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Aston Martin DB5 factory original photo

1963-69 Aston Martin DB5 and DB6


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.

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Blue Chip Collector Car


Entry Cost

Ownership Cost

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.

Aston Martin DB5 frontFrom any angle, the DB5 looks just right.
Aston Martin DB5 rear
Aston Martin DB5 dohc 6-cylinderThe smooth, 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.

What's Available

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.

Aston Martin DB5 VolanteThe convertible, aka Volante, cuts a dashing line.
Aston Martin DB6 rearThe DB6 grew a bit and got a new rear.
Aston Martin DB6 cockpitThe DB6 cockpit is well appointed, yet all business.

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 the hunt.

What to Look For

We turned to long-time dealer and aficionado of the DB-5 and 6 models, Rocky Santiago, and asked him to lend us some of his considerable expertise on these models. "When looking at one of these cars," Santiago said, "one should remember all the basics learned in "Car Buying 101'."

"Remember, these cars were hand-built," Santiago went on, "When looking under the hood, there are a number of areas that might look like they were unfinished or improperly finished. In fact, these irregular edges were done at the factory."

Aluminum was the main body material and as Santiago points out, electrolysis can corrode the panels, especially around the mounting points. Another area of concern is the jacking ports, squared tubing that accepts the factory screw-type jack. These have a tendency to rust-out near the weld points.

Other areas of concern are holes in the bodywork used to drain rain and wash water. Among the most critical of these are the ones located near the hood hinges over the headlights. While aluminum is used for the body, steel framework was still employed under the skin, including the door frames. Drain holes along the bottom of both doors should be closely inspected to make sure they were kept clean and clear, allowing the water to escape.

Matching numbers are important, especially when verifying the authenticity of the higher horsepower Vantage models. Be sure to check the build plate located under the hood and attached to the firewall on the right side of the car. Included is both the chassis number and the original engine number. On the left side of the engine's block those same numbers should appear. The letter "V" represents the premium horsepower version, the Vantage.

The factory tool kit and the the proper jack, plus the original owners book and service manuals are big pluses, and can add several thousand dollars to the value of any Aston-Martin, including these models.

The Market

DB-5 models have a stronger following, partially because of the James Bond connection, but also due to the superior Touring coachwork, which was lost somewhat on later models. Critics lauded the early models performance and handling, but later DB6's were touted as being noisy, a bit curious as they were supposed to be a bit more luxurious. One British magazine of the day described the steering this way: "...requires the strength of a hairy mammoth to crank it around." Evidently these cars are not for dainty drivers. Much of this perception can be attributed to the advancements in sports car refinement during the mid-sixties. What worked in 1963 was getting long in the tooth by the late sixties.

The early DB5 models command strong prices in today's market, and if the sought after car is well documented and exceptional, coupes can bring over $100,000, while the open Volante models command another $25,000-50,000. Historically, right-hand drive versions in the United States brought a sizeable deduction in value, and a number of conversions have been conducted to "remedy" this. This "RHD" (right hand drive) discount has narrowed substantially over the years, as these models are often bought by home market or other overseas buyers. In any event, serial numbers indicate if the car was originally for the home market or for export, so pay attention!

As mentioned earlier, all of the DB5 and DB6 "shooting brakes" are RHD and were produced for sale in England, and it is not believed that any of these cars have come here. Later DB6 models are valued about 20% or so below the DB5. Performance was down a bit, making the Vantage engine option an even bigger plus. The later cars also seem to have more problems with body integrity. While the longer wheelbase and overall length was a plus for passenger comfort when new, it has a negative effect in the collector market. As the market continues to be strong, interest in all things British is especially so, and values of many British marques is reaching an all-time high -- approaching the bubble values of the late eighties. But with Corvettes at $100,000 plus, T-Birds over $60,000 and GTO's hitting $50,000 on occasion, the DB5/6 looks positively like a bargain.

Aston-Martin did not produce a car for everyone, only for those who could afford and appreciate fine motoring. Consider yourself fortunate if you can count yourself among potential owners.

*** 2019 Pricing Update: After plummeting during the crash of 2008, values have been surging again. Make sure to check the latest values.

Current Values

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Bond 007 Aston Martin DB5

(C) Copyright 2004-2019 VMR International, Inc. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the September 2004 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide.

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