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Aston Martin
DB5 & DB6

A Masterpiece from the Empire

Probably no other car in cinematic history left quite as much an impression upon car lovers than the sterling-silver metallic Aston-Martin DB-5 coupe piloted by Sean Connery in the James Bond spy-flick, “Goldfinger”.  Brand new to the market at the time, its superb finish, aerodynamically sweeping looks and high performance made for the ultimate British GT coupe.

Bond’s car, of course, was treated to a few extras by master spy-gizmo producer “Q” that couldn’t be ordered from any dealership.  Some of 007s special equipment, necessitated by the nature of his trade, included rotating multiple license plates, retractable rear-window bullet shield, and the always handy pop-out machine guns stored behind the parking lights.  Extending knock-off spinners designed to shred the tires of those getting too close for comfort and a combination oil sprayer and smoke screen to confuse pursuing assassins also helped keep enemies of the British Empire at bay.  Perhaps the most famous "option" of all is the passenger-side ejection seat.

 Despite the attention that this car generated by the DB5 on the big screen, production remained in the “exclusive” category.  With a real-life price in the United States hovering around $12,800 in early 1964, this was among the most expensive cars available, comparable to Rolls-Royce, Ferrari and big Mercedes-Benz limos. This was well above the budget of most car buyers. However, the same appeal that car had forty years ago lives today in the collector car market, and if you can afford one of these stunners, you will not be disappointed.

 With a heritage dating back to the early days of British motoring, the marque’s name is derived from a combination of an investor’s last name, Lionel Martin, with that of a then-famous event, the Aston Clinton hill climb.  After its founding, a succession of owners prior to WWII kept the Aston-Martin nameplate alive, but production was very limited. 


From any angle, the DB5 looks just right.


The well-developed dohc six.

After WWII, industrialist David Brown brought the marque back to life.  Mr. Brown had made his fortune providing gears and tractors to the British.   He also purchased the languishing Lagonda company at the same time, which happened to own a rather impressive dual overhead cam in-line six-cylinder engine.

Brown’s goals were two-fold: build a limited number of revenue generating road cars, and produce a winning line of racing vehicles.  Using his initials, DB, a new series of bodies and models were born, and the legend of Aston-Martin began to grow.  Success on the track soon became a regular event for A-M, culminated by the spectacular win of Le Mans when the team of Roy Salvadori and a former American chicken farmer named Carroll Shelby took best overall in 1959.  This helped the firm win the World Manufacturer’s Championship that same year.

A succession of DB road models began in the early 1950s, featuring stylish coachwork and modern and distinctive styling. The early 1960s saw the birth of the popular DB-4 series. It was powered by the venerable DOHC six in 3670cc form, and generated 240hp at 5,500 rpm.  Impressive numbers for a little road car.

But it was in 1963 that the car James Bond would make famous was unveiled. Offered in both fastback coupe and drop-head coupe versions, the DB5 rode on a 98" wheelbase and measured 180" from bumper to bumper. Under the hood a displacement bump took the six to 3995cc, which boosted horsepower to 282 at 5,500 rpm.

Up front a traditional “ox-bow” inspired front grille design adorned the hand-built custom bodies designed by the famous Italian coachwork company Carrozerria Touring.

 A high performance model was unveiled in the fall of 1964, equipped with the Vantage engine option.  Output from this formidable engine went to 325 horses, and everyone knew that this was a force to be reckoned with.  Even Ferrari took careful notice.  Shifting the DB-5 was left to one of four transmission choices, a standard four-speed manual, four-speed with overdrive, a ZF provided manual five-speed, or a General Motors provided automatic.  Later in production, the five-speed became standard with 5th gear acting as an overdrive, while the automatic was still available as an option.

 A total of 1,021 Aston-Martin DB-5s were produced between 1963 and 1965, 886 coupes, 123 convertibles (“Volante”), and 9 Radford “shooting brakes”, better known here as station wagons.  It is estimated that only about 65 of these cars were equipped with the Vantage engine, but none were more famous or sought after than chassis no. DP/216/1, the one assigned to James Bond.

 Building on the success of the DB5, Aston-Martin released the next generation version in the fall of 1965 as the DB6 series.  Riding on a 3.75" longer wheelbase, the new model was a little more plush and a bit less sporty.  Included as part of the basic package were chrome wire wheels, AM radio, and air-conditioning.  The base engine for the DB6 remained unchanged from the previous models. The extra-cost Vantage engine option was still available. The longer wheelbase translated to a stretch in overall dimensions to 182", with the extra space given to the back seats passengers.

 Production of the original DB6 continued to mid-1969 when the Mark II was introduced which featured wider tires and flared wheel-arches to accommodate them. This model remained in production until late 1970 when the even larger DBS went into production. Prices ranged from $15,400 to $17,100 during the DB6's production run. A total of 1,321 coupes, 140 Vantage convertibles and six “Radford” shooting brakes were produced. All of the station wagon models were produced for the home market and featured the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the car, perfect for fetching the dogs after a fox hunt.

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P. Skinner and the editors at Collector Car Market Review

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