50s art in aluminium

Written by Kurt | Wednesday, 09 February 2011 15:55

astondb24kingbelgiumSome people say the 1950s were the heyday of car design and coachbuilding. They argue that nothing ever came close again in terms of style passion. When looking at two cars from that period, which were on the market in February, it's not hard to see why. The Aston Martin DB2/4 which was auctioned by Bonhams this month has a certain grandeur, even though it's not exceptionally beautiful. Same goes for the Ferrari 212 Inter Coupe which is going under the imaginery ebay hammer as we speak. In essence, though, the last one isn't really a car as it doesn't have a chassis or a drivetrain. It does, however, have some unequalled patina as it has not been 'pebble-beached'. Everything that's there is still original. Which is why it's worth examining the Ferrari and the Aston a bit further in this article.


The Ferrari body in question is one of the early Pinifarina coupes, it was actually built in 1952 and is one of the 17 coupes that were built by Pininfarina. As you would expect of the design house it's a sleek design with barely any frivolous features. This design vision was an exception in the 1950s. Which is only reinforced when Pinin Farina backed his design proposal to Ferrari with the following words: "Take the car from the world of melodramatics, monumentalism and the irreal and abstain forever from trinkets". 


The story goes that this 212, after using it for some years, was taken apart by its British owner to supply him with the chassis and drivetrain to build a 212 Touring Barchetta. He wanted "something more sporting," which sounds like a valid argument to butcher, let's say, a 1980s BMW, but an original 1950s Ferrari? Well he did anyway, as a result you can now buy the car body here on ebay. The reserve hasn't been met yet at $50.000 so it's interesting to see for how much this one will go in the end. It's certainly very original, has good paintwork and virtually no rust (most of it is aluminium). Also, the original interior is still there with some lovely patina not often seen on these cars. It would be good to see this thing restored with a minimalist approach, keeping it as original as possible with the patina being able to back up the great stories behind this car. We sincerely hope the future owner will do so and find the right V12 engine, gearbox and chassis. If possible THE original engine, gearbox and chassis from the 212 Barchetta for which it was basterdised. Let's hope the new owner can convince the tit who did the butchering to sell the original parts and return it to a time-warp example. One advantage is that it will be a much, much more valuable combination than it is now.


If this wishful thinking works, then it would make a good candidate to appear at vintage events next to the Aston Martin DB2/4 that was sold earlier this month by Bonhams. The DB2/4 was from the same era and it could be said that it was a competitor to the Ferraris of that time. Fitted with a 2.9 litre six-cylinder engine it is perhaps not as exciting as the Ferrari's V12. But, it makes that up with quite some pedigree, royal pedigree. It was once owned by the late King Baudouin of Belgium. Thankfully he didn't have the mad idea turning this suave English coupe into an Aston DB3S racer. As a result it was offered by Bonhams as a matching-numbers car and selling for €333.500. A lot more than the estimate €200.000-240.000.


Of course these aluminium bodied 'coachbuild' beauties are a thing of the past. But, it's good at least these cars still exist, capturing the 'zeitgeist' of the fifties and letting us return to a bygone era from time to time. These two cars envisage high-end luxury cars of the 1950s like no other. They're pretty, but not overly beautiful, they're quick, but not race car quick, they both have 4 seats, to carry some friends. With other words they were cars for elegant, sophisticated people (with friends). But, both having very different characteristics and appealing to different customer groups. The Ferrari perhaps a bit more nouveau-riche, the Aston Martin appealing to slightly more conservative types. Or as Autocar mentioned in 1953 in regards to the Aston Martin: "The Aston Martin DB2/4 is an expensive car designed to cater for the connoisseur of sports cars who is not limited by financial considerations." So, why is it then, that the modern equivalents of these cars are mostly driven by rappers and footballers? They're not limited by financial considerations, no, but are they connoisseurs of sports cars? Puh-lease, no way!