Ex-HRH Princess Margaret/Earl of Snowdon and Peter Sellers Aston Martin is leading light at Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale.
If cars could talk, what stories this particular sportscar could tell. A 1964 Aston Martin DB5 convertible was not only coveted by the A-list in its day, but this example was owned by the jet set of the 1960s, the late actor and comedy great Peter Sellers, followed by Lord Snowdon, society photographer and husband of HRH Princess Margaret, and subsequently his son, Viscount Linley.
With an estimate of £1,300,000 – 1,700,000, this regal runaround is offered as the top lot of the Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale on 9 July when the auction house returns to Chichester for the beloved motoring garden party.
In 1964, Sellers’ career was at its peak, as the star of box-office hit films such as The Pink Panther and Dr. Strangelove. It is apt that one of the most coveted sportscars of the time should catch the eye of the well-known motor car aficionado and Aston Martin enthusiast.
Designed by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggerra, the Caribbean Pearl Blue convertible was one of only 123 soft-top variants. Its beauty was matched by its performance: with its 282 bhp 4-litre straight-six engine, mated to a state-of-the-art five-speed ZF manual gearbox, being capable of a 145mph top speed.
Optional features selected by the actor included fog lamps, cigar lighter, a dark blue hood and cover, and non-standard chrome Roadwheels and, the height of technology for the time, a wireless Motorola radio car telephone. All were noted on the original Aston Martin bill of sale recording Peter Sellers as the buyer, a copy of which is offered with the motor car.
Sellers was notorious for frequently changing his car collection and so it would not have been difficult for his friend Lord Snowdon, who had admired the DB5, to persuade the actor to sell it to him in the late 1960s.
During his custodianship, the Earl drove the DB5 to Prague, although he was a more familiar sight cruising around Chelsea, Mayfair and Soho. Word has it, that the DB5’s boot was used to smuggle Lady Jacqueline Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquis and Marchioness of Reading, away from his country house when the Princess returned home unexpectedly one evening.
Rather more prosaically, the four-seater was also pressed into service as a family car. The former Viscount Linley (the Second Earl of Snowdon) once recalled the family journeys: “We always had the windows down so my mother could smoke her cigarettes.”
To the young Viscount, the DB5 was of course a symbol of the cinematic James Bond, driven by actor Sean Connery on the silver screen. He later commented: “I had the Corgi car, and my father had the real thing. It even had a special gadget – the very first car phone in Britain. It worked a bit like a walkie-talkie; you clicked a button twice and got through to the exchange.”
Following a few years on display at the National Motoring Museum at Beaulieu, the DB5 was passed from father to son in 1986 to mark the latter’s 25th birthday. Rather than keep it in the museum as advised, the second Earl, who was living in London at the time, fitted a series of heat-deflecting panels in the footwells to cope with modern traffic and even drove the car to Italy. The DB5 was maintained and rebuilt several times by Aston Martin Works Service, where it would be parked next to the DB6 of his cousin, The Prince of Wales.
However, after more than 30 years’ family ownership, the DB5 was sold by the second Earl, as “the pain and pleasure of owning a classic vehicle mounted up.”
In its present cherished ownership for over ten years, this car also has contributed to having helped raised (literally) millions for UK children’s charities, via countless tours and appearances.
Sholto Gilbertson, Director, Bonhams Motor Cars UK, said: “If ever a car defined an era, this DB5 is surely on the shortlist. Not only was it one of the most desirable and thoroughbred sportscars of its day but it has an extraordinary provenance being owned by the crème de la crème of the 1960s.
“This is a fitting star for our first sale at the Festival of Speed for two years. We are greatly looking forward to hosting a live auction again at our second home and welcoming our Goodwood friends and clients back to the Bonhams saleroom.”
The Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale will be a traditional live auction on Friday 9 July, with bids accepted from clients in the room (respecting social distancing and all local COVID-related guidelines) and will be livestreamed via bonhams.com and goodwood.com.
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