Astons from the E. Bertelli period are becoming increasingly difficult to find. This four seat tourer, which was first registered in 1932, is one of the earliest of its kind, and as such, is a remarkable find. But more significant is the history behind it. Many cars from the pre and interwar periods have, by this point, been through the hands of many owners. This one, however, has had but four. The latter two were father then son.
The International, as it was known, was a hugely important car for Aston Martin. The company, which had waned and stopped production, was taken over by Augustus Bertelli and Bill Renwick. Together, they had developed a four-cylinder engine that they had initially planned to sell to car makers. However, learning of Aston’s woes, they instead opted to capitalise on the company’s reputation by buying it and fitting their engine to Aston-badged cars. The first of the ‘Bertelli cars’ was the International.
The car here is a four-seater International Sports. A happy mid-ground between the two-seater and the longer, arguably much less appealing four-door version. Powered by a 1,495cc dry-sump four-cylinder engine with twin SU carbs, it was mated to a four-speed straight-cut crash box. Bodied by Bertelli, it is also a thing of utter beauty.
Bought in 1932 by Colin Frederick Croucher, it was then sold to Raymond Stevens at some point in the ‘60s we believe. Then, in the ‘90s, it was acquired by the current vendor’s father. The son would take over ownership in 2011.
Over the course of its life, the car has been in constant use. It’s been through some changes, the most notable being a new engine in 2001 due to a cracked block. The colours have changed, too. It was an unflattering white once, then brown. Now, however, it is a much more appropriate British Racing Green.
Ready to use, this glorious Aston has just the right amount of patina, it’s in rude mechanical health and as such, has years of motoring left in it. If you want a truly special car from the ‘30s, there can be few as good or as usable as this one.
The current owner has all manner of paperwork with the Aston. There is of course the requisite V5, ready to be transferred to you. This states just one previous owner, however the original Buff logbook has the details of the first two owners. While on the subject of historical paperwork, there are various letters from the previous owners, as well as some copies of photographs that show the car in its previous white hue.
There are myriad receipts and invoices for parts and works carried out over the years. From these, we can see suspension refurbishment, new magneto, serving works and so on. There is also a fully detailed breakdown of the diagnosis and resulting repair/replacement of the engine in 2001. Basically, the bulk of this Aston’s life is down on paper, and makes for interesting, reassuring reading.
Believed to be the original interior, it’s a testament to how well made these cars were. Trimmed in black leather, there are two low-back seats up front, with a traditional bench in the rear. This car was, for many, a happy compromise, as the four-door versions were seen as a little ungainly. While the two-seaters were limited in their use. This two-door, four-seater is usable, but still sporty.
The leather of course has some wear where the colour has rubbed through, and the back edges of the front seats - particularly the driver’s - are frayed, but it’s honest to god wear and tear. Not neglect. The rear seats have a small hole, and there is some tape on the back rest, but nothing of any major concern. They are believed to be the original, remember. And to have them reupholstered would only result in an incongruous looking set of seats. Original is best. The leather is all soft and supple, and as such, welcoming and comfortable. Like slipping into your favourite jacket!
The dash is bright and clear, with a full complement of Jaeger dials. The wood has at some point been refurbished, and as such is in excellent condition with no splits or cracks. The big-rim four-spoke steering wheel is in excellent order, with no cracks,
Finally, there is a roof fitted, which functions as it should. It’s a two-man job, but it secures in place and is in good condition with no major defects. It’s more than likely been replaced at some point in the past, but not so recent as to look out of place. The frame is excellent, too. There are no side panels, though the owner tells us he can get templates should the new owner wish to have them made.
This 1932 Aston Martin International is in glorious condition. There is evidence of life and use, of course. The odd imperfection here and there, but there is no out and out damage. It’s a car that still holds your gaze, and one that still glistens. The body is arrow straight, the wire wheels are in excellent condition and the brightwork shines eagerly.
Having been repainted in the past, the paint is obviously much newer than the car. It was a good job though, as there is no trace of the previous colour to be seen. Clearly a great deal of care and attention was spent on the paintwork.
The winged bonnet is held down by two working Ripaults screw latches on either side, along with a beautifully aged pair of leather straps that feed through chrome loops on the bonnet. The big grille with the top mounted filler is in excellent order, too.
Looking lower on the car, we can see that all four of the leaf springs are leather-wrapped, while looking a little higher shows that all four of the wheel arches are in excellent condition, too. A bit of road rash, but this is a car to be driven, not cosseted. The wheels under each arch have been painted silver, complementing the chrome knock-off centres. The tyres are healthy, too, although the spare is worn and ideally should be replaced.
Looking under the car, it’s a sea of clean surfaces, lots of well greased points, and no corrosion or any other sign of neglect. There is also no evidence of leaks or the like. The fuel tank is excellent, all the suspension and braking components are good, as are all the boots, knuckles and other points for the steering.
Kept in a warm, dry garage for most of its life, and on a battery conditioner, this Aston Martin fires into life. The current owner hasn’t been using it much, but he did bring it up to Bath from Devon earlier in the summer - An uneventful journey where the car drove well. Certainly, when his father owned it, the car was regularly used on vintage rallies and the like. It’s not delicate or fragile. It’s used to being driven. Although, it should be mentioned that this car does take some getting used to!
The 1,495cc engine runs sweetly, and gets to operating temperature (and stays there) without fuss. It revs cleanly, there is no excessive smoke, nor any rattles or clunks to cause concern. It starts, literally, on the button. Though there is a crank handle should you want the authentic experience. The seller advises us there is a small oil leak from the sump which should be easily repaired.
The engine was replaced in 2001 due to the block having a crack in it. There is extensive paperwork to support this, and the addition of a cylinder head from a Le Mans International. All the ancillaries, fittings and so on were changed too. As such, it is in excellent health.
The drive takes some familiarisation, what with being a four-speed crash ‘box, and the pedal arrangement means the throttle is central. But if you’re familiar with these cars, you’ll know what’s involved. If not, the owner will happily guide you through the basics. The seller is keen to point out that rear axle is not the original, and was believed to have been replaced in the 1960's. This was not unusual, as it improved the handling.
The seller has pointed out to us that there is some wear in the rear hub splines, and that the new owner may wish to tighten up the springs and replace some bushes & kingpins in due course. However, for its age, the car drives well.
The suspension is well greased and protected, the exhaust is solid (Although the seller advises it may need replacing at some-point fairly soon) as are the drum brakes all round.
Aston Martins of this era are hard to come by. When they do some up, they are often so babied that they become unusable. This is not like that. It is in beautiful condition from bumper to bumper, make no mistake. But it is also a car that has been driven and enjoyed, and it would expect as much from whoever is lucky enough to secure the winning bid. This is a machine that can thrill, that will always bring a smile and that will take you back to a time when motoring was more visceral. It’s a charmer, and one that has been looked after with little regard to expense or time. A rare find indeed, and one you certainly don’t want to miss out on.
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