Coachbuilt examples of the DB4/5/6 family of Aston Martins are extremely rare, making the unique Bertone-bodied car offered here all the more precious and desirable. Chassis 0201L is the last DB4GT chassis completed in period and was first displayed on Bertone’s stand at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, followed by an appearance at Turin that same year.
Its designer was none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, one of the 20th century’s foremost automotive stylists and then only 22 years of age, who would go on to create some of the Italian coachbuilder’s most memorable designs before leaving to join Carrozzeria Ghia. By the time he left Ghia to found Italdesign in 1968, Giugiaro had been responsible for such sublime creations as the Maserati Ghibli and DeTomaso Mangusta.
It was only appropriate that Aston Martin’s top-of-the range, most expensive production model, the DB4GT, was selected for this very special project. As its nomenclature suggests, the DB4GT was a competition variant of the DB4 sports saloon. Launched at the London Motor Show in 1958, the Aston Martin DB4 had emphatically demonstrated that a British manufacturer could better the Italians at their own game when it came to constructing the ultimate Gran Turismo. Its specification included a completely new steel platform chassis with disc brakes all around, and a race-developed twin-cam 6-cylinder 3.7-liter engine, all clothed in a perfectly proportioned aluminum body designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. Overall, the DB4 was state-of-the-art for its time, a masterpiece of robust British engineering combined with exquisite Italian styling.
The new car’s competition potential had been recognized from the outset, and the factory lost no time in developing a lightweight version suitable for racing. The resulting DB4GT debuted at the 1959 London Motor Show. The model had already been proven in competition earlier that year when the prototype driven by Stirling Moss (DP/199) won its first race at Silverstone.
Extensive modifications to the standard car took five inches out of the wheelbase and replaced the rear seats with a luggage platform on all but a small number of cars. Together with lighter, 18-gauge bodywork, these changes reduced the car’s weight by around 200 pounds.
The GT used a tuned engine which, equipped with a twin-plug cylinder head and triple Weber 45DCOE carburetors, produced a claimed 302 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, a useful increase over the standard car’s claimed 240 horsepower. Maximum speed, of course, depended on overall gearing, but 153 mph was achieved during testing with a 0–60 mph time of 6.1 seconds recorded. The DB4 was also one of the first cars to go from standstill to 100 mph and then brake to a dead stop in under 20 seconds, a tribute, in part, to its uprated Girling brakes as used on Aston Martin’s sports racers of the era.
The DB4GT offered a strong challenge to the prevailing Ferrari dominance in GT racing, with examples entered by the Works and John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable enjoying numerous victories. Driven by the likes of Roy Salvadori, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Innes Ireland, the DB4GT earned its stripes every weekend on the racing circuit. In December 1959, at the Bahamas Speed Week, Stirling Moss won driving a standard customer DB4GT “borrowed” by the Works following the demise of Moss’s intended DBR2. The DB4GT was indeed a true dual-purpose car, equally at ease on both the circuit and Grand Tour.