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The DBR1 Was Aston Martin's First Giant-Killer

Road & Track logo Road & Track 2017-08-09 Chris Perkins
The DBR1 Was Aston Martin's First Giant-Killer © RM Sotheby's/Tim Scott The DBR1 Was Aston Martin's First Giant-Killer

Back in the 1950s, Aston Martin was incredibly small British company, but one that benefited from an ambitious owner, David Brown, and a handful of brilliant engineers. No car epitomized Aston's genius more than the DBR1, its greatest race car.

Video: 2017 Aston Martin DB11 -- /TEST/DRIVE (provided by The Drive)

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This particular car, the first of five DBR1s built, is headed to RM Sotheby's Monterey Auction later this month, where it could easily become the most expensive Aston ever. Most notably, it was driven to victory by Stirling Moss at the 1959 Nurburgring 1000km race. This win, along with victories at Le Mans and Goodwood, helped Aston clinch a constructor's title in the World Sportscar Championship that year.

The DBR1 was as unlikely a car as any to achieve this level of success - especially four years after its 1956 competition debut. The car was developed by a small team led by engineer Ted Cutting, who according to Aston historian Stephen Archer, designed the chassis, engine, and bodywork himself.

© RM Sotheby's/Tim Scott

It's powered by a 3.0-liter straight-six that sends around 300 hp to a five-speed transaxle. The DBR1's chassis is a tubular space frame, with lightweight aluminum bodywork laid over the top.

The DBR1 was reportedly an easy handling car, and it could comfortably top 175 mph down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. Those qualities helped the DBR1 take first and second at the 24-hour classic in 1959 - Aston's only overall victory at the track.

This particular DBR1 was raced at various points by Moss, along with Roy Salvadori, Carrol Shelby, and Jack Brabham, and comes fitted with a spare engine. The original engine comes with the car, but it's arguably too valuable to race now.

Given its incredible history, you could convincingly argue that the DBR1 is the most important car Aston Martin has ever built. Sure, the James Bond-approved DB5 might have made the company a household name, but the DBR1 gave Aston real motorsport credentials.

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