1953 Aston Martin DB3S/2 races into the sunset at Monterey

1953 Aston Martin DB3S Works RM Sotheby's

This rare DB3S seems to capture some of Aston Martin’s racing soul. Supremely elegant, it enjoyed moments of glory and endured wrenching almost-theres. For three years in the ’50s endurance circuit, the DB3S eclipsed its predecessor—the chunkier, droopy-tailed DB3—only to be likewise overshadowed by the DBR1 in 1956.

Aston Martin DB3S chassis No. 2 is up for auction at Monterey next month, and those fortunate to wave their wallets in its general direction stand a chance to own the second of three DB3Ss factory-prepped for Le Mans and one of 10 that raced under the factory flag. 

The DB3S/2 rolls out a racing resume spanning some 50 years. It’s seen Le Mans in 1953, Silverstone in ’55, and the Goodwood Revival and Sebring and Spa. 

At first glance, the DB3S/2 enchants. Its particular beauty lies in delightful asymmetry. Dead on, the full fenders with that perfectly pinched top crease frame two main headlights, two fog lights, and that side-stepped cockpit. The perfect, white circle draws the eye over the lip of the hood to the distinctively Aston grille, the lauded British Racing Green contrasting with the yellow cross hatched inner grille that doesn’t quite fill the main mouth. It’s completely lovely. 

1953 Aston Martin DB3S Works
RM Sotheby's

The DB3S/2’s history is almost as delightfully irregular as its exterior design. The DB3S/2 arced to glory at the 1953 9 Hours of Goodwood but suffered its dips into disaster with two crashes—once at the ’53 Le Mans and again at Mille Miglia in ’54. 

It’s not the winningest DB3S chassis, but DB3S/2 seemingly never tired of racing. Or maybe it was mysteriously imbued with Aston Martin driver Peter Collins’ spirit; Collins couldn’t get enough of the DB3S/2 in factory-sponsored races, and made a Persephone-style deal with Aston to buy the car at a huge discount, as long as he lent it back whenever Aston Martin Works rang the phone.

1953 Aston Martin DB3S Works
RM Sotheby's
1953 Aston Martin DB3S Works
RM Sotheby's

1953 Aston Martin DB3S Works
RM Sotheby's

The only thing that could stop Collins from wearing down the tread on the DB3S/2’s pedals, then, was a threat to his entire Aston Martin romance. One day, Collins and the DB3S/2 looked just too good on track—and Collins was soon signed by Ferrari (cue horrified gasps). 

The DB3S/2 passed through a chain of ownership in the late 1950s and its activities gradually shifted toward the road instead of the track. (Hence the cigar lighter, circa 1960.) 

Thanks to a restoration in the late ’70s and active outings into the ’90s, DB3S/2 remained youthful and wrinkle-free—but its third-place in the 2005 Pebble Beach’s Post-War Sports Racing category showed that it retained the well-earned dignity of its age.

Almost 70 years after this second DB3S was built, the pristine white fields on the doors seem to be begging someone to slap on another racing number, jump in the tartan seats, and let the straight-six sing.

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