Simanaitis Says

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FIFTY-ONE YEARS BEFORE James Bond piloted his DB-5 to fame in Goldfinger (1964), Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford established Aston Martin. The “Aston” came from Aston Hill, where Martin raced specials of his own construction. 

An Ownership Succession. Over the years, Aston Martin had its ups and downs, setting some sort of record for going bankrupt seven times. Among its rescuers were Count Louis Zborowski, he of the Chitty-Bang-Bangs; engineer Augustus “Bert” Bertelli, technical director and designer between 1926 and 1937; industrialist David Brown, he of the DB lineage between 1947 and 1972; as well as the likes of Ford Motor Co., 1987–2007, and Daimler AG, 2013–present.

The Bertelli sports cars are from what’s now considered the vintage era. The 1934 Aston Martin Mark II was a Salon feature in the June 1954 R&T. Here are tidbits from that article, together with my usual Internet sleuthing. 

This and other images by Rolofson from R&T, June 1954.

R&T cited a 1921 Autocar article concerning Aston Martin pricing: “sufficiently high to allow the designer ample scope to perfect the details.” Back in 1954, R&T said “… its remarkable specifications and performance still bear out the statement made in 1921.”

A True Classic Sports Car. I particularly admire this Mark II’s four-seat configuration. Recall that in the earliest days of Le Mans, this was required seating, though by the 1930s two-seaters were permitted.

“The chassis,” R&T noted, “is typical of the period with semi elliptic springs all around. Wheelbase is 103 inches; tread, 52 inches; tire size 5.25 x 18. With a rear axle ratio of 4.66 to 1 the engine turns 3350 revolutions per mile and the cruising speed at 2500 fpm (piston speed) is a satisfactory 69.5 mph.” A Mark II’s top speed was 85 mph.

The Bertelli’s SOHC Four. “The engine,” R&T wrote, “is a beautiful piece of machinery, well-engineered and solidly built. The crankshaft is literally massive and fully counter-balanced to reduce loads on the three main bearings.” 

R&T continued, “The bore and stroke are typical of the era, at 2.74 x 3.88 inches giving 1496 cc or 91 cu. in. The compression ratio is 7.5 to 1, very high for a 1934 car—about like 10 to 1 would be today, in comparison. The single overhead camshaft is driven by a long roller chain with a single leaf-spring type of tensioner to take up wear and eliminate slap.”

A Brief Drive. “Photographer Rolofson even managed to drive this treasure for a short distance and reported it was very easy to control except for the unfamiliar left-handed shift. His biggest surprise came from a totally unexpected department, the ride. Sports car of the thirties invariably have no ‘ride,’ but the Aston Martin is nearly as comfortable as a full semi-elliptic American passenger car of the pre-knee-action era.” 

The Owner’s Experience. R&T said, “Many of the highly esteemed, greatly renowned, classic sports cars are, to put it bluntly, temperamental, ill-mannered, unreliable Beasts. But a short talk with the car’s present owner revealed that, in his six years of ownership, the car has been thoroughly reliable, has covered over 32,000 miles without difficulty.”

“As for performance,” R&T continued, “the owner is no hot-rodder, yet he reports no trouble with the younger element aboard certain modern 1250 cc machinery, either at the stop lights or out on the open highway.”

Eat your hearts out, 1950s’ MG drivers. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

4 comments on “ASTON MARTIN MARK II

  1. Bill Rabel
    July 5, 2021

    Aside from a plastic surgeon’s receptionist, there is nothing else that ages less and with such elegance as an Aston Martin motorcar.
    – from Comments at

  2. Bob DuBois
    July 6, 2021

    I noticed that from the 1950’s and 60’s R&T road tests always included a cruising speed at 2500 fpm piston speed. Why was that important, then, and why was it finally dropped from the tests? Yes, I have been reading and subscribing to R&T since the mid-50’s.

    • simanaitissays
      July 7, 2021

      Hi, Bob,
      It was John Bond’s preferred measure of engine longevity, particularly telling in long-stroked engines of the past. I suspect that it became less relevant with enhanced metallurgy of piston rings and the like. (A ‘ring job’ was a not uncommon bit of engine renewal.)

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