The 1927 London Motorshow Aston Martin 1½ Litre "S4"

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The 1927 London Motorshow Aston Martin 1½ Litre "S4"

1.00
  • Earliest surviving Bertelli Aston Martin
  • First dry sump engined Aston Martin
  • The car to father the LM and International series of Aston Martins
  • Exceptionally original car 
  • As used in the Fry/Laurie 'Jeeves and Wooster' series
  • Previously owned by Aston Martin Chairman
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S4, was the fourth car built by Aston Martin Motors Ltd. and the first Sports Model the company having been formed in October 1926. It is the very first short / sports chassis made thus the ’S’ designation in the chassis number.  S4 was, for many years thought to be the 1928 Motor Show car but further detailed research by early Aston Martin historian Inman Hunter and former owner Derek Green reveals a much more interesting history in the year preceding the 1928 Motor Show.

On the 1927 Motor Show stand Aston Martin Motors offered a saloon and a 4 seat tourer but alongside these cars proudly displayed their dry sump, prototype short chassis sports model.  The prototype was unfinished and not capable of running, but was fitted with a clover leaf body and the distinctive earlier double AM badges on the radiator.  This is believed to be the first time S4 was seen in public.

The 1927 Motor Show S4 on the left

The 1927 Motor Show S4 on the left

Lord Charnwood, a financier of the company and close friend of Bertelli, decided after the Motorshow to take the company to Le Mans and entered 3 cars in the 1928 24-hour race.  The plan was to run the Motorshow prototype sports chassis along with 2 further specifically developed cars ( later given the chassis numbers LM1 and LM2) that were to be built before Christmas in 1927 and early 1928.  The two LM cars were ready in good time but required running in and considerable testing therefore to reduce the workload it was decided to limit the entry to just two cars and withdraw the third car, S4 before the race in June.

Lord Charnwood and the Works team at Le Mans in 1928.  S4's entry was scratched in the lead up to the race giving more time to prepare the remaining two cars.

Lord Charnwood and the Works team at Le Mans in 1928.  S4's entry was scratched in the lead up to the race giving more time to prepare the remaining two cars.

After Le Mans LM1 was prepared as a works demonstrator and development car.  S4 was used as a Company demonstrator then registered and sold in September 1928 to its first owner F.A. Rhodes.  Only a month later the car returned to the factory for an engine rebuild, it is supposed that due to the high number of development miles the car did as the works demonstrator and getting ready for Le Mans it was repaired ‘free of charge’ as there is no record on the works service record of any payment.  Importantly the engine in S4 is the earliest Aston Martin dry sump engine and apart from LM1 and LM2, no other cars carried a dry sump engine until chassis number S16.

S4 retains further interesting and unique features,  lightweight components and the two AM badges on the radiator.  LM1 and LM2 were originally styled in this way but were rebadged with the familiar ‘wings’ motif..  The radiator filler cap has a flange for a competition stone guard, a feature that was only present on team cars and photographs from 1933 show that the side elevation is identical to LM1, giving the three Le Mans team cars the same look.

Mr. Rhodes, sold S4 after 5 years to Dr R.Wood, of Far Headingly, Leeds who installed an experimental 2 litre, 6 cylinder, 2-stoke, Scott engine for a while but due to a lack of ground clearance he reinstalled the original engine shortly after. The experimental Scott engine can still be seen on display at the Birmingham Science Museum.  The car subsequently changed hands a number of times until acquired by the Aston Martin Chairman Victor Gauntlett. The car was subsequently sold to help finance taking the company back to Le Mans with the the Aston Martin Nimrod project.  This important car then passed to long term custodian Derek Green and a considerable amount of practical restorative work and in depth research was carried out in 1984.

 

1990, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie with S4 as 'Jeeves and Wooster'

1990, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie with S4 as 'Jeeves and Wooster'

In 1990 S4 was used in the hugely popular television adaptation of the P.G. Wodehouse classic ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ staring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.  When seeing it depicted as Mr Wooster’s personal steed and embodying the dizzy highs of the ‘Bright Young Things' era, it says it all.  Style at its best!

The car is offered for sale in wonderful condition throughout and is a real joy to drive.  The sporty 4-seat body and enclosed cycle mudguards have a very attractive rakish low line afforded by the dry sump arrangement and the distinctive double badged radiator is set off by the bonnet straps and Stephan Grebel headlamps. A comprehensive and fascinating history file accompanies the car.

This is an extremely rare opportunity to acquire one of the most significant early Aston Martins which will be welcome at all significant motoring shows in wonderful condition and on the button.