Aston Martin DBR1 – 1956

Sliding into the car that carries the registration plate XSK 497 is to sit in (and hopefully drive) the most valuable Aston Martin in the world — the DBR1/2, which still participates in classic road races. The ‘R’ stands for Racing, and the DBR wasn’t remotely like the company’s production models, though experience gained in building them did contribute to Aston Martin’s custom-built 1950s racers, the DB3S and the DBR1.

The latter had various incarnations with the engine, space-frame chassis and rear transaxle specially made to be teamed with components like disc brakes and suspension from the earlier DB3S. Five were built.

Initially, the DBR1 had a 2.5 liter engine — made for a new formula introduced after a tragic accident at Le Mans in 1955, when Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR hurtled into the crowd, killing both driver and 80 spectators in the world’s worst-ever motor racing disaster. After gearbox failure in the 1956 race, the DBR1 acquired a larger engine in the hope of challenging the Jaguar D-types, Maserati 450Ss and Ferrari 250s – and the car did indeed enjoy modest success in 1957. The return of gearbox problems blighted the 1958 campaign, but all that changed in 1959.

Ten years after he bought Aston Martin, David Brown saw a long-held ambition fulfilled. After an engine upgrade, XSK 497 sped to victory in the prestigious Le Mans 24 race, driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori. Aston Martin went on to clinch the 1959 World Sportscar Championship by winning the final race of the series at Goodwood when the DBR1 of Shelby, Stirling Moss and Jack Fairman triumphed. Having reached this peak of achievement, David Brown withdrew Aston Martin from competition and set about cashing in on newly acquired racetrack reputation by creating a series of superb road cars.




1956 (until 1959)


2,493 cc or 2,992 cc DOHC Straight Six


Top speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) when slipstreaming


When Aston Martin clinched the 1959 World Sportscar Championship at Goodwood the car driven by Stirling Moss went up in flames, putting the official pit out of commission – privateer Graham Whitehead then scratched his DBR1 to allow the factory entries to refuel, Moss switched to another car… and drove to victory.


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