This Bugatti-beating 1923 Aston Martin “Cloverleaf” can still hit the hills

When it comes to classic Aston Martins, we usually go back only as far as a DB4 that suddenly seems like a good deal coming from a freshly discovered barn—or maybe a stunning DB3 racing at Goodwood. Yet now, with this Bugatti-beating, 1923 “Cloverleaf” that Aston Martin brought out for a historically precise 95th anniversary hillclimb event (losing Bugatti included), we go back to what Aston Martin was doing post-WWI.

While the 1950s were a great era for the brand, Aston Martin was in fact founded in 1913—just three years after Morgan and pre-dating both Bentley and Maserati. Following WWI, company founder Robert Bamford left what was then known as Bamford & Martin. The company got a cash injection from Count Louis Zborowski, so that in 1922, it could produce cars that would race in the French Grand Prix, and contest endurance records at Brooklands.

1923 Aston Martin
Aston Martin

In the following year, only eight customer cars were built, and the late 1923 “Cloverleaf”-bodied tourer now known as XR 1981 was entered into the Herts Automobile and Aero Club Hillclimb up the Aston Hill, along with another Aston and two Bugattis. With its four-cylinder, 1.48-liter side-valve engine, the long-wheelbase XR 1981 came second, following company founder Lionel Martin’s own factory car. It just wasn’t Bugatti’s day.

While Aston Hill is the inspiration behind the name of the company, chassis 1926 with its open-body design known as Cloverleaf (due the two front seats and one rear seat behind creating the shape of a three-leaf clover) is one of the oldest road-going Aston Martins still in existence.

1923 Aston Martin
Aston Martin

To mark the 95th anniversary, “Cloverleaf” has returned to Aston Hill to be driven by Aston Martin Racing ace Darren Turner, who was followed closely by a Bugatti in the name of historical accuracy. Aston says the car was “painstakingly prepared for its hillclimb return by renowned specialists Ecurie Bertelli, the Midlands-based firm which currently manages the vehicle on behalf of its owner.”

Great as that is, we just can’t wait for Bugatti’s rematch. In 95 years, perhaps.

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