Number Plates - VMF 64
Choosing an Aston Martin registration number for this series proved to be very difficult, there were so many to choose from, all famous and well known. This was brought about by the fact that the works Aston Martin team in the nineteen-fifties always registered their sports and GT racing cars and drove them to and from the circuits, so that when a works Aston Martin raced it invariably did so in full road trim, with tax disc and number plates. The decision to feature VMF 64 was made on account of the variety of competition events in which it was successful and also because it was the personal road car of Sir David Brown, the “patron” of Aston Martin in the fifties.
The Aston Martin firm has passed through more owners’ hands than any other motor car manufacturer that I can think of, and in 1950 it belonged to David Brown (later Sir David), the cars carrying the prefix DB. In 1949 a prototype GT coupe had been built and raced, using Aston Martin chassis and suspension knowledge and a Lagonda 6-cylinder engine, David Brown owning both Aston Martin and Lagonda. This DB2 was a certain success and in 1950 the factory built three cars for their own racing use, identical to the production DB2 cars. They were registered VMF 63, VMF 64 and VMF 65, their chassis numbers being LML/50/7, LML/50/8 and LML/50/9, respectively. It is with the middle car of the trio that we are concerned, LML/50/8 registered VMF 64. It had the normal 6-cylinder twin-cam engine of 78 x 90 mm. bore and stroke, giving a capacity of 2,580 c.c., and delivered 125 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. on an 8.2 to 1 compression ratio, using two SU carburetters.
In the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hour race it was driven by Lance Macklin and George Abecassis and finished 5th overall, averaging 87.3 m.p.h. and winning the 3-litre class. At Silverstone it ran in the 1 Hour Production Car event, driven by the French driver Raymond Sommer. It was leading its class near the end of the hour when a car in front blew up and covered the Aston’s windscreen with oil, so that Sommer was forced to slow and was passed in the closing minutes of the race, to finish 2nd in the 3-litre class and 10th overall. VMF 64 then took part in the Tourist Trophy on the daunting Dundrod Circuit in Northern Ireland, and Lance Macklin brought it home into 8th place overall and 3rd in its class, averaging 71.78 m.p.h. To add to the variety in the life of VMF 64 Charles Brackenbury drove it at Shelsley Walsh before the end of the season.
In 1951 the works team had new DB2 cars but VMF 64 was kept on the factory strength and was entered for Le Mans again, this time driven by Lance Macklin and Eric Thompson. They finished a magnificent 3rd overall, and trounced the two new factory DB2 cars! Their average speed for the 24 Hours was 90.0 m.p.h. and needless to say they won the 3-litre class. However, before this epic run Tommy Wisdom had borrowed VMF 64 and competed in the famed Mille Miglia, over 1,000 miles of normal Italian roads. He shared the driving with Anthony Hume, a well-known sportsman of the time, and the 1,000 miles took them 14 hr. 7 min. 41 sec. and netted them victory in the over-2-litre GT class and 11th place overall. When it was not running in competition VMF 64 was being used by David Brown as his personal road car, but after Le Mans, Tommy Wisdom borrowed it again and partnered by his wife he competed in the arduous Alpine Rally and gained an Alpine Cup for a clean run, as well as making best time in four timed sections.
Once again VMF 64 was pensioned off and became David Brown’s road car, but once again Wisdom persuaded the “patron” to lend him the car, this time for the 1952 Mille Miglia. The factory team were competing this year so VMF 64 became a works entry, with Fred Lown, one of the works mechanics, accompanying Wisdom. They finished 12th overall in a time of 13 hr. 29 min. 40 sec., again winning the over-2-litre GT class. After another outing in the Alpine Rally driven by Wisdom and Harold Nockolds, VMF 64 finally ended its competitions career and went back to its role as a road car.
At the time of this activity the Hon. Gerald Lascelles was with the Aston Martin firm at Feltham in Middlesex, and when he left in 1954 he said to David Brown that if ever VMF 64 needed a good home he would be happy to provide it. In the summer of 1957 John Wyer the Aston Martin team-manager, phoned Lascelles to say that DB was parting with VMF 64 and he had the first refusal. Needless to say the Hon. Gerald did not refuse and became the owner of VMF 64 on July 24th 1957, his being the second name in the log-book.
Today, twenty-three years later, VMF 64 is still owned by the Hon. Gerald Lascelles and in a letter to me at the beginning of this year he wrote ” . . . the car sits in my garage and is fully roadworthy. However, I do not license her in the winter, to remove the temptation to take her out on salty roads, which she minds very much . . .”
Indeed a famous car with a famous number plate, now living in honourable retirement after a racing record of which any car would be proud. Two Le Mans 24 Hour races, two Mille Miglias, two Alpine Rallies, a TT and short circuit racing, and not a single retirement. For confirmation of the foregoing I am indebted to the Aston Martin Owners Club and their annual Register of Aston Martin cars, which lists in great detail all the activities of Astons in competition. — D.S.J.