- Chassis No.
- Price on request
“What a car! Without a doubt it gave me the finest motoring I ever had. I did everything with that wonderful car – trials, touring, club racing – and even had the passenger side of the cockpit lined with some green baize and took my long-suffering fiancée on our honeymoon to the South of France in it (I married her first, of course!).” Mortimer ‘Mort’ Morris-Goodall reminisces on time spent at the wheel of LM7 in ASTON, the yearbook of the Aston Martin Heritage Trust
The inter-war years produced some titanic battles on European racetracks and at long-distance events such as the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Mille Miglia. At the front might be big-capacity Alfa Romeo 8Cs, Bentleys and Mercedes, but only a little further back were smaller sports cars from Frazer Nash, MG, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo.
The quintessential marque from this category was Aston Martin, whose well-proportioned, fine-handling and expertly managed entries scored countless class and team successes throughout the 1930s.
For many skilled and wealthy drivers – Prince Bira, ERA’s backer Humphrey Cook, ‘Bentley Boy’ Dr Dudley Benjafield and others – racing an Aston Martin at Brooklands, the Tourist Trophy or Le Mans was another way of satisfying their craving for speed and excitement at the very peak of the sport.
This 1931 Aston Martin Team Car LM7, veteran of the Le Mans 24 Hours twice, the Brooklands Double Twelve and RAC Tourist Trophy, is one.
The 1931 Aston Martin Team Cars
Aston Martin, now under the control of wealthy heir William ‘Bill’ Renwick and engineer racing driver Augustus ‘Bert’ Bertelli – with a young Claude Hill in the drawing office – moved into four brick buildings in Feltham in late-1926. The location would serve as the base for the company’s famous forays to Le Mans and beyond that cumulated in overall victory at the 24 Hours in 1959.
The owners declared their intention to offer vehicles that could be “driven straight to France and without any special preparation compete successfully in the Grand Prix d’Endurance at Le Mans”.
In 1928, the first two of what would ultimately be 23 (‘specially prepared’, indeed,) pre-War Aston Martin Team Cars emerged, appropriately given chassis numbers LM1 and LM2. Both entered that year’s French 24-hour epic, but success eluded them. LM3 followed in 1929, LM4 in 1930 – neither of which made it to La Sarthe.
For 1931, with the handy injection of cash from HJ Aldington of Frazer Nash, three more chassis were commissioned, LM5, LM6 and LM7. They were the final development of Bertelli’s original concept: based on the International chassis but with new, high-compression heads for the four-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine that now gave 70bhp at 5,000rpm and a 90mph capability, and wider brake drums and shoes operated by Perot shafts. The cars ran on a mixture of 75% ethyl, 25% pure benzol.
A four-speed gearbox transferred power from the engine to the worm-drive axle and a degree of weight saving was achieved by drilling – though the methodical Bertelli did not really approve of the practice. Double-capacity (to five gallons) dry sump oil tanks sat below the water radiators, shortened three inches for reduced weight and a lower frontal area. Extensive modifications were made to make the cars reliable in top-level events, including fitting straight-cut timing gears and a heavily reinforced and braced axle, a known weak spot.
The three finished cars were smart and businesslike and, for the first time, of identical appearance. ‘Harry’ Bertelli (Bert’s brother) built the bodies to a design that featured a long bonnet, cycle wings and a long, drooping tail that covered the horizontally mounted spare wheel and 22-gallon, twin-filler fuel tank. There were no doors. Driver and riding mechanic sat in bucket seats behind a dual-cowl scuttle and folding screen. A big-bore outside exhaust completed the quintessentially 1930s British sports car look.
Allotted the Middlesex registration numbers HX 4321, 4322 and 4323 respectively, LM5, 6 and 7 were ready for action.
Period racing history of LM7
“In May, a column of green cars emerged from the Works yard at Feltham, down Victoria Road, and headed through the town for nearby Brooklands, where for the third year in succession, Aston Martin were to pit their might against the cream of the world’s sports cars.” Former owner of LM7 and distinguished marque historian Inman Hunter describes the first outing of the 1931 Team Cars LM5, LM6 and LM7 in his standard work on the subject, Aston Martin 1913-1947
According to the records of the Aston Martin Owners Club, LM7 was entered in the following races as a Team Car:
8-9 May 1931, Brooklands Double Twelve.
LM7’s first race was the Brooklands Double Twelve and ‘Bentley Boy’ Dr JD Benjafield shared the car with Humphrey Cook. Only LM5 finished and it was a disappointing outing for the Feltham cars, which also suffered the vicissitudes of the handicapper who’d favoured the 14 MG Midgets running in the same class.
14-14 June 1931, Le Mans 24 Hours
From Brooklands, the cars were returned to the works and prepared for Le Mans. Other than regular pre-race checks, Bertelli swapped the production cars’ Craftsmen headlamps for large and powerful Zeiss units. That decision turned out to be a serious error.
For Le Mans, LM7 was again given to Humphrey Cook, who shared it with hard-driving ex-motorcycle racer and Aston Martin Service Manager Jack Bezzant (generally paired with Bertelli himself). The team started well with all three cars in formation and well in the top 10 after four hours. As night fell, the bolts securing the big and heavy Zeiss headlamps began to fracture, starting a procession of cars into the pits for repairs. The problem (possibly caused by the rough pounding received at Brooklands) then spread to other fixing at the front of the car and LM7 lost its nearside front wing, which it then ran over, forcing its exclusion from the event under the strict rules of the day. Some sources suggest that LM7 did, indeed, finish the race, but Club and photographic evidence indicates otherwise, and that the only finisher was LM6 (Bertelli/Harvey), which came in a superb 5th overall.
