Classically proportioned and instantly recognizable from the moment of its introduction in 1958, the Touring-styled Aston Martin DB4 established a look that would survive, with only minor revisions, until 1970.
Designed by Tadek Marek and already proven in racing, the DB4’s new twin-cam, 6-cylinder engine displaced 3,670 cc, and the gearbox was a new David Brown 4-speed, all-synchromesh unit.
An immensely strong platform-type chassis, designed by Harold Beach, replaced the preceding DB2/4’s multi-tubular space frame, the latter being considered incompatible with Touring’s Superleggera body construction. The DB2/4’s trailing-link independent front suspension gave way to unequal-length wishbones, while at the rear, the DB4 sported a live axle located by a Watt linkage instead of its predecessor’s Panhard rod.
Boasting disc brakes all round and with 240 horsepower on tap, the DB4 was the first production car capable of accelerating from a standing start to 100 mph and back to rest again in under 30 seconds. At a time when few family saloons were capable of exceeding 70 mph and took an age to get there, this staggering performance made the DB4 just about the fastest thing on the road, easily the equal of its Italian rivals.
It was manufactured between October 1958 and June 1963, and one of the most notable developments arrived with the introduction of the Series IV in September 1961, when a Special Series (SS) or Vantage engine became available as an option. The SS incorporated a 9:1 compression ratio, larger valves and triple SU HD8 carburetors, producing 266 horsepower at 5,750 rpm, a gain of 26 horsepower over the standard unit.
Coincidentally with the Series IV’s introduction, the DB4 became available in convertible form. Passenger space was little changed, although there was more headroom than the saloon could offer. Combining Aston Martin’s traditional virtues of style and performance with the joys of open-air motoring, the DB4 convertible is most sought after and highly prized today.
|Vehicle:||1962 Aston Martin DB4 Vantage Convertible|
|Original List Price:||$11,250|
|Tune Up Cost:||$900|
|Chassis Number Location:||Engine compartment on right of firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||Stamped on right side of engine block|
|Club Info:||Aston Martin Owners Club|
This car, Lot 222, sold for $967,916, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ annual Aston Martin sale at Newport Pagnell, U.K., on May 24, 2012.
Almost a million bucks seems an awful lot for an old convertible, doesn’t it? But remember, with the exception of the Zagato, the DB4 is the rarest Aston Martin road car of the David Brown era, with a total of only 70 built — six fewer than the legendary DB4 GT.
With the market now craving originality at almost any price, the choices are limited, and if there’s one lesson history has taught us, demand, it’s that supply and the amount or lack of it dictate the market.
A jewel of a car
The DB4 developed through five series, the last being the heaviest, and the one that would metamorphose into the DB5. However, the cars were not thus designated by the factory, this nomenclature having been suggested subsequently by the Aston Martin Owners Club to aid identification as the model evolved.
Chassis DB4C1072R is one of the few DB4 convertibles manufactured with the Special Series (Vantage) engine. It was first registered on October 15, 1962, to the vendor’s grandfather, R.T. Gwynn, then the managing director of the well-known British high street store chain, FW Woolworth, recently defunct and fondly remembered as either Woolworth’s or Woollies.
His grandson Peter Gwynn made his fortune in the advertising world, and obviously, as well as being a connoisseur of fine motor cars, knew how to treat them.
Bonhams offered the rest of his collection at its subsequent Festival of Speed sale on June 29, 2012. The cars sold included a 1925 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model for £223,600 ($348,925), a 1938 Lagonda V12 Drophead Coupe for £130,300 ($203,331) and a 1933 Talbot 75 sports saloon for £18,400 ($28,713), and all were clearly well-loved, used and still eminently usable.
The DB4 was the jewel of the collection, however, and had obviously been cherished as well as enjoyed. The paint was receding beautifully after 50 years to a slightly dulled sheen, and the chassis was solid underneath, with repainted splash guards and a recent exhaust service, testament to its ongoing care.
The interior was original and only slightly worn, although the leather was tired and faded. A clean-and-feed would be adequate — and preferable to renewal, which would be akin to dressing the Duchess of Cornwall in a pink boob tube.
Irreplaceable patina and preservation
This was a lived-in — but beautifully preserved — car with impeccable, irreplaceable patina, and a fantastic history file, the paper trail starting with the original order form from the original supplier, Brooklands of 103 Bond St. (coincidentally, just doors from Bonhams’ current London base) and finishing with an MoT expiring April 2012, which confirms the mileage of 70,089 at sale.
And that’s what the buyer paid for, with new money coming in at £465k ($729,008) after a £200k ($313,552) start (which not many years ago would have been enough to buy a ragtop DB4).
Last year, Bonhams sold a “barn-find” but almost as unmolested 1963 DB4 convertible, chassis 1104R, for £309,500 ($502,405).
A proper Aston Martin Works restoration would have added probably £250k ($392,000) to Chassis 1104R, so the price of our subject car, although terrifying, could be said to look correct at approximately those two sums for Chassis 1104R — plus a bit of inflation, which may have been how the successful bidder justified his top offer.
Reference-standard cars are few and far between, so I hope the new owner doesn’t restore or even paint it. The price paid would seem to preclude that, but in the old-car world, where collectors paint their precious Ferraris all-white, you can never say never.