Aston Martin RHAM/1

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One of the very best automotive stories is how David Brown, manufacturing magnate—and tractor builder, like Ferruccio Lamborghini—came to acquire Aston Martin.

In 1947, he replied to a classified ad in The Times that offered a stake in a High Class Motor Business. He bought Aston Martin for £20,000 GBP.

The David Brown period, lasting until 1972 when the company was sold for £100, spawned the range of cars that would become some of the most iconic classics in history—anchored by James Bond's car of choice, the DB5.

On the race track, those years were dominated by Brown's ambition to win Le Mans, the world's biggest sports car race. He had the win within a decade, with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori taking the honours ahead of a second DBR1…and, importantly, ahead of Ferrari.

Sadly, everything has to come to an end, and by 1969, Brown would come to oversee his last Aston Martin, the DBS. 

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The 1970s were a bleak period overall for Aston Martin, and the lack of a racing car was a tough pill to swallow for dealer owners, who believed the cars could be competitive. Robin Hamilton took a DBS V8 in 1974 and modified it for club racing.

Hamilton's drive to compete at Le Mans was equal to that of Brown's, but he had significantly fewer resources at his disposal. From 1974-1980, the car was significantly modified, enough to earn a new chassis number, RHAM/1 (Robin Hamilton Aston Martin #1).

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I think you’d have to be a very brave man to drive this car at Le Mans, especially for 24 hours.
— Alain de Cadenet, Victory by Design

A semi-works effort, the car was modified beyond what I have space for here. Fibreglass panels, lowered roof line, lowered hood, punched-out fender flares, deep airdam, etc. etc. 

It got the fantastic nickname "Muncher" after the 1977 Le Mans race for its incredible appetite for brake disks—the car was driven for 18 of the 24 hours with cracked front brake disks, finishing the race…just.

The car kept evolving, of course, and the first order of business was the engine. With only 520 horsepower, Hamilton saw fit to install two turbochargers, but testing revealed fuel consumption would stand at just 2.5 Imperial MPG (2 US MPG and 113L/100km, respectively!)

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It wasn't efficient enough, and withdrawn. Modified again for 1979, power was down to 650 horsepower. Sadly, it didn't finish, with a melted piston leading to a connecting rod failure.

Its Le Mans hopes were dashed, but it had a very Car of the Day-worthy feat to accomplish: the World Land Speed Record…for towing a caravan.

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With Robin Hamilton himself behind the wheel, RHAM/1 towed an Alpha 14 camping trailer to an average speed of 200 km/h (124.91 mph)…in the wet, shattering the previous record of 173 km/h (108 mph.) 

Hamilton's racing efforts led to a resurgence in competition-based Aston Martins—a challenge that's led to other special racing cars. But that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended reading