David Brown, a wealthy British industrialist (primarily tractors and agricultural equipment) who had never owned or driven an Aston Martin, forked out 20,000 British pounds because he thought it would be fun to own a sports car company. A few months later he also purchased the remains of Lagonda. Brown funded the development of Aston Martin's most historically prominent line of production cars, the DB (for David Brown) series, as well as its greatest racing moments, including the overall victory at the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans.

What David Brown got for his initial investment in Aston Martin was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder prototype, the Atom, designed in 1939 and featuring an independent front suspension and a rudimentary space-frame chassis. The Atom became the basis for the 1948 DB1. Only 15 DB1 models were made. Brown felt that the 2.0-liter (1970cc) pushrod four was not powerful enough (95 bhp at 4750 rpm), although he was enticed by Claude Hill, the designer of the Atom, and test driver Jock Horsfall to enter a DB1 in the 1948 Spa 24 Hours race. Hill and Horsfall rewarded Brown's leap of faith with a first overall.

The race at Spa would have a long-term effect on Aston Martin racing during David Brown's tenure, not so much because of Brown's visit to victory lane as much as his visit to the pit lane. For it was there that Brown was so impressed with the way that John Wyer managed a privateer Aston Martin effort that he invited him to become the company's race-team manager. Wyer is perhaps more famous for his accomplishments after leaving Aston Martin in 1963 to join the Ford GT-40 program. Wyer directed the success of the Gulf-sponsored Ford GT-40 and followed that with the Gulf Porsche 917. At Aston Martin, starting in 1950, he would spend 13 years making it a force to be reckoned with by the premier teams, notably Jaguar and Ferrari, in world sports car racing.

The year before Wyer came on board, the 2.6-liter dohc six-cylinder engine designed by W.O. Bentley for Lagonda-and acquired in Brown's purchase of the venerable British automaker-was installed in an updated DB1 chassis to create the DB2 fastback coupe.

Wyer entered three six-cylinder DB2s in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans, each putting out 125 bhp at 5000 rpm thanks to dual exhausts and slightly higher compression. Other than the above changes, the cars were stock production models minus some interior trim. Driven by George Abecassis and Reg Parnell, two of the three finished fifth and sixth overall. They also were first and second in the 3-liter class.

In November 1950, Professor Robert Eberan von Eberhorst, the man who had worked with Ferdinand Porsche in designing the pre-war Auto Union Silver Arrows racers, was brought in to design a lightweight open-top car that would be the DB3. In the interim, Wyer found ways to remove 450 lb from the production DB2 for the 1951 race season. His reward was a third, fifth, and seventh overall finish at Le Mans plus a sweep of the top three positions in the 3-liter class. Aston Martin looked forward to the DB3 to deliver bigger and better things during the 1952 season.

By Patrick C. Paternie
Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!