Ready to Restore: 1938 Aston Martin 15/98 Drophead Coupe

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Vintage Aston Martins are rare enough, but pre-war Astons are in another category altogether. Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin didn’t register their first car until 1915 – late when measured against many other makers. Known as “Coal Scuttle” because it looked like one, the first Aston would have to do until 1920 when the second finally moseyed onto the scene. Month by month, more cars – many of them one-offs – hit the pavement, mostly the pavement involving tracks. Privateers were racing Astons at Brooklands and the French Grand Prix; the company had made a bare minimum of road cars. The financial strain of small production chased Bamford away, and then Martin; by 1925, the company had been rescued several times. It took Augustus Bertelli – racer, technician, and designer – who ran the company from 1926 into the 1930s, to turn Aston’s race heritage into a road-going legacy. Bertelli presided over a proliferation of models, feeding customers a variety of body styles and engine combinations. In 1937 – now under ownership by Sir Arthur Sutherland – the company hit a high water mark, with 140 cars manufactured. Here at Gullwing Motor Cars is a 1938 Aston Martin 15/98 drophead coupe project with an asking price of $149,500. Gullwing is located in Astoria, New York. Kyle K. submitted this rare tip!

The motor in this car is a 2-liter in-line four-cylinder accompanied by twin SU carburetors. The name of the car – 15/98 – refers to horsepower output. The RAC measurement for tax purposes is 15 but owners experienced 98 hp. The four-speed Moss gearbox had synchros on all but first gear. The big Girling mechanical drum brakes provided stopping power for the 3100 lb car. The seller provides a minimal history of this car’s ownership and mechanical condition, except to note that this example was the test car reviewed by “The Autocar” in 1938 and it was in one person’s care for fifty years. Rest assured, this one probably hasn’t run in a while.

The interior reminds us that Aston is thoroughly British, showing off right-hand drive; knobs and switches that remained the same at least until my 1968 Midget was born; wood-trimmed dash and cockpit rails; narrow-squab seats. The four-spoke steering wheel is a racy touch. The new owner will be refurbishing every inch of this interior.

At least four 15/98 body styles were produced. The first was a long-chassis saloon, which was heavy for the motor and not particularly attractive. An open tourer was subsequently offered, but the more successful versions were settled on the “short chassis”, offered in touring and drophead coupe form. Drophead bodies were built by E.D. Abbott Ltd and included a dickey seat for those who could tolerate all-weather motoring. The authority on these cars, Ecurie Bertelli, indicates that just 24 DHC cars were made and perhaps only eleven survive, underlining the rarity of this one. Speaking of Ecurie Bertelli, that venerable company is one of our guides for value, as they offer two for sale, here and here. Yes, the second is a tourer, thus more desirable. Here is a fairly contemporary, US listing that we should take seriously – a perfectly nice example that sold for $108k. I am sensing some negotiation will be required to find this one a new garage – what do you think?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. TomP

    An amazingly rare car. It blows my mind how Gullwing seems to have a never ending supply of super valuable cars for sale that they pull out of people’s garages. Where are all these cars coming from?? It must be from their endless deluge of advertisements from one end of the web to the other.

    Like 8
    • AutoArcheologist AutoArcheologistMember

      Aside from the ads in nearly anything and everything automotive related, they have paid searchers. People who’s only job is to pour over every local Craigslist, Kijii, newspaper classified ads, Hemmings, you name it, looking for these rare cars listed. As we all know, most CL ads have little or no details and maybe 4 blurry photos. But Peter’s people read between the lines, look at the photos and then call immediately if they see something like this Aston maybe just listed as “Old English Roadster”.
      Any time I list a Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, etc. I get a phone call from one of Peter’s staff, or Pete directly. Sometimes his offer is way undermarket, other times, he’s paid our asking price w/o hesitation, as he already had a buyer lined up.
      I’ve met Peter Kumar and had several dealings with him. He really is a car guy but he’s also a businessman and will sometimes get his asking price, even though seemingly inflated.
      Just like the rusty Mopars, someone will pay those crazy prices.

      Like 2
  2. TheOldRanger

    I bet this was really a nice looking car back then… probably might be again, but not at the current price…

    Like 2
  3. KurtMember

    Lot of coin for a basket case. Pass.

    Like 0
  4. Martin Horrocks

    Silly asking price but a good restoration project. This body will be heavy for the power available but it would be wrong to replace it with a non-origal but more sporting version.

    Like 1
  5. Martin Horrocks

    BTW Equipe Bertelli as mentioned in the text was financed by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, with early royalties from “Dark Side of the Moon”.

    These Bertelli Astons remain a passion for Mason, who has 3/7 Ulsters in the family. Mason must be one of the few people in its history who Aston Martin has not bankrupted…having fortunately never invested in Aston Martin itself

    Like 7
  6. Howie

    I would have never guessed that this is a Aston Martin, or was a Aston Martin.

    Like 1
  7. Robert White

    Cool car, BF.



    Like 0
  8. matt

    Wow !
    Cool car, I have always liked the full fenered look of the early cars…
    Great find Michelle !

    Like 0
    • Juan

      The motor has about 100 miles on it. Far from being a basket case. The motor threw a rod and was repaired in England around 1966. It is the original block. The car has a lot of history. Did you see the 37 Benz that won at Pebble Beach this year ? I take this car over that one any day.

      Like 0
      • Mark

        That car restored gets an automatic entry to concourse at pebble beach.

        Like 0
  9. matt

    Excuse me,
    full fendered…

    Like 1
  10. Kelly Breen

    This is a beautiful car and hopefully someone with deep enough pockets gets it back to its former glory.
    It won’t get crushed. Either the price drops or the right guy will come around. I am a working class slob and find keeping my old Midget going with slight improvements every year is challenging enough!
    I love those pre war cars.

    Like 1

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