British automotive icon, Aston Martin, produced just 74 DB4 GTs between the years of 1959 and 1963. Designed as a competition car, the DB4 GT won on its race debut at Silverstone with Sir Stirling Moss behind the wheel, several months before the car’s official launch and homologation. It also raced at Le Mans in 1959; the year in which Aston Martin took overall victory with the DBR1. Of these 74, a mere eight ‘Lightweight’ versions were produced in 1960, which were a direct response to the success of the much lighter contemporary Ferrari; the 250 GT SWB. The ‘Lightweight’ was a stunning combination of additional aluminium components to replace steel equivalents, the removal of radio, speakers and the heater, a shortened wheelbase and some well-targeted reductions in weight in several of the non-vital chassis components. The result was superb and the most desirable of the DB4 stable was born. Powered by a straight-six engine with two spark plugs per cylinder, capable of 302 horsepower, these Lightweights had a compression ratio of 9.4:1 achieved by milling the head.
The first of these five Feltham factory-built DB4 GT Lightweights – 0124/R – was supplied to Tommy Sopwith’s Equipe Endeavour, a well-known and successful British race team of the period. So keen were the team to get going that the Aston was delivered straight to Goodwood on Easter Monday, 1960. Numbered as 102, Sir Stirling Moss took to the track with the Lightweight in the last race of the day. Starting from pole position, he beat Roy Salvadori and Jack Sears to win the race, creating a new lap record at the Sussex track in the process. This was the first outright win recorded for a production DB4 GT and thus a seminal juncture for the British marque. The following week’s Autocarwere quick to pick up on the story, claiming that the Lightweight provided Stirling ‘with the opportunity of proving how rapid the GT DB4 is’. The race report went on to say that ‘It seemed a foregone conclusion that Moss would taste victory at last in the Equipe Endeavour’s incredibly noisy Aston Martin DB4 coupe; in fact it was so easy as to be scarcely a race for him’.
The winning streak continued, as 0124/R was raced by Jack Sears at the BARC International ‘200’ Meeting at Aintree later that month. Achieving an average speed of 78.08 miles per hour, it appeared there was little opposition, with Dick Protheroe coming second in a Jaguar XK120. It was becoming clear that the Lightweight was in a class of its own and there is an amusing comment in the edition of Autosportthat covered this race who claimed that ‘It was easy for Jack Sears, who soon established a clear lead, lapping around 2 minutes and 15 seconds, to the horror of Tommy Sopwith, who almost ‘did his nut’ in the pits, giving his various slow down signals’. Sopwith was clearly concerned that the Aston did not appear to shine too brightly and thus damage it chances for future success.
May opened with a GT race at Oulton Park, at which Sears took another easy win. The following weekend Sears was at Silverstone with the Lightweight for the BRDC Daily Express Trophy Meeting, an unlimited sports car race. Still Sears managed to achieve tenth overall and fifth position in the over 3000cc class. His own notes on the race state that ‘the Aston was completely outclassed with all the Appendix C cars, but we gained a lot of experience’. He went on the win two more events at Snetterton later that month, followed by a first at International Brands Hatch in August.
After a wonderful season with 0124/R, Sopwith took the decision to sell the Lightweight prior to the start of the 1961 season. The Lightweight was acquired by a Mr Fry, who extensively hill-climbed the Aston, competing three times during 1961 at Dryham Park Hill Climb and winning two sprints at Castle Coombe circuit in the UK that year too.
Subsequently the Lightweight was owned by a handful of long-term custodians, who competed in various Aston Martin Owners’ Club events during the sixties and seventies. In 1978, 0124/R was entrusted to marque expert, Richard Williams, for a thorough overall including engine and gearbox rebuilds. RS Williams continued to maintain the Aston for a long time, including another more recent engine rebuild and latterly the Lightweight has been looked after by Aston Engineering Limited. Owned by the current owner for the last 27 years, 124/R is presented in wonderful original condition and has been shown and raced at all the best historic events, including Goodwood Revival and Silverstone Classic in recent years. Musing about 0124/R in Clive Richardson’s wonderful article on Equipe Endeavour in Historic Race and Rally, Jack Sears compared it to the other Equipe machinery, ‘the brakes on it were terrific. Much better than the E-type’s. The E-Type was more like a very quick road car than a competition car and quite refined, but the Aston was tremendous and great fun’.
Offered with full FIA papers, a full history file, including invoices, dyno test reports and a wonderful selection of period photographs, few cars boast such originality, such a compelling history, such a unique nature. Even among its famous peers, it stands alone as one of the most iconic Aston Martins of all time