Aston Martin DB4 Series V Vantage
The Aston Martin DB4 was launched in 1958 as a replacement for the DB Mark III (not to be confused with the DB3 race car), and built until 1963 in various body styles and engine specifications. Offered as a 2+2 coupe, two-seat coupe, and 2+2 convertible, the DB4 was produced in no fewer than five variants, named Series I (one) to V (five). Modifications for each Series model usually included revised front grilles and new headlamps and taillights, but Aston Martin also meddled with the DB4’s body, offering longer versions for increased legroom and luggage space.
One such model is the DB4 Series V, which had its wheelbase increased by 3.5 inches over the Series IV in order for the DB4 to become a grand tourer suited for longer trips. The DB4 Series V was built between September 1962 and June 1963, marking the end of the nameplate, replaced by the more iconic 1963 - 1967 Aston Martin DB5.
Produced in only 168 units (including 32 convertibles) of the total 1,210-unit run, the DB4 Series V Vantage is one of the rarest DB4s ever built, second to only the 1963 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, a lighter, Zagato-bodied version. Making this particular coupe that much special is its Vantage specification, which means an uprated engine, and the more aerodynamic front fascia, later carried over to the DB5.
Continue reading for my full review of this special DB4.
Designed by Carrozzeria Touring, one of Italy’s famous coachbuilders in the 1950s, the DB4 was a significant departure from its predecessor. The styling was rather sporty for a grand tourer, but stylish enough to turn it into a coveted luxury car. The recipe was somewhat similar to what Ferrari had done with the road-legal 250 by combining stylish exterior features with elements borrowed from the world of motorsports. Although it had a massive, aggressive-looking grille and a vented hood as seen on the DB3 race car, the DB4 also had elegant chrome bumpers, wire wheels, and subtle fins on the rear fenders, with three small lamps mounted on a chrome plate. In many ways, the DB4 Series V was sexier than the 1960 - 1963 Ferrari 250 GT/E, due to its aerodynamic front end, sleek roofline, and muscular fenders.
The DB4’s interior set new luxury standards in the 1950s. Though colors were subject to customer preferences, all models had leather-wrapped seats, two-tone door panels, wood-rimmed steering wheels, and soft carpets on the floor and center console. There were no such thing as headrests and the door panels were usually flat and featureless, but that was the norm back then. The dashboard, on the other hand, was more intricate than what other manufacturers offered, featuring an instrument cluster shaped to mimic the front grille. The example shown here had red upholstery to complement the Goodwood Green exterior and the black dashboard and upper door panels.
All DB4’s were fitted with the 3.7-liter inline-six engine created by famous Polish engineer Tadek Marek. Initially developed for the DBR2 race car, the six-cylinder was later modified and used in not only the DB4, but the DB5, DB6, and DBS as well, remaining in production until 1972.
All DB4's were fitted with the 3.7-liter inline-six engine created by famous Polish engineer Tadek Marek.
In the DB4, the unit was a double-overhead-cam engine with cylinder head and block made of cast aluminum alloy. Although it was prone to overheating initially, the 240-horsepower rating was enough to keep customers happy. The inline-six was further updated for the Vantage-spec cars, receiving three carburetors and special cylinder heads that increasing power to 266 horses and 255 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices included a four-speed manual and a Borg Warner automatic. The latter became a rare option, with only three Series V Vantages being ordered with one, including this one.
The coupe needed a little more than nine seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start.
The Vantage’s performance was exciting for the era. The coupe needed a little more than nine seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start, which made it quicker than the Ferrari 250 GT/E, while top speed came in at 139 mph. Fuel economy wasn’t that great at less than 15 mpg, but this was a normal figure for carbureted performance cars.
Although the DB4 Vantage shown here is one of only three coupes to have been delivered with an automatic transmission, the vehicle is actually fitted with a modern, four-speed manual with overdrive made by David Brown. The original gearbox is offered with the car should any future owner want to return it to original specification. Other modern upgrades added during the restoration process include springs, roll bars, Koni dampers, brakes, adjustable power steering, and custom Borrani wheels.
One of the most expensive sports car back in its day, with a starting price that exceeded £4,000, the Aston Martin DB4 has gained a lot of value lately, with most models changing owners for more than $300,000 in recent years. Some examples, however, can fetch in excess of $500,000 and this example, restored to the last bolt, is no exception. According to Silverstone Auctions, which will auction the car at the Salon Prive Sale at Blenheim Palace on September 4th, 2015, the coupe is estimated to sell for £675,000 to £775,000 ($1.05 to $1.21 million). If the estimate turns out to be true, this Aston Martin will become the most expensive DB4 Series V Vantage ever auctioned.
The auction house’s estimate isn’t exactly surprising. Besides being restored to concours state, the coupe is also offered with factory records, correspondence from Aston Martin to the first two owners, and a huge number of invoices, receipts, and MoT certificates. All told, the next owner will receive a comprehensive history file that goes all the way back to August 1963, when the cars was delivered to its original customer.
No classic grand tourer comparison is complete without a Ferrari, especially when talking about a luxurious and powerful Aston Martin. Though the iconic 250 spawned only a handful of 2+2 models, the GT/E had everything it needed to give the DB4 a run for its money when it launched in 1960. It was Ferrari’s first large-production four-seat model, and it was built in increased roominess in mind, using the 250’s longer chassis and having its engine moved forward in the chassis. Though its appearance was no match for the DB4’s, the 3.0-liter Colombo V-12 engine made it the more exotic proposition. The V-12 was rated at 237 horsepower and made the GT/E a full second slower than the DB4 in a straight line. Although it was significantly more expensive than the Aston at launch, the GT/E fetches about as much as a standard DB4 nowadays. The record stands at $473,000, established in 2014.
Read more about the Ferrari 250 GT/E here.
Although it might not be as coveted as the DB5, which became famous due to its association with the James Bond franchise, the DB4 is among the best classic performance grand tourers you can buy. It’s powerful, quicker than its direct competitor from Ferrari, and it features all the gorgeous styling cues of the more popular DB5. All told, the DB4 is actually a DB5 with a slightly smaller and less powerful engine and without the inflated prices that come with the privilege of being driven by James Bond. Of course, the Series V Vantage shown here isn’t exactly affordable compared to other DB4s, but given some DB5s change owners for up to $5 million, this coupe isn’t that expensive for a rare classic. On the other hand, if I were in the market for a DB4 like this, I’d rather have one with all the original parts. Especially if it costs $1 million.