Classically proportioned and instantly recognizable from the moment of its introduction in 1958, the Touring-styled DB4 established a look that would survive, with only minor revisions, until 1970.

A new design by Tadek Marek, the DB4’s all-alloy, twin-overhead-camshaft 6-cylinder engine featured “square” bore and stroke dimensions of 92 mm for a displacement of 3,670cc and developed its maximum output of 240 bhp at 5500 rpm. The David Brown gearbox was a new four-speed, all-synchromesh unit.

An immensely strong platform-type chassis replaced the DB2/4’s multi-tubular space frame, the latter being considered incompatible with Touring’s Superleggera body construction, which employed its own lightweight tubular structure to support the aluminum-alloy body panels.

The DB4’s peerless credentials as a Grand Routier were summed up thus by The Motor: “Performance, controllability and comfort have been combined in the Aston Martin DB4 to make it a highly desirable car: one in which long journeys can be completed very quickly indeed with the minimum of risk or discomfort and the maximum of pleasure.”

Manufactured between October 1958 and June 1963, the DB4 developed through five series as the model gradually metamorphosed into the DB5. The first series had already undergone a number of improvements, including the fitting of heavy-duty bumpers after the first 50 cars. The second series arrived in January 1960, with a front-hinged bonnet, bigger brake calipers and an enlarged sump.

The vendor advises us that he started stripping down this Series II DB4 30 years ago. From 1979 to October 2009, the car was stored—on chocks—in a dry garage, and the engine last ran in 1980. Offered for restoration and sold strictly as viewed, this represents an exciting opportunity for the dedicated Aston enthusiast to breathe life back into a long-neglected DB4.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1960 Aston Martin DB4 Series II Sports Saloon
Years Produced:1958-63
Number Produced:1,110
Original List Price:$10,550
SCM Valuation:$140,000-$225,000
Tune Up Cost:$900
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment on right of scuttle
Engine Number Location:Stamped on right side of engine block
Alternatives:1960-63 Ferrari 250 GTE, 1957-64 Maserati 3500 GT, 1954-63 AC Aceca

This car, Lot 558, sold for $133,215, including premium, at Bonhams’ Beaulieu sale on September 11, 2010.

It was inevitable that, following the meteoric rise of the DB5 (though they are still cheaper than Ferraris), the “lesser” Astons would come up on its coattails.
What wasn’t quite so expected was the sudden jump in the price of restoration projects, starting with a DB2/4 “barn find” selling for $175k at Bonhams’ Aston Martin Works Service sale two years ago (SCM# 116827). OK, that was a very solid and original car being sold by former Porsche Works endurance race hero Richard Attwood, but it needed everything.

The steady market at around $100k—or sometimes higher—for even 2/4 basket cases is partially explained by the fact that the pre-1957 cars are eligible for one of the most prestigious motor tours in the European calendar, the Mille Miglia. And these cars, even after restoration, represent a relatively cheap entry to that event—if one is picked from the hundreds of hopefuls, of course.

But when you have a DB4 needing everything and costing almost the same as a basket-case DB5 and swallowing the same $250k minimum—more likely $350k-plus to restore properly—the sums look a bit more marginal. Decent DB5s retail for $425k-$500k in the U.K. right now, while top DB4s are currently $200k shy of that.

Grand-scale procrastination

An owner bent on restoration took this car to pieces 30 years ago. These Aston Martins were thought worth saving even then, before the first classic car boom and bust of 22 years ago. But then he was “side tracked by less important matters: marriage, house building, etc….”

The car was dry stored on chocks until last year and has survived very well. Although it was sad and dusty, with surface corrosion on the motor, there doesn’t look to be serious rust in the body and structure. The leather looked as though it would restore, which would be preferable to plump, shiny new hides.

In the first 19 years of its life, during which the odometer said it covered 51,880 miles, it had two color changes, as there were two shades of green and two shades of red under the white.

The registration is a mystery, and it’s most likely an Antrim plate issued between 1962 and 1964, with the final Z missing at auction. “Ageless” Northern Ireland plates have traditionally been applied to older English cars to disguise their year. This car would originally have had a suffix-free plate in any case, as age-signifying numbers did not appear in the U.K. until 1963.

Although the DB4 has its own following, the attraction of an original car like this is that it’s never been restored. Although it is in a pretty sad state, the car and its parts remain in largely the same form as when they left the factory. The car looks as if it was never molested or put together wrong, and it retains its original engine, 370/347.

The big bucks of restoration

All the current Aston players will tell you that only they can do it right, but the cautious owner might perhaps seek a water-tight guarantee by having the restoration performed by the people who built it in the first place—and an Aston Martin Works Service resto doesn’t come cheap.

“You will never know how good the aluminum on the body is if you do not remove all the paint,” said Kingsley Riding-Felce, Aston Martin Works Service director. “Assuming it is very good, you then have to consider the quality of the steelwork underneath.

“You can spend a lot of money and still end up with a compromise. The best course of action is a full, body-off restoration with a meticulous photo record for a future purchaser one day.”

Riding-Felce said owners must decide from the start whether the car is for holiday driving, concours, classic rallies or for fast road use. Restoration requirements for these options vary,  from wooden-handled screwdrivers in the tool kit to air conditioning.

Aston Martin Works Service charges £220k to £230k plus VAT ($400k-$415k), subject to seeing the car, for a ground-up restoration with the factory seal of approval, Riding-Felce said.

“Whoever does it, do it right and do it once,” Riding-Felce said. “Anything less than a full job will reflect in the value because someone will have to do it all again.”

At this money, the car could be made into a racer, but it would be a shame not to return such an original example to the road. And that is the likely plan.
“The car was bought by an overseas bidder and will be fully restored,” said Bonhams’ Sholto Gilberton, who sold the car.

Even with the likely high costs on the road ahead, it looks hopeful that the buyer took the long view on this one, and, on past performance, time looks set to prove him right. So let’s call this one well sold in the current market, but a wise investment in the long term—so long as the subject car is sprinkled from a very large bucket of very large bills, until it blooms again.

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