,” Bonhams says. The car featured a completely new steel platform chassis with disc brakes on all four wheels, a race-developed twin-cam six-cylinder engine, and a stunningly beautiful aluminum body designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan.
The factory lost no time in developing a lightweight version suitable for racing, and Stirling Moss drove the Aston DP/199 prototype to victory in its first race at Silverstone in 1959. Later that year, a modified version called the DB4GT debuted at the London Motor Show. The GT used a tuned engine which, equipped with a twin-plug cylinder head and triple Weber 45DCOE carburetors, produced a claimed 302 horsepower at 6000 rpm; the standard version produced 240 hp.
The DB4 was also one of the first cars to go from standstill to 100 mph and then brake to a dead stop in less than 20 seconds.
The GT’s styling included faired-in headlamps with Perspex covers, a feature later made standard on the DB5 and DB6. Bumper over-riders were deleted, and the wind-down windows were frameless within the doors.
Aston Martin built a mere 75 DB4GTs—45 right-hand drive and 30 left-hand drive—and, as mentioned previously, only nine were built to Lightweight specification. Aston produced an additional 19 Zagato-bodied variants, one Bertone-bodied special, and five “Team” cars.
The 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Lightweight on offer (chassis #DB4GT/0169/R) is the sixth-from-last DB4GT built. According to Bonhams, much of the steel structure in the chassis is perforated, and panels are cut out of the floor and replaced with aluminum—typical for lightweight cars.
The DB4GT was originally sold to Ernest Scragg & Sons Ltd. of Macclesfield, Cheshire, and raced by Phil Scragg. The AMOC Register lists three race results for Scragg and #0169/R, all in 1961: second place at Loton Park; second at the BARC Sprint, Aintree; and second at the BOC’s Prescott meeting.
The DB4GT’s second registered owner, beginning on April 9, 1962, was Automatic Laundry Ltd. of Prenton, Cheshire, which held onto the car for only three years. Malcolm Cramp took possession in April 1965. In correspondence with AMOC, Cramp advised that #0169/R had a ZF five-speed gearbox, fitted in 1974, in place of its David Brown four-speed, and also shared that the DB4GT’s Borrani wire wheels had been replaced with 15-inch Cobra wheels.
According to Bonhams, a hand-written note revealed that the Aston had covered 115,107 miles by April 17, 1991. It received an engine rebuild by Aston Martin Works Service in November 2007 and the exterior “has been re-sprayed in what appears to Elusive Blue or similar.” The windshield is cracked, but the sale includes a new-old-stock screen. The rear window is now glass.
“It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that this car needs a restoration of some magnitude,” says DB4GT authority Stephen Archer, author of The Aston Martin DB4GT. “In truth, this car is an extraordinary example of originality that has been well enough preserved to be mostly retained. There have never been any major repairs or restoration carried out, and the car’s three owners have cherished it in a very particular way.”
Bonhams sold another 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT (#0161/R) with similar provenance at the Goodwood Revival in September 2019. The ex-Donald Campbell car, with history as a works demonstrator, was sold prior to the auction for an undisclosed amount—rumored to be above the low estimate of approximately $2,750,000.
A ’61 left-hand-drive version sold for $3,600,000 at Gooding’s Pebble Beach auction in August 2019, although it was not a lightweight.
In 2016, Aston Martin announced plans to produce another 25 DB4GT continuation cars and sell them for at least $2M each. Despite this additional supply coming to the market, however, values of the original 75 do not appear to have been diminished.
“It is very rare to see a 1960s Aston in this condition,” Archer says of #0169/R. “For it to be a GT is very special, and it is a truly unique lightweight DB4GT. There is no other like it.”
As one happy bidder is about to learn this weekend, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.