No, before you ask, this isn’t the James Bond car that started the whole Aston-Bond phenomenon. That was the later DB5. In some respects the DB4 was more important in the company’s history. David Berthon unwraps what makes it special: There is something very special about an Aston Martin from the 1960s. David Brown’s 25-year post-war ownership rescued this sporting marque and set the standard for the iconic brand’s performance image today.
Maybe it took James Bond with the DB5 in Goldfinger to make us realise just how special these “DB” models really are, but today – as the company celebrates its centenary – prices of these period DB models have gone through the roof.
Visually, the Aston Martin DB4 was a big step up from the DB Mark III it replaced. At its unveiling at the 1958 London Motor Show, its distinctly Continental appearance caused a sensation. Its influences were distinctly Italian.
The four-seat body by Carrosseria Touring of Milan utilised that company’s ‘Superleggera’ construction system of hanging aluminium panels on a light tubular framework, which in turn was built off a stiff platform chassis.
Every major component of the DB4 was new and it was the first Aston Martin to be built at the company’s modernised Newport Pagnell works in Buckinghamshire, formerly the home of coach-building firm Tickford.
The key people involved in this sports coupe’s development were company general manager John Wyer (who also masterminded Aston’s famous 1959 Le Mans victory), chassis designer Harold Beach and engine designer Tadek Marek.
Importantly, as the first production car capable of accelerating from rest to 100mph (161km/h) in 21seconds, the DB4 heralded a new era for Aston Martin, putting the company back in contention as a sports car marque.
The DB4 eventually spanned five series, each being faster and better-equipped than the last, with a total production run of 1210 cars ending in September 1963.
Having made a fortune in farm tractors and transmissions, Brown purchased the ailing Aston Martin Company in 1947 for 20,500 pounds, gaining rival carmaker Lagonda a year later and the Tickford coachbuilding business in 1955. By the time he sold Aston Martin in 1972, his ownership had left an indelible stamp on the famous marque.