The debut of the DB4 in 1958 heralded the beginning of the Aston Martin glory years, ushering in the breed of classic six-cylinder DB Astons that propelled Aston Martin onto the world stage. Earlier postwar Astons were fine sports enthusiasts’ road cars, but with the DB4 Astons acquired a new grace, sophistication, and refinement that was, for many, the ultimate flowering of the grand tourer theme.
The DB4 looked superb and went like the wind. The DB5, which followed, will forever be remembered as the James Bond Aston; and the final expression of the theme came with the bigger DB6. The cars were glorious, but the company was in trouble. David Brown, the millionaire industrialist owner of Aston Martin and the DB of the model name, had a dream. But, in the early Seventies, with losses of $1.5 million a year, he bailed out of the company, leaving a legacy of machines that are still talked about with reverence as the David Brown Astons.
The dash is a gloriously unergonomic triumph of form over function; gauges are scattered all over an instrument panel deliberately similar to the car’s grinning radiator grille.
There is no doubt that the DB4 has got serious attitude. Its lines may be Italian, but it has none of the dainty delicacy of some contemporary Ferraris and Maseratis—the Aston’s spirit is somehow true Brit.
The vertical bars in this car’s radiator grille show it to be a so-called Series 4 DB4, built between September 1961 and October 1962.
IN THE MIRROR
Dipping rearview mirror was also found in many Jaguars of the period.
First generation DB4s had a rearhinged hood.
Superleggera, Italian for “superlightweight,” refers to the technique of body construction: aluminum panels rolled over a framework of steel tubes.
Complex curves meant the trunk lid was one of the most difficult-to-produce panels in the entire car. Their hand-built nature means no two Astons are alike.
Rear lights and front indicators were straight off the utilitarian Land Rover.
The DB4’s stance is solid and butch, but not brutish—more British Boxer than lumbering Bulldog, aggressive yet refined. It is an ideal blueprint for a James Bond car.
Clothed in an Italian body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, the DB4 possessed a graceful yet powerful elegance. Under the aluminum shell was Tadek Marek’s twin-cam straight-six engine, which evolved from Aston’s racing program.
Bumper overriders were from the British Mk2 Ford Zephyr and Zodiac.
Front suspension was double wishbones with coil springs and telescopic shocks.
While rear seats in the fixed-head offer limited space, just look at the richness and quality of the Connolly leather. The ride wasn’t quite as impressive, though—rear suspension was through basic lever-arm units.
It looks very much like the contemporary Jaguar XK twin-cam straight-six, but Tadek Marek’s design is both more powerful and vastly more complicated. Triple SU carburetors show this to be a Vantage engine with larger valves and an extra 20 bhp.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Aston Martin DB4 (1958–63)
PRODUCTION 1,040 (fixed head); 70 (convertible); 95 (fixed-head DB4 GTs).
BODY STYLES Fixed-head coupe or convertible.
CONSTRUCTION Pressed-steel and tubular inner chassis frame, with aluminum-alloy outer panels.
ENGINES Inline six 3670cc/3749cc.
POWER OUTPUT 240 bhp at 5500 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual (with optional overdrive).
SUSPENSION Front: independent by wishbones, coil springs, and telescopic shock absorbers; Rear: live axle located by trailing arms and Watt linkage with coil springs and lever-arm dampers.
BRAKES Four-wheel disc.
MAXIMUM SPEED 140+ mph (225+ km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 20.1 sec
A.F.C. 14–22 mpg (3.6–7.8 km/l).