One of only two Aston Martin DB2/4 ever made found in Cuba

Posted: 05-Feb-16 10:24

The rarest of Aston Martin racing cars was recently discovered in Cuba by an enthusiastic vintage car collector and enthusiast from Los Angeles who documented the astonishing find along with his overall experience on an article for online magazine Road&Track. One of the only two in the world, the Aston Martin DB2/4 is an incredible feat of engineering of the times which had been rusting away in a private Cuban garage for decades.

One of only two Aston Martin DB2/4 ever made found in Cuba

Jonathan Ward, an avid car collector and restorer of classic cars as well as a regular contributor to online car magazine, Road&Track, recently travelled to Cuba with a crew of fellow car enthusiasts on a 10-day trip that led to his discovery of one of the worlds’ rarest cars gathering dust and rust in its Cuban owner’s private garage.

Only one of two in the world ever made; the racing car beauty in question was a vintage Aston Martin DB2/4 original; a left-hand drive model dating back to 1958. Upon the discoverer’s return to his home in Los Angeles he contacted Aston Martin to verify his unique find and the company confirmed his suspicion that this one was one of the rarest and most exclusively built of the 764 models produced between 1953 and 1958.

As Jonathan Ward recalls:

" When I returned to California, I contacted Aston Martin about the car. The company informed me that it was one of two built with the race-spec engine, and its file for the car simply contained one index card with "Cuba?" scrawled on it. Aston seemed to appreciate the update, but I didn't get a sense that it was too interested in any sort of restoration at the moment."

Unlike the representatives at Aston Martin, Mr Ward’s interest in restoring this heavily battered and poorly preserved gem was instantly sparked, regardless of the deplorable state in which the car was found, of which he says:

" It clearly had led a rough life—many parts had been severely modified out of necessity. The entire dash and steering column, as well as the engine, were sourced from an old Lada. We stepped over the original bits littering the dirt floor as we began inspecting the car. It was far from running, but that didn't matter. This was exactly the kind of find I had hoped for setting out on this trip."

Despite the major renovation work that bringing back to life such a nearly totally destroyed vehicle and the massive investment that putting it anywhere near running state would entail, Jonathan dreams of the challenge:

" ...both the owner and I dream of seeing the car restored to compete in a resurrected Cuban Grand Prix. I'd like to think it could happen. By typical standards, the car is barely restorable, but its story begs you to dispose of any rational thoughts that would keep it from being revived."

Speaking about his other encounters with classic car beauties owned by proud Cuban restorers and drivers who went to painstaking lengths to keep their prized possessions running, he retells his experience meeting up with the president of one of Havana’s car clubs – the Friends of Fagio (in reference to racer Juan Miguel Fancio from Argentina and his Cuban kidnapping). At that point he learned about the depth of the attachment Cubans have to their ancient cars.

" The classics in Cuba are more than just relics people maintain simply because they cannot buy a new car, he said. They have become a symbol of perseverance."

Another encounter that especially drew his attention and caused particular puzzling awe; Jonathan tells of his experience coming across and riding one of two 1977 Russian GAZ Chaika M14 limousines, as well as learning that they had been previously owned by Fidel Castro with the Cuban flag still blazing on the front fender. The drivers of the once luxury vehicles that he described as having “archaic” diesel engines informed him and his friends that many of these Russian limos that once belonged to the Cuban leader’s private fleet now operated as taxis.

Going back to the rare Aston Martin sleeping beauty, which he got introduced to on a private visit, for his eyes only - enveloped in a shroud of mystery and secrecy by its proud owner who preferred to remain anonymous – Jonathan Ward cannot contain his excitement on the prospect of reviving it.

After hearing the car’s peculiar tale and learning how it once had belonged to a British official who had no choice but to leave it in the island as a gift to a friend due to his abrupt departure and ultimate inability to export it, Ward doesn’t want the car’s long, eventful and troubled life to end just yet, especially not now that, as he himself acknowledges, Cuba and the U.S. are inching ever closer to fully reestablished tourism and trade. As a final thought he adds:

" With or without the Grand Prix, I can tell you one person that would be willing to see such a foolhardy adventure through."

It’s no secret to anyone that Cuba proudly keeps some of the world’s most amazingly preserved old car models from the 50s still running and roaming its streets, some in near immaculate condition, others not as lucky or presentable but still admirably well-looked-after. Many car enthusiasts find in Cuba their ultimate dream paradise, with a new photo book on the island’s most striking four-wheeled vintage icons about to be launched by its car photographer author, Piotr Degler.

Note: Photo by Jonathan Ward.


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