World War I veteran, 500cc Speed Record holder and amateur racing driver, Bill Aston briefly became a Formula 1 constructor in 1952. The Aston-Butterworth was a light Cooper-copy fitted with Archie Butterworth’s air-cooled four cylinder engine. Despite already being in his 53rd year, it was in this car that Aston also became a Grand Prix driver.
Formula 3 driver
Trained as an engineer, Aston ran a successful fruit farm in the Home Counties at the time. He raced motorcycles and had been a test pilot before taking up 500cc Formula 3 racing in the immediate post-World War II years. His Cooper T9-JAP won at Brussels and finished second in a heat at Blandford during 1949. He upgraded to a T12 for 1951 and set a new 500cc Speed Record at Montlhéry in a streamlined car.
Grand Prix debut with the Aston-Butterworth
Mindful that race promoters were often prepared to pay more for variety in their fields, Aston built the Aston-Butterworth Formula 2 car for the following season. With F2 chosen as the World Championship category in 1952 the combination was inadvertently promoted to the sport’s premier tier. He formed a two-car team with Robin Montgomerie-Charrington for the early non-championship races but the cars Achilles heal – poor reliability – was soon evident.
Montgomerie-Charrington raced in the Belgian GP but it was Aston who took up the team’s sole entry for the British, German and Italian GPs. Too slow to qualify at Silverstone or Monza, Aston lined up 21st at the Nürburgring. He completed his first GP lap in 10th position before retiring next time around the Nordschleife.
Aston continued to race the chassis in 1953 although now only in minor British events. F2 was suspended in 1954 and the car was thus rendered obsolete having never had the budget (or driver) required to explore any potential or cure its unreliability. Aston raced for fun in saloons before eventually retiring to concentrate on running his fruit farm.