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Aston Martin Chassis Numbers and Nomenclature

The first two cars built were numbered 1001 and 1002. Neither of them survived. The third 1927 Motor Show car, (the first short chassis), was dismantled immediately after the show and was never given a chassis number. However for the purposes of the AMHT register of Aston Martin cars, to enable it to be included, it has been given the number 1003.

The ‘T type’ used the prefix ‘T’ (touring), and the ‘Sports Model’, ‘S’ (sports), except chassis numbers TS10 (‘T sports’), ST18 (‘sports T’) and MS1 (‘Motor Show 1’). This latter number was used on a carefully prepared and polished ‘International’ rolling chassis and was used on at least two Olympia Motor Show stands. It was eventually dismantled and the parts returned to stock. The ‘S’ prefix however, could equally well have stood for ‘short’, as it did for the later first series cars. After the seventy-third car, the chassis number indicates the date when all pre-war cars were made. The letter gives the month (A is January, L is December), and the following number is the last digit of the year (0 is 1930, 9 is 1939).

In 1933, the suffix ‘S’ was used to denote short chassis and ‘L’ for long chassis. This system was continued for the third series cars through 1934 and 1935, with the additional ‘U’ suffix for the ‘Ulster’. This was also used from 1936 onwards for the 2 litre ‘Speed Model’.

The Sutherland ‘15/98’ model was again given the same ‘S’ and ‘L’ suffix to denote chassis length, but the body type was now also identified. Thus; ‘SO’ for short open, ‘SC’ for short coupe, ‘LT’ for long tourer and ‘LS’ for long saloon. One long chassis drop head coupe was built for Lance Prideaux-Brune and this was given a suffix of ‘LC’. A couple of cars were fitted with ‘special series’ engines and these were identified with an ‘SS’ after the body type identifier.

Although the number sequence was maintained, the prefix for the Sutherland series indicates the date when the cars were delivered to the customer, rather than their completion at the works. Thus, in 1936, the eighteenth chassis to be built (a Speed Model G40/718/U) was not completed as a Type ‘C’ and sold until July 1940.

The engine numbers of all pre-war cars were originally the same as the chassis numbers. However, due to the nasty habit of the ‘Duralumin’ connecting rods to fracture and break (and usually end up outside the crank case and on the road) many surviving cars no longer have their original engines. If you went back to the factory (or after the war, to Friary Motors) with a connecting rod through the side of the cylinder block, you would be sold a replacement engine with no concern at all with regards to the number stamped on it. A few 2 litre cars were fitted with the Claude Hill pushrod engine by Friary Motors, in this same manner.

The nomenclature of the derivatives is taken from original Aston Martin sales brochures, so some names may not be familiar. For example, Bamford and Martin Ltd did not refer to the closed cars they made as saloons, but ‘All Weather Tourers’. Similarly, the later Bertelli first series short chassis, is commonly known as the ‘International ’, and generally referred to as a 2/4 seater. However, it was described in works brochures as the ‘Four seater "International" sports model’, not to be confused (in the same brochure) with the ‘Four seater open touring model’ which was a full four seater built on the long chassis. The second series ‘Le Mans’ was in fact the first Aston Martin to be described as a 2/4 seater. The earliest cars were known as ‘T-types’ (long chassis) and Sports Models’ (short chassis).

The first car identified by the works as an ‘International’ was chassis S23R, which was on the stand at the 1929 Olympia Motor Show. This was the rebuilt and re-numbered works team car LM3, which had for some time by then been used as a works demonstrator. A rather crafty move, it gave the motoring journalists who tested the car an opportunity to describe what was in effect an almost undiluted ‘Team car’ rather than a production model. MG pulled a similar trick with the J2 a year or two later, significantly tuning up their demonstrator cars, and as a result a number of production cars were significantly damaged by their new owners trying to replicate the road test performance figures!

The names in ‘common parlance’ used to describe the various Bertelli models include, the ‘Sports Model’, the ‘International’, the ‘New International’, the ‘Standard’, the ‘Le Mans’, the ‘MKII’, the ‘Speed Model’ and the ‘15/98’ (or more simply ‘2 litre’). Occasionally models were described differently by the works while they were being developed (for example the ‘12/90 Le Mans’, or ‘12/50 Standard’) but the above nomenclature was eventually adopted and is used throughout the text.

A few cars were rebuilt by the works and given second chassis numbers. Amongst these cars are at least two which have ex. works ‘LM’ racing chassis. However since they came out of the factory with a standard production chassis number this is where their present identity is derived.

It is known that a couple of cars were given the wrong chassis plate. It was the job of the apprentices to stamp the chassis (a few are even stamped upside down), and to affix the chassis plates. This can only be accounted for by simple, youthful, human error.

Wherever possible, technical specifications have been taken from contemporary Aston Martin publicity material. This includes the cylinder capacity which is quoted as being 1493 cc in 1929, but thereafter 1495 cc, even though the quoted bore and stroke remained the same at 69.25 mm and 99 mm.

Prices are also taken from sales catalogues. In general prices were reduced during the production of each series of cars. Prices changed from year to year depending on how much stock was held by dealers and later by Aston Martin Ltd. All Aston Martins were expensive cars. In 1932, at the time when the company was supported by H. J. Aldington (a director of Frazer Nash Cars), the price of an Aston Martin was double that of a Frazer Nash and would have bought a large family house.

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