Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’: Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell…

Posted: September 22, 2015 in Sports Racers, Who,What,Where & When...?
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lex aintree

2VEV Chassis # 0183/R…

Lex Davison aboard 2 VEV at Aintree in July 1961. He won the 51 mile GT race after a battle with Jack Sears’ Jaguar E-Type. He took the lead on the last lap, perhaps recording the car’s only race win in-period.

2 VEV chassis #0183/R was registered to John Ogier’s Essex Wire Racing Team on 19 May 1961. One of 19 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato’s, this most famous car was raced by Aussies Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell at Le Mans in 1961 alongside 1 VEV, driven by Jack Fairman and Bernard Consten.

The cars had factory support but the race was a disaster. Both failed to finish due to head studs which had been insufficiently tightened/torqued, they ran as high as 15th and 17th behind the open Aston DBR1s before withdrawal from the 24-Hour classic.

le mans start Le Mans 1961 start;#1 Dewez/Kerguen DB4Z , #2 Fairman/Consten DB4Z, #3 Davison/Stillwell DB4Z, #4 Salvadori/Maggs Aston DBR1, #5 Clark/Flockhart Aston DBR1 all DNF. The race was won by the Gendebien/Phil Hill Ferrari 250TR (unattributed)

Davison had only 25 laps under his belt when the head gasket failed at Le Mans (MotorSport)

Davison and Stillwell, Australian multiple champions both, had immaculate Aston Martin connections, having raced Grand Prix Aston DBR4s in Australia, see here; Lex’ Aston Martin DBR4/250’s… | primotipo…

Indeed, Lex came within feet of winning the 1960 Australian GP at Lowood, Queensland. He was pipped on the line by Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati after a thrilling, race long dice.

It was the closest any of these wonderful but outdated cars came to Grand Prix win. Lex also contested a few 1962 Intercontinental Formula races in the UK aboard a DBR4.

davo Lex Davison contesting an Intercontinental Formula race at Brands Hatch in his bruised Aston DBR4/250 #4 in 1961. The car was then 3-litre DBR1 powered (unattributed)

Back to the GT Zagato, Lex won at Aintree in July after the battle with Jack Sears’ Jag E-Type. Motor magazine reported that Davison “looked like the prosperous middle aged businessman that he is, rather than a dashing man about town”. In fact he was a champion middle-aged racing driver, a four time winner of the Australian Grand Prix no less!

Jim Clark contested the 1961 RAC Tourist Trophy in it at Goodwood in August, but the SWB Ferrari 250s were too quick, Salvadori and Clark took third and fourth respectively in VEV1 and 2.

2 VEV was loaned to Equipe National Belge to race in the 1962 GP of Spa for GT cars. Lucien Bianchi led the race before losing the car and totalling it. In five weeks the it was rebuilt by the factory around a new chassis to DP209 ultimate lightweight specifications The machine emerged with a lower, flatter roofline, longer nose and tail, and wider rear wheel arches than a standard DB4Z.

clarc Oh-so-famous shot of Jim Clark in Aston DB4GT Zagato 2 VEV, 1962 Goodwood RAC TT (unattributed)

Clark raced the car again in the 1962 Tourist Trophy at Goodwood that August. Having just pitted, and on coolish tyres, he lost control as the car settled after traversing the 120mph Madgwick Hump, he spun into the path of John Surtees’ leading Ferrari 250 GTO, taking then both out of the race. More works surgery to 2 VEV was required. The car raced again in Clark’s hands in the Paris 1000km, but failed while in co-driver Sir John Whitmore’s hands.

calrk and surtees Surtees Ferrari 250 GTO and Clark’s Aston DB4 Zagato at Goodwood ’62. Clark spun taking Surtees out on lap 62 of 100. The race was won by Innes Ireland’s UDT-Laystall Ferrari 250 GTO (unattributed)

The car then ran in minor events in John Ogier’s ownership until 1964, racing on into the late 1960s and historic racing after that. 2 VEV was damaged in a road accident in 1993 and was restored/rebuilt to its 1962 specifications, the poor old darlin’ had by that point, ‘more hits than Elvis’ as the saying goes…

goodwood start 1962 Goodwood RAC TT start; Clark is the bolter in his DB4Z. #15 is the winning Ireland 250 GTO, #6 Surtees’ ill fated GTO, #5 Mike Parkes GTO, #8 David Piper GTO, #25 Trevor Taylor/Gil Baird Lotus Elite (unattributed)
longford Australia’s only DB4Z, #DB4GT/0186/R, the fourteenth built, was owned by Sydney’s Laurie O’Neill. Here it’s pictured in the Longford paddock in March 1962. It was raced in a support event by thrice AGP winner Doug Whiteford (Ron Lambert Collection)

The DB4GT Zagato…

The Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato was introduced to the world at the London Motor Show in October 1960.

It was effectively a DB4 GT improved by Carrozzeria Zagato, Ercole Spada is the designer credited with the work. Smaller, more aerodynamic and about 100 pounds lighter than the DB4 GT, the Zagato’s twin-cam, two-valve, 45DCOE Weber fed 3670cc engine produced 314bhp @ 6,000rpm, 12 more than the DB4 GT giving it a top speed of 154mph.

Initially the factory planned 25 cars, but demand wasn’t strong enough so only 19 were completed, albeit 23 chassis numbers had been allocated. Four modern Sanction 2 Coupes were built on DB4 rolling chassis completed by Richard Williams (RSW) to the order of Aston Martin using the unused chassis numbers from 1987-91.

