History of the 1958 - 1963 Aston Martin DB4
When Aston Martin approached Italian design house Touring for the DB4 the result was a GT / Sports car undeniably more chic than the outgoing DB MkIII. Along with its siblings (the Aston Martin DB5 and DB6) it has become the epitome of the 1960’s GT, combining four seats with a front engine / rear-wheel-drive layout and a useful boot.
The straight 6 twin-cam 3670cc engine, platform chassis and patented Superleggera body construction were a near constant during its five years of manufacture. Given that David Brown owned Aston Martin at the time his 4-speed gearbox was the obvious choice for transmitting the power to the live rear axle.
The DB4’s evolving aesthetics were arguable at their purest in Series I form as revealed to the public at the 1958 Paris Motor Show. The Series II DB4 introduced in 1960 had improved brakes and a larger sump, with an oil cooler requiring its own inlet offered as an option. The move from fixed to opening rear quarter lights dictated that these were flat rather the curved items on the Series I and bumper over-riders were added.
1961 saw the brief appearance of the Series III which had various detail improvements but most noticeably a change to the rear light clusters. Previously they had been integrated lenses running the height of the rear wings, from here on they were to be round separate lenses mounted on a single chromed plate each side.
The Series IV, introduced the same year, brought a refreshed front end including a new grille and re-profiled bonnet scoop. Concurrently, a more powerful Vantage option was made available for the first time, offering 266bhp through triple SU carburettors and modified cylinder heads. Many of the DB4 Vantage models also featured the DB4 GT’s faired-in headlamps.
The Series V of 1962 brought more radical alterations, consisting of a subtly enlarged body to improve conditions for passengers in the rear. The wheels also changed from 16-inch items to 15-inches. In the same year an Aston Martin DB4 Convertible was offered, with an in-house design based on the Touring coupe body. Only 70 were made, with 32 having the Vantage specification; these are now highly desirable.
Two other DB4 variants are notable. In 1959 the Aston Martin DB4 GT was released. This was a lightweight, high-performance car with thin aluminium bodywork, faired-in headlamps and a shorter wheel base than the standard car. Under the bonnet was either a 3670cc or 3750cc engine, both fitted with twin spark plugs per cylinder and fed by three Weber carburettors. Power output was given as 301bhp, with a top speed of 151mph. Zagato took 19 chassis and gave them rounded bodies designed by Ercole Spada. With similarities to his other design of the same era, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ, the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato is now the most collectable of DB4 models.
As a very capable 1960’s fast tourer the Aston Martin DB4 will not handle as well or be so quick as a lot of modern cars but equally there will be little from the same era that can touch it. With a 0-60 time of around 9 seconds it is still very useable in modern traffic but you will particularly need to be aware of the period brakes. The passenger cabin with its leather seats, wood rim steering wheel and black crackle dash has an unmistakable air of sporty refinement and quality.
No Aston Martin will be cheap to maintain but some parts for the DB4 are relatively inexpensive. Despite its pedigree, it does not escape the usual corrosion hot spots for cars of this era. Valances, jacking points, boot floor and wheel arches are all areas of concern. Again, because of its age, the condition of perishable items like wiring should also be checked.
Today all variants of the Aston Martin DB4 are extremely collectable and even ‘barn find’ cars achieve very significant prices. The DB4 Zagato and the DB4 GT are the most desirable, followed by the Vantage models.
The 60’s were a golden age for the grand tourer and beyond the DB5 and DB6 similarly speedy, aristocratic machines can be found in the Ferrari 330GT, Mercedes 300SL and Maserati Sebring.