The Fifth Oldest Aston Martin in the World

In 2020 I saw and photographed what’s thought to be the fifth oldest-surviving Aston Martin in the world, at the Concours of Elegance. This 1924 long-chassis Cloverleaf tourer is one very special vehicle. For the sake of accuracy, we should henceforth refer to it as a ‘Bamford & Martin’, as it’s one of just 55 built before company founder Lionel Martin was forced out of the firm he’d set up with Robert Bamford in 1913. Martin was a perfectionist, determined that every car he produced would be of the finest quality. He refused to worry about such trivialities as turning a profit; in fact, he lost money on every vehicle he made.

Martin saw his firm as a British Bugatti, yet he lacked Ettore’s resources and, perhaps inevitably, went bust in 1925. Aston Martin Motors emerged less than a year later under the control of Bill Renwick and Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli; however, shortly before he lost his business, Lionel Martin got behind the wheel of XR 1981. According to marque specialist – and current curator – Ecurie Bertelli, Martin drove this car right off the production line before taking it on a tour of the South Downs. He also drove a near-identical Cloverleaf to victory at Aston Hill in October 1924, where this car finished second and another B&M third.

In the hands of its second owner, David Cole, XR 1981 took victory at Silverstone’s prestigious St John Horsfall Memorial meeting in 1969. It was here that the car was awarded the coveted green AMOC crest that it wears to this day. After Cole passed, the car laid in storage for four decades before it was bought by pre-war Aston aficionado John Browning. He then spent a decade piecing together this model’s exceptional history, before committing it to a five-year restoration to return it to its 1924 heyday.

Aston Martin long-chassis Cloverleaf tourer 2

Bringing things up to date, the car won its class at the Aston Martin Owners Club Greenwich Spring Concours in 2013 and the Autumn Concours at Sudeley Castle in 2015. Since then it’s appeared on UK TV a few times; first on BBC’s Countryfile in 2014 (driven by presenter Matt Baker) then in Licence to Thrill: Paul Hollywood Meets Aston Martin in 2015. Yuki Hayashi has had the privilege of owning this remarkable piece of British motoring history since 2018.


1.5-litre, inline-four, sidevalve, 38bhp, single carburettor


Front-engine, four-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive, steel ladder-type chassis, aluminium body over wood frame, front and rear solid axles with leaf springs front and rear finned drum brakes


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