Ex-Zagato employee Mario Galbiatti (with Zagato’s approval) built the bodies using Williams’ own dismantled Zagato as a template. Completed and launched in July 1991, in 1993 Williams completed two more Aston Martin Lagonda approved Sanction 3 cars using left over Sanction 2 bits. Not to forget AML’s own 19 April 2019 Continuation Series DB4GTZs…

The first competition outing of a DB4 GT Zagato was during Goodwood’s 1961 Easter meeting. Driven by Stirling Moss, it finished third behind an Aston Martin DB4 GT and the winning Ferrari 250 GT.

motor show 1960 London Motor Show launch for the DB4GT Zagato.

Etcetera…

le mans paddock John Ogier’s two Aston DB4 Zagatos in the Le Mans paddock, 1961. #3 Davison/Stillwell, #2 Fairman/Consten (unattributed)
bernard reeves Painting of the Davison/Stillwell DB4Z, Le Mans 1961 (Bernard Reeves)

Credits…

Ron Bert Collection, Bernard Reeves, Jim McKeown Collection

Tailpiece…

(J McKeown)

Doug Whiteford in Laurie O’Neill’s Zagato with Jim McKeown, Jewitt Holden and George Spanos, Elfin Streamliner Ford on the front row of the grid. Longford GT race in 1962 won by Whiteford from McKeown.

Finito…

Comments
  1. Joe Armour says:

    Back in gthe mid 1960s I read an Australian paperback novel which was the story of a young FJ Holden tin-top driver who was scouted by ‘the entrant’ and went on to race an Aston DB4 GT or Zagato ( it was a long time ago ) but I have never been able to find the title or author. I once meet Spencer Martin and asked him if he was aware of the novel as it was very similar to his story

  2. […] Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato ‘2 VEV’: Lex Davison and Bib Stillwell… […]

  3. […] The Aston DB4 GT Zagato has Victorian plates, I wonder which of the two (?) which came to Australia in period it is. It looks well used which is rather nice. Laurie O’Neill had one which Doug Whiteford and Pete Geoghegan gave a bit of a gallop, but wasn’t there another too? Intrigued to know which chassis this is and whereabouts the shot is taken. Check out this article on the cars; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/ […]

  4. […] is a bit about Lex and Bib’s adventures in Astons in 1961 here; https://primotipo.com/2015/09/22/aston-martin-db4gt-zagato-2vev-lex-davison-and-bib-stillwell/ After that Lex shipped the car to the UK to contest a number of Intercontinental Formula races that […]

  5. Ron Simmonds says:

    Colin Hymns also had a Zagato here in Melbourne, I would see this car when it came into A F Hollins motors for Lou Russo to wave his magic wand over it. Colin now lives in the UK and has done so for many years,he is on FB if you look him up. Cheers Simmo.

  6. Ron Simmonds says:

    That would be Colin Hyams ,spell check again .Cheers Simmo.

  7. Richard Owen says:

    Lovely article. However, may I respectively challenge your comment to the photo of Laurie O’Neill’s DB4 Zagato in the Longford Paddock in 1962. The photo is captioned as “Australia’s only DB4Z”. I’m sure I recall seeing an Aston green DB4Z racing in period at Katoomba’s Catalina Park, I think driven by Lex Davidson.

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Richard,
      Am certainly not an expert on these cars in any respect, i thought we only had the one but that may not be the case- lets see what comes back from others, i am away from home at present so don’t have access to my copy of Lex’ biography to have a quick peek there.
      Mark

  8. Colin Smeal says:

    I have vivid memories as a car-mad 16-year-old coming across a beautiful white DB4 Zagato parked out the front of the Chevron Hilton in Macleay St Kings Cross sometime in 1961. I was stunned by its simple beauty and while I knew of the DB4Z existence I never for a moment thought I would ever see one. I must have spent at least half an hour just walking around and admiring that car. It subsequently appeared on the cover of our late lamented Sports Car World magazine and was identified as Laurie O’Niell’s.To think that there was actually another one in Victoria when there were only 19 in the world is amazing. On another night, parked outside the Australia Hotel in Elizabeth Street there was another stunner – a red 300SL Mercedes-Benz roadster. It also showed up on the cover of SCW. To me, 60 years later, these two cars still stand out as near perfection in design to my mind.

    • markbisset says:

      Yes Colin,
      Both wonderful cars and now ‘global investments’which is a shame of course. We all have that first jaw dropping moment don’t we? For me it was being rounded up on my bike at 14 or 16 by a pistachio Miura S on a ride to Bulleen to see my favourite Lotus Europa- i heard it well before it went quickly past with me unleashing a suitable ‘pwoooahhh’. Sports Car World, wow, what can you say, nothing has ever replaced it.
      I was talking to a guy involved in ‘Australian Muscle Car’ magazine last week, it sells 20,000 issues bi-monthly and is profitable on that number so that is the challenge in Australia. It does not sound like a lot but it is given the prevalence of so much online for free…
      Mark

  9. Michael Browning says:

    The Laurie O’Neiill DB4GT Zagato raced by Doug Whiteford was the only one in to ever come to Australia and was later sold to Colin Hyams, who changed its colour from cream to red. The car was later sold to an English enthusiast who brought it back to Australia for a Wheeltorque event in 2000 or 2001. Of these facts I am certain, as I saw its first race in Australia.

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