40-year-old Aston Martin "barn find" special heads to auction

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One of only three ever made, the Aston Martin Sotheby Special has surfaced after almost 40 years in storage(Credit: H and H Auctions)

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One of only three models ever made, an early 1970s Aston Martin "Sotheby Special" has surfaced after almost 40 years in storage, and is set to be auctioned later this year. With a bespoke fiberglass body mounted on a DBS V8 chassis, the vehicle was a radical departure from Aston Martin styling of the time. Given the dilapidated state of this particular example, however, it looks like it will require a good deal of restoration to bring that style back to life.

Originally designed as a very limited range of promotional vehicles in a collaboration between cigarette manufacturer WD & HO Wills and Sotheby's auction house, this special Aston Martin was created by Ogle Design – the London-based studio that produced the Reliant Scimitar GTE and the (in)famous Bond Bug.

This specific car, though originally an apparently largely-functioning, fully-finished example, was created only for display purposes and was never road-registered. Of the other two known versions of this model, one was a road-legal, registered version that saw duties as a promotional vehicle traveling extensively around the UK and Europe before being repainted and used as a promotional car for the Graham Hill Grand Prix team.

The other was a private commission for a person who, after seeing the vehicle on the BBC TV program Tomorrow's World, convinced the manufacturer to build one specifically for them. Aston Martin did so, but at a cost in 1973 of £28,750 (US$44,400). The standard V8 Aston Martin Saloon of the time was already a hefty £8749 (US$13,500), so the one and only customer for this vehicle paid a princely sum for the privilege of ownership.

The interior of this recently uncovered example sports some interesting features, including a "glasshouse" roof constructed entirely from glass and supported by Reynolds tubing, upholstery in a vibrant and, let's say interesting, green, plus an unusual rear seating arrangement where there one-person sits in a sideways-facing seat.

Up front resides the remains of an Aston Martin prototype 5,340 cc, fuel-injected V8 engine along with a 5 speed ZF gearbox. The condition of both of these units is unclear, however much of the ancillaries seem largely to be missing from the engine bay and no mention is made in the auction catalog as to their whereabouts or availability.

One of the most unusual features of the Sotheby Special is the arrangement of 22 tail lights that were designed to light up progressively in relation to the amount of force applied to the brake pedal. Not quite as radical, but quite interesting, the front headlamps have downward-dropping flaps that operate hydraulically when the lights are switched on.

With an auction estimate of around £100,000 - 120,000 (US$155,000 - $185,000), the Sotheby Special is predicted to generate a great deal of interest. It's slated to go under the hammer at H and H Classic Auctions at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, England, on October 14 this year.

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