1964 Aston Martin DB5 convertible – complete with very first car phone in Britain – owned originally by Peter Sellers and subsequently by Princess Margaret’s husband to be auctioned
A “regal runaround” – a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 convertible owned first by the actor, comedian and avid car collector Peter Sellers CBE and then by both the 1st and 2nd Earls of Snowdon – is to be sold at auction next month.
Ordered new complete with the very first wireless Motorola car phone in Britain – which the then Viscount Linley later described as working “a bit like a walkie-talkie; you clicked a button twice and got through to the exchange” – the Caribbean pearl blue, Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera designed car was one of only 123 soft-top variants produced.
Featuring a 282 bhp 4-litre straight-six engine, “mated to a state-of-the-art five-speed ZF manual gearbox,” according to auctioneers Bonhams, the vehicle is “capable of a 145 mph top speed.” It came with extras numbering fog lamps, a cigar lighter, a dark blue hood and cover and non-standard chrome roadwheels also.
In the possession of Sellers, it is believed, for just a year, the vehicle passed to his friend, the then husband of Princess Margaret, the former Anthony Armstrong-Jones, circa 1965 and was used for “family journeys” in Chelsea, Mayfair and Soho and even also for roadtrips to places as far away as Prague.
Tellingly, the 1st Earl supposedly “smuggled Lady Jacqueline Rufus Isaacs, daughter of the Marquis and Marchioness of Reading, away from his country house when the Princess returned home unexpectedly one evening” in the boot of the car, whilst Bonhams add, the 2nd Earl recalled: “We always had the windows down so my mother could smoke her cigarettes.”
Kept subsequently at the National Motoring Museum at Beaulieu, the 1st Earl gave his son the car to mark his 25th birthday in 1986 and during the next period, it was altered, rebuilt and maintained by Aston Martin Service Works.
Speaking of the convertible to Aston Martin magazine and driving it to Italy even, the 2nd Earl of Snowdon – known professionally as ‘David Linley’ – mused:
“[When my father gave me the car], it had already spent a few years at the motoring museum at Beaulieu and my father advised me that it might be quite a good idea to leave it there… But I was 25, for God’s sake, and living in London – the car didn’t stay in the museum!”
“I loved that it had this patina that reminded me of my father. Everywhere I went in Italy it was: ‘Che bella macchina!’ [what a beautiful machine].”
Sold on in 2002 after “the pain and pleasure of owning a classic vehicle mounted up” for Viscount Linley, the car is believed to have been in the ownership of the radio and television presenter Chris Evans since circa 2011.
The Aston Martin has most recently been offered for sale by Joe Macari – whom declared of it on their website: “[It] was given to Lord Snowden’s son, Viscount Linley, who sold it in an auction in order to raise money to pay the Death Duty on his inheritance. While only £3 million was required to pay the duty, over £13 million was raised leading to Lord Snowden accusing his son of selling anything that wasn’t laid down… The chance to own such a stunning car with such interesting provenance is a rare one!”
The vehicle will be now be auctioned on Friday 9th July at the Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale at Goodwood, near Chichester. The firm have set an estimate of £1.4 million to £1.7 million and commenting, director of Bonhams Motoring Cars UK, Sholto Gilbertson, commented:
“If ever a car defined an era, this DB5 is surely on the shortlist. Not only was it one of the most desirable and thoroughbred sportscars of its day but it has an extraordinary provenance being owned by the crème de la crème of the 1960s.”
Going further and speaking about letting it go, the now 2nd Earl of Snowdon added:
“I sold it and everybody said it was a great price. Obviously, I had no idea that the market was about to go completely crazy.”
“The thing is, if you are always going back on what you did and regretting things, you just start beating yourself up. You do what you think is right at the time, right?”
“Should I have sold it? No. Do I regret it? Yes. Can I put back the clock? No. Could I pay five million pounds to buy it back? Definitely not! But it [the sale] helped get Serena [his then wife] and I on a steady keel. I got the Linley business working. Got a job here at Christie’s. Got myself in a better place.”
The Names & Numbers
Friday 9th July 2021 – Bonhams will offer the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 convertible with an estimate of £1.3 million to £1.7 million ($1.8 million to $2.4 million, €1.5 million to €2 million or درهم6.8 million to درهم8.9 million) at their Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale on Friday 9th July 2021.
2015 – Chris Evans is pictured in the car just as he is announced as the replacement presenter of the hit show Top Gear in a multi-million pound deal that made him the BBC’s highest paid presenter at that time.
Circa 2011 – Believed to have been sold to television and radio presenter Chris Evans around this time.
2002 – Sold by the subsequent 2nd Earl of Snowdon, the now former Viscount Linley, in order to pay towards the death duties incurred by his late mother’s estate.
1986 – Valued at £30,000 or the equivalent of £90,000 today ($128,000, €104,000 or درهم469,000 today), according to Aston Martin Magazine and given by the 1st Earl of Snowdon to his son, then Viscount Linley, to mark the latter’s 25th birthday.
Dates unknown in this period – Kept at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire.
Circa 1965 – Sold “at a loss” to Lord Snowdon, the former Anthony Armstrong-Jones, according to GQ magazine.
July 1964 – First registered in the name of Peter Sellars. The cost of the convertible new at the time was £4,490 or the equivalent of £93,000 today ($132,000, €108,000 or درهم484,000 today). This was “well above the average house price of the time, assuring that only a privileged few were able to afford one. The epitome of British elegance and class, celebrities snapped them up – Peter Sellers, Beryl Reid, and even HRH Princess Margaret could be spotted in a DB5 convertible,” according to RM Sotheby’s whom sold a 1965 left-hand drive example for £1.9 million ($2.7 million, €2.2 million or درهم9.9 million) in December 2017.