Curbside Classic: 1934 Aston Martin Ulster At The Pumps – Ultra Rare Classics Need Gas Too


Is this 1934 Aston Martin the ultimate in gas station spotting? It has to be near the top of anyone’s list. I suppose  all cars that are driven have to visit the fueling station once in a while, but what a surprise to come across something so valuable and uncommon in such a mundane setting. Mind bogglingly rare too, as I managed to cross paths with one of only thirty one Ulsters ever produced.


I complemented the driver on his fantastic car as he was pumping his gas. He thanked me then waved at the car dismissively and said “what this old beater?” He and I have very different definitions of beaters obviously. The fantastic condition of the Aston contradicted his brush-off, but I suspect he enjoyed the car but perhaps not the attention it brought. I managed to get this one addition photo before he drove off. At that point I did not know exactly what I had seen but only that it was a vintage Aston Martin. Without any internet access I thought I would have to wait until returning home research the exact model but fortune again smiled on me.

1934 Aston Martin Ulster

A few days later I managed to carve out a few hours for myself and attend the All British Field Meet in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rather than a school-yard field or fast food chain parking lot, this show is held in the beautiful VanDusen Gardens. This part of British Columbia has a mild climate and robust economy so it is a relative hot bed for rare and usual British cars. If you want to see a line up of Jensen Interceptors or perhaps a Jowett Jupiter, AC Ace or a perfectly preserved Austin saloon this is probably your best bet outside the United Kingdom. I managed to take this rather nice photo of the very same car before other more run-of-the-mill Aston Martins arrived.


Based on the MkII chassis, the production Aston Martin Ulster was announced in 1934 at Olympia Motor Show to celebrate Aston Martin’s achievements in the 1934 RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards in Ulster. For the TT race three new cars with stock chassis had been built and painted in what was then traditional Italian red. The red color was utilized as to distance the new cars from the bad mechanical luck of the previous British Racing Green cars which had been sidelined in LeMans earlier in the year.

The production cars were named after the Ulster race and were sold as replicas of the successful TT race cars. They had the short wheel base MkII chassis in common but the race car, and engine was substituted with a specially tuned production engine. Up-sized twin SU carburetors and a more aggressive camshaft  were part of the Ulster package. The four cylinder engine also had domed pistons with a reworked head which resulted in a raised 9.5:1 compression and a 85hp rating, up from 70hp of the standard cars. The SOHC engine, like most British designs, was an under-square unit with a bore of 69mm and stroke of 99mm, resulting in 1495 cc of displacement. Light weight aluminum body work meant the car had excellent performance for the day. Each car was guaranteed by Aston Martin to achieve 100mph. Extremely impressive for a road going car sporting a production engine of only 1.5L in displacement.


The interior provided ample gauges and switches required by sporting motorists of the day. The dashboards were painted black to combat glare on the track. Many other contemporary manufactures used beautiful-to-look-at but also very reflective machine-turned bare metal dashboards. The grille was pained body color rather than chromed for the same reason. It gives this black Ulster a rather purposeful and monochromatic look.

Suspension front and back consists of a solid axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs. Adjustable friction shocks are utilized at all four corners. The the ability to adjust was critically important in a dual purpose car like the Ulster, as it would be inevitably be driven to and from competition by a sporting gentleman. Less dampening could be dialed in for the road and increased for high speed track work. They are on prominent display at the front. Brakes are hydraulically operated drums all around.


Aston Martin Ulster

Looking through my personal photo archives I realized I’ve actually seen another Ulster. This time in a museum setting back in 2003 at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon. Apologies for the poor quality but the photo was taken with a cheap film camera then transferred to CD-ROM.

1936 Aston Martin LeMans

A close relation is this 1936 Aston Martin LeMans seen at the fantastic Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. You can see the updated grill and fixed front fenders as well as the rear seat that was mandated for running in the Le Mans race. The engine was boosted from 1.5L (1495cc) to a full 2.0L (1949cc) making it the most powerful pre-war Aston Martin. This particular example is even more rare as it is one of two made specifically for the LeMans race. A further thirty cars were supposed to be produced to met homologation requirements, but only twenty five further chassis were built. Most were later converted to Speed Models and fitted with a variety of body work and specifications.


This stunning 1934 Aston Martin Ulster looks quite at home on the well manicured grounds of the VanDusen Gardens, but was a bit of a shock to see at a mere gas station.