Aston Martin's 'Design Project' Masterclass

This was the Works entry for the 1963 Le Mans Prototype Class that truly set the bar for what the Aston Martin engineers could do. A wholly unique competition car, the Aston Martin Design Project known as DP215 was to become the last racing car built by the factory, and the ultimate evolution of the Aston Martin GT racers. It was ordered by John Wyer, designed by Ted Cutting, had an engine from Tadek Marek, and was driven by Phil Hill – these great names will always be associated with DP215.

It would be laughable today – a team manager sending a memo to the engineering department in March stating the exact specifications for a car that was to be ready for Le Mans, just two months away. And yet, for John Wyer, that was par for the course, as was the notoriously precise man setting a budget review at just £1,500. For Chief Engineer Ted Cutting, however, the project that would become DP215 allowed him to showcase his incredible automotive genius.

Though very similar in looks to the two prior DP214s, DP215 is a very different car under the skin. Originally created as a vehicle for Tadek Marek’s yet-to-be developed V8, for the 1963 season, DP215 was equipped with a four-litre version of the DP212 six-cylinder engine. Modifications to the chassis included allowing for the engine to be fitted a full 10 inches further back than in DP212, as well as independent rear suspension. Ted Cutting was focused on improving balance and aerodynamics – the culmination of years of wind-tunnel testing in response to driver complaints of rear lift at high speed.

Just two short months after John Wyer’s memo, Phil Hill and Lucien Bianchi drove DP215 in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans. It recorded at 198.6 mph along the Mulsanne Straight, and hadn't even reached top speed. Indeed in practice, the car became the first car to officially break the 300 kph barrier. Its lap time put it in amongst the Ferrari rear-engined prototypes. It was six seconds a lap faster than the Ferrari 330 LMB running in the same class and 12 seconds a lap faster than the Ferrari 250 GTOs in the GT class. DP215 looked to be a sure winner. Unfortunately, the DBR1-type CG537 gearbox failed due to the high torque of the four-litre engine, and DP215 retired after just two hours.

RM Sotheby's will be offering this very special 1963 Aston Martin DP215 Grand Touring Competition Prototype at their upcoming Monterey auction between the 24-25th August. Its estimated value is between $18m – $22m. For more information on this and other vehicles at the sale, click on the link below. Photos: Simon Clay ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's.