Launched in October 1958, the DB4 marked a major turning point for Aston Martin as it was the first Aston Martin to carry Carrozzeria Touring's 'Superleggera' bodywork, in which light alloy panels were fixed to a framework of light-gauge steel tubes welded to a platform chassis. Although styled by Touring, the DB4's gorgeous fastback coachwork was built under license at Newport Pagnell by Aston Martin, which employed some of the finest panel beaters in the industry. The result was a car whose sleek lines were described as 'unmistakably Italian and yet... equally unmistakably Aston Martin.' The 3.7-litre, six-cylinder power unit was the work of Tadek Marek and had first been seen at Le Mans the previous year in the works DBR2 sports-racer.
Sports Classics London supplied a very early production, correct matching numbers Series l to a very well-known Aston Martin marque specialist. AMHT also helped facilitate the transfer of the original registration mark back on to the car.
Whilst there were many minor modifications on the series 2, many of these were under the skin. Maybe the only easy way so separate a Series 1 from a Series 2 is the adoption of opening rear quarter lights made with flat glass rather than curved. Also if a DB4 Series 2 is displayed with the bonnet up, it is clear that it is hinges from the front, a feature that was used right through to the end of production of derivatives of the Virage in 2000. The risk of a front opening bonnet is that if the catch was to fail, the bonnet could fly up at speed and obscure the drivers view of the road. The series 2 car also was fitted with uprated front brake callipers.
In order to aid vital engine cooling the sump was enlarged from 14 to 17 pints and the oil pump was also uprated. The much needed oil cooler was only an optional extra (indicated by a scoop under the front bumper) and was only fitted to a small number of cars at the time, although many have had them retrofitted more recently. Other options offered was overdrive and electric windows. Both Series 1 and 2 cars were fitted with the same rear Lucas light clusters as the DB Mark 3. These originated from the Humber Hawk but were also used on the Alvis TD21 and some special bodied Rolls Royce and Bentley motor cars. For some reason, this design are sometimes known as cathedral rear lights.
In total 349 of the Series 2 DB4 were built until the Series 3 was introduced in April 1961.
The Series 3 models were produced only in 1961, where most of the improvements were hidden to the naked eye, but the principle changes that can be identified are to the rear light clusters which are presented with a polished plate houses the separate indicator, rear/brake light and a red reflector lenses each on heavy polished chrome bases. Optional oil cooler continued from Series 2, selected by 53 Series 3 buyers. An additional bonnet stays fitted together with a modified handbrake, clutch cover and brake pedal linkages. A single stalk switch, courtesy switches and an electric tachometer. The heating system was improved with the fitment of 5 rather than 3 demister outlets.
September,1961, saw a revised DB4 introduced with several noticeable changes to the motorcar and designated as such being a “Series IV”. The revisions were mostly external and make this variant quite easy to identify.
The ‘egg box’ style grille was replaced by a barred type with only seven vertical bars. The air scoop on the bonnet was substantially lowered and lost its grille. Both the lower bonnet air scoop and barred type grille lasted in production through to the DB5 right through to the last variant of the DB6, the Mark II. The much-needed oil cooler became a standard feature with it’s easy to spot intake under the front bumper although amazingly was a delete option.
Most Series IV were produced with the engine in standard tune with twin SU carburetors. It was also possible for the customer to specify the “Special Series /SS engine” as used in the DB4 Vantage with triple SU carbs.
We have restored many Astons over the years and probably one of the most popular requests is to modify the car to “GT” spec. including modified rear wings.
From September 1962, the DB4 received another round of changes designated these to be the final variant of the DB4 as 'Series 5'. Principally to provide more space and legroom for rear seat passengers.
The rear light clusters were slightly changed from the Series 4 and feature individual indicator, stop/tail lamp and reversing lamp. The rear reflector was therefore re-located to the bumper. Also, the boot handle/number plate light was changed to a larger Hella type. Another change can be seen with the front indicators which are noticeably a little larger than previously.
In total, a mere 50 Aston Martin DB4 series 5 saloons were built during a 10-month period between September 1962 and June 1963. It was replaced in the range by the popular DB5.
The iconic DB4 heralded a new era for Aston Martin and put the company back in competition with other high-performance sports car manufacturers.
A convertible variant was announced at the London Motor Show in 1961. Throughout its production life the DB4 range was gradually developed, adding a GT version and some significant model year changes (often referred to as series 2, 3, 4 and 5) before finally being replaced by the DB5.
The competition variant of the Aston Martin DB4, the DB4 GT, was formally introduced in September 1959 at the London Motor Show. The new competition car was based on the race winning prototype DP199/1, and that same year Astons took the World Sportscar Championship title. The GT prototype won its first outing at Silverstone in May 1959 on the Bank Holiday weekend in the hands of Stirling Moss.
The GT was developed for increased performance by making it shorter, lighter and more powerful. In order to save weight, the wheelbase was reduced by 13 cm (approx. 5 inches). Altogether, weight was reduced by 91 kg (200 lbs), and the engine was extensively modified, featuring a higher compression (9:1) twin plug cylinder head and breathing through triple twin choke Weber 45 DCOE carburettors. Power output was outstanding: 302 bhp at 6000 rpm, a useful increase from the claimed 240 bhp of the standard car and qualifying the GT as the most powerful British car of its era.
Maximum speed was 153 mph with a zero-to-sixty time of 6.1 seconds. It was also one of the first cars that could go from standstill to 100 mph and then brake to a dead stop in under 20 seconds – a tribute, in part, to its upgraded Girling braking system, as used on Aston’s competition sports racers of the era. Outwardly, the GT is distinguished by fared-in headlamps, a feature which was later made standard for the DB5 model.
The rear screen and quarter windows were made of plexiglass on many examples, bumper overrides were deleted and the roll-down windows were frameless within the doors. Twin, competition-style, quick-release “Monza” fuel fillers were added atop each of the rear wings, leading to a high capacity fuel tank mounted in the boot.