The mid-fifties are widely regarded as the golden era of sports car racing, when the finest drivers competed in the fastest cars on challenging circuits and the most perilous road races. Despite being the quickest automobiles of the day, these racing cars also made for wonderful road cars. Undoubtedly, one of the finest and most competitive cars to emerge from this era was the Aston Martin DB3S.
The Aston Martin DB3S was built from 1953 to 1957 and was the direct successor to the DB3, the first purpose-built sports racing car developed under David Brown. Just 31 cars were constructed during the four-year run, with production split between 11 works cars and 20 customer examples. The DB3S design was overseen by engineer Willie Watson and featured radical developments to Eberan Eborhorst’s preceding DB3 tubular chassis.
Ultimately, the DB3S was a shorter, lighter, and stiffer car. Legendary in-house designer Frank Feeley was charged with sculpting the incredibly stylish and aerodynamic bodywork, creating one of the best-looking shapes to ever grace a race circuit with styling cues that can still be seen in the Aston Martin's of today.
The DB3S was powered by a 3-litre, all alloy DOHC, 2 valve, inline 6-cylinder engine and sent drive to the rear wheels through a 4-Speed David Brown S430 manual gearbox. Initially, the inline 6-cylinder was fitted with 35DCO Weber carburetors and gave 182 bhp and 182 lb/ft on a compression ratio of 8.5:1. The cars were of course developed extensively throughout their racing life with the works cars fitted with twin-plug heads and 45DCO Webers from May 1954 giving 225bhp @ 6000 rpm. The ‘Kangaroo Stable Cars’ (DB3S/102 Gaze-McKay, DB3S/103 Sulman, DB3S/104 Cosh) delivered in early 1955 featured a 200 bhp Weber 40 DCO engine.
Chassis 102 Details
This DB3S, chassis #102, is the first of of three consecutive customer cars ordered in 1955 for the Kangaroo Stable – the Australian racing team led by David McKay, then motoring editor for ‘The Daily Telegraph’ and Tony Gaze, an RAF Squadron Leader. Chassis #102, #103, and #104 were identically finished Almond Green and delivered to Gaze and McKay in May 1955. Each car also received a yellow flame painted on the bonnet, replicating the national racing colours of Australia.
As their lead car, #102 was campaigned throughout Europe, England, and New Zealand during 1955 and 1956, with the most notable result being a 2nd Overall finish on their debut outing at the 12 Hours of Hyères, averaging a speed of 82.9mph. Chassis #104 and #103 placed 3rd and 4th respectively in the same race, earning the team £500 in race winnings and the attention of European race organisers with Autosport referring to the team as a ‘most formidable animal’.
In late 1956, a tragic accident at the 24 hours of Le Mans led to the cancellation of most of the remaining European races that year. As a result, the Kangaroo stable would compete at just a small number of events throughout Portugal and the UK before disbanding and going their separate ways. Chassis #104 was sold to an American, #103 returned to Australia with Tom Sulman, whilst McKay sent #102 back to Aston Martin to prepare it for the New Zealand Formula Libre races in early 1956. However, McKay’s visit to New Zealand proved to be disappointing with the car suffering engine troubles and ultimately throwing a connecting rod during practice at the Invercargill circuit at Ryal Bush.
After this misfortune, McKay arranged for the broken engine to be shipped to Feltham and rebuilt, whilst the Kangaroo Stable’s chief mechanic Jim Roberts set about carefully overhauling the DB3S. #102 was also repainted red during this time, “the right colour for racing cars”, according to McKay. During the work, Roberts fitted the car with the Le Mans ratio of 3.2:1, giving the car a theoretical top speed of around 160mph. With this in mind, McKay devised a plan to break the Australian National Land Speed Record for Class D. In 1957, #102 fitted with an aerodynamic Perspex canopy, set a new Australian Land Speed Record, averaging 143.19 mph over a dirt road, with the car being clocked at 162mph on one of the preliminary passes.
In 1957, McKay purchased ex-works car DB3S/9 and ultimately sold #102 to a young gentleman from Bathurst named Ken Soames. Ken enjoyed the car for a short time only before selling it to Warren Bloomfield, a pharmacist from Bathurst. The car was raced throughout 1959 with Warren placing 3rd in that year’s South Pacific Road Racing Championship. A farmer named Jim Wright purchased #102 in early 1960 and loaned it to Harry Cape to race in the Bathurst, Australian TT. During the race, Cape lost control and crashed the DB3S.
The car was placed into static storage for around a year until it was sold for £600 to a Tony and Gerry Lister of Sydney. They removed the engine and fitted it to a DB2/4 which was later sold on, leaving #102 to remain powerless for the remainder of the 1960s. In 1970, the car was sold to Allan Puckett and Kent Patrick who enlisted a Sydney-based engineer to start the painstaking restoration process. After three years of searching, #102’s original engine was tracked down and acquired. In 1973, the project was taken over by John Fitzpatrick who took the car to Adelaide and finally completed the restoration in 1976, debuting the car at Sandown Park September that year.
After its restoration, the car embarked on a successful journey as an active vintage race car and would pass through a small handful of notable Aston Martin enthusiasts who used the car as intended, displaying and running #102 in a number of historic races across the world. In 1993, the car was purchased by a Swiss gentleman who regularly campaigned the car at events throughout the U.K. and Continental Europe. For preservation purposes, the original engine was removed and set on a display stand, whilst an ex-works DB3 engine was built up to ‘S’ specification by Rex Woodgate and installed in the car. Front wheel disc brakes and a limited-slip differential were also fitted.
#102 has since been active in historic racing including the 2006 Le Mans Classic, and the 2008 & 2010 Goodwood Revival. The car also took part in this year’s Revival replacement the Goodwood Speedweek, before which, it was sent to Pearson’s Engineering where it underwent a thorough mechanical overhaul, preparing it for the event. Included in the work was a full bare metal respray in Almond Green with a Yellow flash, the colours it originally raced in with the Kangaroo Stable. The car was driven by Emanuele Pirro in the Lavant Cup and placed 10th in the event.
#102 sits today in superb condition and represents a wonderful reminder of the glory days of international sports car racing. The car is ready to start a fresh chapter with a new custodian and would be welcomed with open arms to a vast array of historical motor racing events around the world. #102 is accompanied by its original engine (no. VB6K/102) and four extensive files, confirming previous history with detailed correspondence with the original owners, David McKay and Tony Gaze, along with a comprehensive collection of race reports and period literature.