16 August 1931, Ards Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy
All three cars had suffered at Le Mans and for the daunting road circuit in Northern Ireland received a heavy cross-tube that spanned the front wheel arches. LM7 was fitted with a set of wings salvaged from an older Team Car that had been sold at the end of the 1930 season. These ‘smooth’ (without reinforcing rib) wings have distinguished the car ever since. In order to meet TT regulations, the cars’ tails were modified so the spare wheel could be accessible without removing the seats. And, in order to accommodate outsize carburettors, a large ‘power bulge’ was fitted to the offside bonnet.
Humphrey Cook once again drove LM7, and the team was in high spirits anticipating possible Class and Team awards on the smooth Tarmac at Ards. Troubles with carburation in practice, though, could not be fixed properly for the race due to lack of spares, and Cook started in the knowledge that he would hit trouble on the flat-out sections of the course. He was the only Team Car not to have the modified parts and retired on lap 25. His fellow team members in LM5 and LM6 ran strongly, the only 1,500cc cars to finish.
At the end of the 1931 season, after featuring in a December 1931 Motor Sport road test, LM7 was sold to Mortimer Morris-Goodall. Known as ‘Mort’, he already had experience of racing an Aston and was offered such a good deal on his International that he could not refuse the chance of a genuine ex-Factory car. Morris-Goodall competed with it throughout 1932, mainly at Brooklands and on long-distance trials such as the London-Edinburgh and London-Land’s End, winning Silver Medals on both. The following year, Mort carried on racing and trialling LM7 and the pair was co-opted to the Factory team for Le Mans. He co-founded the Aston Martin Owners Club (AMOC) in 1935, raced at Le Mans in a variety of cars and was team manager for Healey (1950), Jaguar (1953, including the win at Le Mans) and – perhaps surprisingly – ‘Lucky’ Casner’s Camoradi Maseratis at Le Mans in 1960.
17-18 June 1933, Le Mans 24 Hours
In 1933, Morris-Goodall and LM7 had already received some works assistance at Brooklands for the Junior Car Club 1000 Mile Race, so it was no surprise that the cash-strapped (again…) Feltham company asked him to bolster its two-car – 1932 cars LM9 and LM10 – entry for the Le Mans 24 Hours. ‘Sammy’ Davis co-drove with Bertelli and managed the team. This time, LM7 was driven by its owner sharing with Mrs Elsie ‘Bill’ Wisdom, an experienced driver dubbed a ‘Speed Queen’ by the press with a string of results at the wheel of her own Frazer Nash and a works Riley Nine she had shared with Joan Richmond at Brooklands in 1931, setting a fastest lap of 121.47mph.
Le Mans 1933 was her first venture at La Sarthe, but Mrs Wisdom was soon lapping the circuit consistently at competitive speeds. In fact, the car was doing remarkably well, but it was when she was at the wheel at 03:00 on Sunday morning that a bearing cap broke, a conrod went through the side of the block and LM7 was out. Despite another mudguard scare, LM9 finished 5th overall and LM10 7th.
At the end of the year, having become a fully-fledged member of the Works team, Mort sold his valiant car. Brooklands Track and Air magazine asked: “Exactly how many thousands of miles have been covered by the Aston Martin raced by Morris-Goodall?” adding, “Was this not an excellent tribute to the value of dry sump lubrication which is a feature of all Aston Martins?”
After three years at the top, LM7 passed into the hands of others. Apart from a race entry for a ‘Rickard’ at Silverstone in 1958 and a feature in Veteran and Vintage magazine in October 1965, its subsequent retirement was peaceful before its purchase by Inman ‘Ted’ Hunter, the first Registrar of the AMOC, in the late 1960s.
Hunter, with the assistance of Les Wigmore, instigated a total restoration to almost original condition bar the troublesome worm-drive rear axle. No longer available, this was replaced with a more reliable spiral bevel-drive unit from a later Le Mans. The car was then a regular on the Club and show circuit, before its purchase by Pink Floyd Drummer Nick Mason in the late 1970s.
Mason, then owner of pre-War Aston specialist Morntane Engineering, raced the car himself and lent it to members of his family, friends or Morntane staff such as contemporary ‘Speed Queen’ Judy Hogg. It was a familiar sight at AMOC events throughout the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s, picking up class awards and prizes at meetings such as the annual St John Horsfall meeting.
Nick Mason remembers the car today as “one of the most delightful Team Cars” he has owned.
Our Italian client bought LM7 from Mason in 2007. Since then, he has campaigned it throughout Europe, including competing in five Mille Miglia retrospectives. The car has been well maintained and is in excellent driving condition, bearing a delightful patina from decades of fast touring and well-financed and skilfully handled outings on the racing circuits. Remarkably, it still bears the registration given to it May 1931: ‘HX 4323’.
Unlike that of many other makes, the record-keeping of the Aston Martin Owners Club – the only club dedicated to the marque in the world – is such that this car has unimpeachable history as a genuine Team Car.
LM7 simply oozes history from its every pore. Highly event eligible, and with lively performance from its well-developed motor, LM7 is an opportunity for a forward-thinking connoisseur to add a genuinely important car from one of the grandest of marques to his collection. Unlike other sectors in recent times, interest in sporting European pre-War cars has never ebbed – this car ticks all the boxes of badge, history, eligibility and real-world usable performance for two. It has given many “the finest motoring” they ever had: this could be your turn.