Launched in 1951, the DB3 was never the successful race car Aston Martin hoped it would be. It was powered by a Lagonda straight-6 engine with 133 HP, which only proved to be very unsuccessful, but that was partly rectified in 1952 when Aston Martin replaced the 2.6 liter engine with a larger one: a 2.9 liter with 153 HP. These changes didn’t drastically improve the DB3, but it improved by placing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at Silverstone in May 1952 and was then forced out of Le Mans.
After that, Aston Martin had to take some serious measures to save the failing race car. They asked designer A.G. Watson for some assistance and the following year - in 1953 - the company came up with a new prototype in Charterhill, UK. This new version was called the DB3S and featured a lighter chassis with a reduced wheelbase and a few other modifications that helped it be more successful on the race track.
The new DBS3 stayed in production until 1956 during which Aston Martin produced a total of 31 units: 11 work cars - that have never been raced - and 20 cars being sold for customer use.
Hit the jump to read more about the Aston Martin DB3S.
Exterior and Interior
The new DB3 and DB3S models featured the same feline body figure Frank Feeley designed for the DB2 - a model that is still considered to be his masterpiece. Aston Martin also opted to use the classic cutaway section behind the front wheels - famous in the Ferrari 250TR models. It was distinguished by raised eyebrows and a redefined ’humped oval" grille theme which is a trademark that is still used in the Aston Martin production cars.
The DB3S was built as both coupe and open-top versions. However, the two coupe units developed in 1954 to compete at Silversone crashed and were re-bodied in 1955 as open cars.
The model launched in 1952 was powered by an 3.0 liter inline-six engine with an output of 210 HP. However, for the 1954 racing season, the engine received a supercharger which increased the output to 240 HP.
The engine was mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox and sprinted the car up to a top speed of 140 mph.
All of the changes the DB3S received actually improved its success in the long run. In the 1953 Le Mans race, the model wasn’t as successful as Aston Martin hoped as all three models that were entered into the race had little success, but then at the Tourist Trophy, Goodwood Nine Hours, and British Empire Trophy, Aston Martin took overall victories against British competition.
Aston Martin was thrilled with their local competition victories, but they were looking for international success. As a result, for the 1954 season, one of the cars entered the Le Mans race was upgraded with a supercharger that increased the car’s output to 240 HP. This improvement was in vain, though, as both coupe versions developed for Silverstone crashed and Ferrari took the victory at Le Mans.
1955 and 1956
In the 1955 racing season, things changed when Aston Martin took full advantage of the new 3-liter limitation on engine capacity in the sports car championship. The DB3S took victory at Silverstone and placed second at Le Mans with drivers Peter Collins and Paul Frere behind the wheel. That same year, the DB3S also took the victories at British GP and Goodwood Nine Hours.
At the 1956 Le Mans, the DB3S came second for the second time with Stirling Moss and Peter Collins at the wheel.
One of the only 20 DB3S units delivered to customers will be at auction on August 18, 2012 in Monterey. The model is estimated at an amazing $3,500,000-$4,000,000.
- Great feline look
- Impressive engine figures for its time
- Comes with improvements over the DB3
- Very expensive
- Little racing success to speak of