crankandpiston.com goes MI6 when we spend some time with a 1963 Aston Martin DB4 Series V Vantage.[Not a valid template]
At first glance, this appears to be an Aston Martin DB5 as seen co-starring alongside a well-known Vodka-Martini drinking, Walther PPK toting British secret agent in Goldfinger, Thunderball and Goldeneye among countless other film cameo appearances. And, to a degree, you’d be right. Although the DB5 rocketed to prominence after its 1964 movie debut, so close were the production and filming dates of both Aston Martin and United Artist’s projects that not enough DB5s were available to film. In its place (and rather cruelly left in the shadows ever since) was brought a rebadged and near-identical DB4 Vantage, Aston’s earlier two-door knockout from 1958, to act as the understudy and help promote the company’s newest product.
If you’re a film buff and 007 fanatic, it’s an interesting factoid, and one Garry McColl takes great interest in explaining not long after he meets crankandpiston outside the Meydan Hotel in Dubai (where else can you take a James Bond car in Dubai?). You see, Garry is the owner of this stunning 1963 DB4 Series V Vantage, and has been for six years.
“This is actually my first Aston Martin,” Garry explains with his charming Northern English candour. “I love the model and the whole Bond thing, and the DB4 has this aura you just can’t find with many other cars. Plus there’s the looks. I mean, it is absolutely stunning: the lines are fantastic and it looks great from every angle.
“I originally bought the car from Mike Abbas Classic Cars in the UK. I’d known him for a while and he’s a straight up-guy: he even took care of the shipping from the UK for me too! When I bought it, the Vantage was still in race form as it had been for 20 years with previous owner Roy Dudley. So it brought a great race history with it.” It’s a race history that includes classic car victories on Grand Prix circuits Silverstone, Brand’s Hatch and Donington.
Though it may not boast the cinematic clout of its younger sibling, the DB4 is still a serious piece of kit. Powered by a 3670cc DOHC straight-six (a then-brand new engine from Polish-born engineer Tadek Marek) and equipped with a four-speed manual gearbox, the DB4 kicked out 240hp and 240lb ft of torque, allowing the coupe to hit 0-100kph in 9 seconds and a top speed of 225kph. By today’s standards, a sports car barely beating a Lexus CT 200h on the quarter mile may not be much to shout about, but against the might of Ferrari’s 250, Jaguar’s E-Type and Maserati’s 3500 in the early 1960s, it was pretty impressive. Notably, the DB4 was also the first production car ever to hit 0-100-0kph in less than 30 seconds, doing so in 21s.
For 1961 though, just two years before the DB4 was retired, Aston introduced a Vantage-spec DB4 for its new and improved Series IV variant, a model that boasted an increased 266hp power output and faster top speed thanks to new cylinder heads and a bit of clever tweaking. The Series V – like the model above – shared this newfound performance, and alongside the lightweight Vantage GT, proved the swansong for the DB4 ahead of the DB5s introduction in 1963. Of the 1119 DB4s produced, only 95 of them – including Garry’s – were Series V Vantage coupes, 45 of which were convertibles: sales at auction for pristine models have hit as high as the $395,000 mark as a result. It’s no real wonder Garry wanted to change as little as possible on his new purchase
“When I first got her, the paint was looking a little tired”, Garry continues. “It was cracking and peeling, and the interior too was split and cracked with age. I didn’t think the race seats were really necessary anymore and so swapped them out for the original leather ones. There were also a couple of mechanical issues that needed attending to, namely brakes and suspension, and a higher capacity radiator for the heat. But after that, I drove the car for five years before deciding on the next phase.”
The ‘next phase’ came just last year. Garry, hitherto content with the lightweight Superleggera bodywork from Carrozzeria Touring, authentic 16-inch wire wheels, and red racing colours used by previous owner Dudley on the circuits (including the roll cage, fitted in 1987 ahead of the car’s historic racing debut), decided that a return to the car’s routes was in order.
“I always wanted the car to be Silver Birch, the iconic colour,” Garry explains. “So I spoke with Vijay Pillai, the owner of Max Garage in Dubai. His team stripped the paint all the way back to the aluminium body, which showed quite a few scars from its racing days: upon closer inspection, the thing had probably had more hits than Elvis! So there was a little more work than expected required, but the guys repaired the damage, did a beautiful job with the paint, and now the car looks first class. They really did a great job.”
Since then, the Aston Martin DB4 Series V Vantage has been trotted out repeatedly for classic car runs and events in the Middle East, never failing to attract a crowd thanks to Garry’s meticulous care and attention. Indeed, enthusiasts quickly swamp the classic as our photoshoot gets underway. Garry, throwing the bonnet open, is soon deep in conversation with interested parties, describing the maintenance required, the thrill of the drive, and the deep throated noise of that straight-six. Some 51 years old the former Bond girl may be, but her owner’s enthusiasm grows with each passing month.
“I don’t usually drive the car during summer, since there’s no air conditioning and I’ve no intention of fitting one. I have to be wary of overheating too, so I don’t drive it much in traffic. But I do enjoy going for early morning runs across to Hatta, where I can really let the engine sing. I’ve even taken the car on a couple of track days at the Dubai Autodrome just to see how she performs. She can still hit the high speeds when the pedal is pressed firmly down.
“If I parted with her, I would be hard pushed to find another for sale: statistically, it’s reckoned you have more chance of spotting a UFO than another one of these. I have to admit, I hadn’t expected myself to fall for her quite as much as I have when I first took delivery. She really has left me both shaken and stirred.”
|DB4 Series V Vantage (1963)
|DOHC / straight-six / 3670cc
|266hp @ 5000rpm
|240lb ft @ 4200rpm
|Four-speed manual with optional overdrive
|Telescopic shock absorbers
|Lever arm shock absorbers
|Dunlop Servo assisted brakes with front and rear solid discs
|16-inch front and rear
|215/65 R16 front and rear