Notes From The Archives – Aston Martin DB3S

March 28th, 2019 by James Chartres

Aston Martin DB3S

Words by:  Gary Horstkorta – February 2018

Cover Photo: Carveth leads Barneson at Palm Springs

In 1953, Aston Martin introduced the successor to the not so successful DB3.  The new car had a sleeker body; a new Twin Cam, straight six cylinder engine with more horsepower, improved suspension and differential plus it was lighter in overall weight.  The car performed well in Europe with many podium finishes and eventually the DB3S made its way to the SF Region in 1956 where the cars were raced by Jack Graham, Bob Oker and Rod Carveth.

Carveth at Pebble Beach 1956

Graham received the keys to his new DB3S in a rather unusual way at a dinner in honor of the visit to America by David Brown, head of the company that owned Aston Martin.  The dinner was held at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in February 1956 and Mr. Brown personally presented Graham with the keys to his new DB3S. Graham would go on to race his Aston Martin through the 1959 season all over Northern and Southern California.

Bob Oker was from Southern California and raced a DB3S for owner Joe Lubin.  Oker regularly drove with Bob Drake and the two of them co-drove to an overall victory at the 1957 Cotati 6-hour race.  They also raced the car at several other Northern California events 1956 as well.

Graham at Pebble Beach 1956

Another local racer, Rod Carveth and owner of a sports car related business, also acquired his DB3S in time for the 1956 season opener at Stockton and and followed that race with a full schedule for the balance of the year.  Carveth raced up and down the west coast and as far east as Bridgehampton with stops at Road America, Thompson, Watkins Glen and Harwood Acres (Canada).  Throughout the year he rarely finished outside the top three in his class and was usually in the top ten overall in combined class races.

Carveth kept up his busy schedule in 1957 but increased his travel schedule with an early seasons race in Hawaii, the normal west coast events then another set of races in the mid-west and east coast where he competed in more events than on the west coast.  Stops at Rode America, Thomspon, Watkins Glen, Marlboro, Lime Rock, Bridgehampton with a final set of races at the Nassau Speed Week.  In addition, he acquired a second DB3S for use in selected races and driven by a number of well known “guest drivers” including Lou Brero Sr, Carroll Shelby.

Carveth leads a pack at Stockton 1957

Certainly, Carveth had compiled one of the busiest schedules of any amateur racer and put many racing miles on his DB3S.  In fact, a fellow Aston Martin owner and good friend, Norm Milne asked Carveth to compile his race statistics so he could send them to the Aston Martin HQ in the UK as a candidate for the Avon Trophy. This award was presented to the most successful Aston Martin racer in the U.S. each year.  Unfortunately Carveth did not receive the award which went instead to Joe Lubin of Southern California whose had also compiled an excellent record for the year.

A look at Carveth’s statistics reveals how ambitious his racing schedule was for 1956 and 1957:

    • The two DB3Ss finished 49 out of 52 races entered including 40 consecutive races
    • 14 1st in class, 13 2nd in class, 7 3rd in class, 12 outside the top three
    • 1 first overall, 4 2nd overall
    • Wore out 46 race tires
    • Wore out 27 car and trailer tires used on three station wagons for towing
    • Miles towed to events: 63000 plus 6000 on boats to Hawaii and Bahamas
  • Cost of car per race averaged $53.10 including tires and all components

I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted just looking Carveth’s race schedule, miles towed plus hours on the track!

Drake at Arcata 1957

For the 1958 season, Carveth continued racing his DB3S but also ran a few events in a Triumph TR3.  His schedule was again a busy one within the SFR plus he ran events in Southern California, the Midwest, the East Coast and the Nassau Speed Week. 1959 brought about a reduced schedule of west coast races but he ran the Sebring 12 Hours, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Nurburgring 1000 all in 1959 in a Ferrari TR250.  Over the last four years he raced his trusty DB3S but also drove a Lotus 19, Lotus Elite, and a Formula Junior no doubt since he was a Lotus dealer during that period.

Unlike the statistics Carveth kept during 1956-57 seasons, he did not keep totals for his career which would have been something to see considering his trips to Sebring, Le Mans, the Nurburgring and the Bahamas. It must have been quite a sight for the Europeans to watch and amateur American driver on their home soil as Carveth helped put some Yankee flavor on the staring grid.

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