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 3670cc while 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. Boasting disc brakes all around—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.

The DB4 was available only as a closed coupe until September 1961, when the convertible version was unveiled at that year’s Motor Show.

Never listed in the AMOC Register, DB4C/1104R has had only two owners from new, having been purchased by the current vendor in 1978 from the first owner, agronomist Professor Geoffrey Emett Blackman, FRS. At the time he purchased the Aston, Geoffrey Blackman was Sibthorpian Professor of Rural Economy at Oxford University and Director of the Agricultural Research Council Unit of Experimental Agronomy there.

The Aston has been laid up in dry storage ever since 1979 and currently displays a total of only 60,000 miles on the odometer. The engine is now back in the car, which is presented in barn find condition, ripe for sympathetic restoration. An exciting and potentially most rewarding project for the Aston Martin enthusiast, DB4C/1104R is offered with instruction manual, workshop manual, parts catalogue and Swansea V5 registration document.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Aston Martin DB4 Convertible Barn Find
Number Produced:70
Original List Price:$12,457
Tune Up Cost:$900
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment on right of firewall
Engine Number Location:Stamped on right side of engine block

This car, Lot 309, sold for $502,405, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ annual Aston Martin sale at Works Service, Newport Pagnell, U.K., on May 21, 2011.

It might have looked a beater in the catalog, but that was down to the “barn-find” photography, which was artfully shot in moody light. Bonhams does market its star cars well.

Once you got up close, it was actually dead straight and not rotten, probably thanks to having been put away for so long. Obviously the paint had deteriorated, but the body and chassis were solid. The motor and gearbox were lightly corroded and only standing in loosely, having been removed for a rebuild, but I reckon you could have put back in the motor—maybe with new rings and bearings—and gearbox, changed the fluids and rubbers, wiped it over with an oily rag and driven it—and I would have.

They’re only original once.

Even the original exhausts were in usable shape—and displayed behind the car. Okay, the interior needed redoing, but, along with a growing number of “resto-rat” enthusiasts, I would love to have been able to drive this car as-is for a while.

The engine and gearbox were out because the owner had removed them in 1980 intending to rebuild the engine (370/472), which is a replacement for the original (370/1134). The motor would need a strip-down to ensure nothing had seized—and to complete the rebuild the Professor intended—but it was missing no ancillaries, although the radiator wants renewing, as it suffered a few dings, probably in the engine-removal process.

The seat leather had completely dried out, but it might come back with careful treatment—apart from a hole in the passenger seat. However, the seats as-is would look wrong in a newly restored car, and the carpets were beyond saving. The dash and instruments were all complete, and the top looked serviceable, as it certainly opens, clips to the windscreen and folds again.

One neglected—but rare—car

So this car, though neglected, had not been molested or poorly restored. Remember, with only 70 built, six fewer than the legendary DB4GT, there’s only one David Brown-era Aston that’s rarer than the DB4 convertible and that’s the DB4GT Zagato.

Although new Zagato copy/continuations pop up from time to time, Aston won’t be making any more DB4s, and this must be one of the most original. In a day and age when this counts for so much, that it wasn’t perfect didn’t seem so important.

What mattered more is that it hadn’t been got at—or restored wrongly—allowing the new owner and restorer the luxury of a blank, but completely original canvas—and a fairly awesome responsibility. A nice touch was Professor Blackman’s St John’s College car park pass (issued 1970), reading: “Authority to park in the President’s drive,” still attached to the inside of the windshield, which one hopes can be carefully retained. Given that its only two owners were Oxford dons, its original “WL” registration from the city was a nice touch too, although there is no guarantee it can be retained.

Worth the price of admission

Now to the money. Deep breath, but I don’t think it looks out of order. Bonhams estimated the car before sale at $130,000 to $225,000, but the talk in the room (and at Monaco the day before) was that it could reach $400,000. Which it did—and then some—hitting a hammer price of £270,000 ($434,000). After reported pre-sale interest from America, it sold to the Middle East.

As we have seen from previous DB Aston Martin profiles, a total Works Service restoration on a Superleggera Aston, by the company if not the actual personnel who made it in the first place, costs up to $350,000 if the car needs everything. And this one didn’t need as much. So if you added most of that cost to the auction price, you arrive at around $800,000, which is what a pristine similar car (although a 4.2 Vantage-engined former concours winner) four chassis numbers away sold for in the same sale—with a less interesting history. So I reckon the sums do add up.

If the numbers do look a bit daunting following the relentless rise of the DB5 and all other DB Astons behind it over the last five years, I think it means these cars are slowly catching up with Ferraris. Okay, the Italians have twice the number of cylinders, but in rarity, performance and cachet—and in reflecting their respective national identities—the cars are broadly equivalent. Which begs one last question: Why are 1960s Maseratis—the “Italian Aston Martin” and Aston Martin’s nearest mechanical equivalent—still so cheap?
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)