First unveiled at the Paris Motorshow in 1958, every major component in the ground-breaking DB4 was new. Designed by Carrozeria Touring of Milan, it employed the Superleggera (super-light) system by using alloy body panels affixed to a tubular frame. The new all alloy Tadek Marek-designed 3.7-litre straight-six, dohc engine produced 240bhp and the model remained in production until June '63, by which time there had been effectively five distinct series and a total of 1,110 had been built. The 140mph, 2+2 DB4 launched Aston Martin straight back into competition with the exotic Continental brands.
Raced by many of the greats including Clark, Ireland, Moss, Salvadori and others, the DB4GT is one of the most sought-after cars for FIA Historic competition. Premiered at the 1959 London Motorshow, the 2-seater DB4GT was conceived as a worthy competitor to Ferrari's 250 SWB. Featuring lighter-gauge aluminium panels, a 5-inch shorter wheelbase, Weber carbs feeding a 12-plug cylinder head and 302bhp, performance was impressive - 0-60 in 6.1 secs, 0-100-0mph in 20 secs and a 153mph top speed. Just 75 DB4GTs were built until production ceased in 1963.
Arguably the most special and desirable of all Aston Martin road cars, the DB4GT Zagato was first revealed at the 1960 London Motorshow. DB4GT chassis were dispatched from Newport Pagnell to Milan for fitment of the lightweight Zagato aluminium body and, of the 20 cars built between 1960 and 1963, 19 survive today. With a higher compression ratio power was raised from the DB4GT’s 302bhp to 314bhp and so there would have been a slight improvement on the standard ‘4GT’s 0-60 in 6.1 secs and 153mph maximum.
Launched at the London Motorshow in 1961, the beautiful DB4 Convertible was created ‘in-house' by AM designers. It was powered by the 240bhp, 3.7-litre straight-six engine and the quoted performance in standard trim was 0-60mph in 9 secs with a 140mph max. DB4 Convertibles have a slightly longer series 5-length body and most have a colour-matched dash in place of the black dash of the fixed-head DB4 coupe. Just 70 Convertibles were built up until production ended in June '63, 32 of which were to a Vantage specification.
Powered by a ‘Special Series' 6-cyl, 3,670cc dohc DB4 engine, the previously optional Vantage version became a separate model from 1961. Vantage modifications included raised compression, larger valves and triple SU carburettors, all of which boosted power from the standard model's 240bhp to 266bhp at 5,750rpm. 104 coupe and convertible DB4 Vantages were built and most featured the DB4GT's faired-in headlamps. By 1963 almost all of the final, Series 5 DB4s were built to Vantage spec as standard and were dimensionally very similar to the forthcoming DB5 model.
Perhaps the most famous Aston Martin model of all, the DB5 shared much with its Series 5 DB4 predecessor. However, the 6cyl DB5 engine was enlarged to 3,995cc and with that came 282bhp, 0-60 in 7.1secs and a top speed of 142mph. Some 65 DB5s were fitted with the optional 314bhp Vantage engine (0-60 in 6.5, 150mph), but also significant was the introduction of a full synchromesh 5-speed gearbox, improved disc brakes, tinted glass and electric windows. 898 coupé and 123 convertible DB5s were built from July 1963 to Sept 1965, and a highly modified version was famously driven by Commander Bond in the classic 007 movie, Goldfinger.
SHORT CHASSIS VOLANTE
Built during 1965 and 1966, the Short Chassis Volante was based on the DB5 Convertible but was introduced at the same time as the DB6 saloon. Though similar to the DB5 Convertible, it has several DB6 features such as split bumpers, a bigger oil cooler intake and the DB6's interior trim, although one feature unique to the Short Chassis is its pair of Triumph-sourced, TR rear light clusters. Of the 37 Short Chassis Volantes built, three were equipped with the DB5's 314bhp, Vantage spec engine.
Clearly derived from the DB4 and ‘5, the DB6 was announced at the 1965 London Motorshow. The most noticeable changes were the Kamm tail rear bodywork while other differences included split front and rear bumpers, a redesigned oil cooler opening, a higher roofline, a 10cm-longer wheelbase giving genuine 4-seater capability, and, on he '69 Mk II, flared wheelarches. The term 'Volante' replaced 'convertible' and this name change coincided with the introduction of the Short Chassis Volante, of which just 37 were made. The DB5's 6-cyl 282bhp engine was retained in the DB6, although a 325bhp Vantage version could be specified (0-60 in 6.1 secs, 148mph). 1,750 built.
Continuing the DB4 and DB5 convertible bloodline, the DB6 Volante was first unveiled at the 1966 London Motorshow. Among the differences were the Kamm tail rear spoiler, split front and rear bumpers and the re-shaped oil cooler opening of the DB6 saloon. The DB5's 282bhp 6-cyl engine and 10cm-shorter chassis was also retained for the DB6 Volante, but the Mk II version of 1969-70 also featured flared wheelarches and a power-operated roof. Thirty-eight 325bhp DB6 Vantage Volantes were also built - eight of those with a manual gearbox.
Unveiled at Blenheim Palace in September 1967, the strikingly modern William Towns-designed DBS was originally intended to use the new Tadek Marek designed V8 engine. In original guise the DBS sported wire wheels and sitting on a widened DB6 platform it retained the DB6's 3,995cc straight-six engine. The standard DBS produced 282bhp which yielded 0-60mph in 7.1 secs and a 140mph top speed, although a 325bhp Vantage-tune engine with triple Weber carbs, a higher compression ratio and high-lift cams could be specified at no extra cost. 787 were built until mid 1972.
From 1970 the 6-cyl DBS was also made available with the Tadek Marek-designed 5,340cc V8 engine. Named the DBS V8, this 4-seater grand tourer boasted Bosch mechanical fuel injection, 320bhp, 0-60 in six seconds dead and a 160mph top speed - performance that made it one of the world's fastest production cars. Other differences between the two DBS models included the V8's larger front airdam, 15-inch cast alloy wheels and ventilated brake discs. 402 V8s were produced concurrently with the 6-cyl model until May 1972.
Following the sale of Aston Martin in 1972, the DBS V8 was also mildly facelifted and underwent a name change to ‘AM V8'. A total of 1,607 V8s were built during a long if interrupted production run from 1972-1989 - a time that also saw two further company ownership changes. Significant updates include: the 1973 switch from mechanical Bosch fuel injection to four Weber carburettors, the introduction of the V8 Volante, the revised ‘Oscar India' model in 1978 and the 1986 reintroduction of fuel injection to an electronic Weber/Marelli system.
LAGONDA V8 SERIES 1
Marking a second attempt to revive the Lagonda brand, just seven Series 1 Lagonda V8 saloons were built between 1974 and 1976. These were essentially lengthened, 4-door versions of the AM V8 coupe with a new ‘Lagonda' radiator grille. Five of the seven had an auto transmission but the Middle East oil crisis meant that demand for this £14,000, 160mph supersaloon was too small to warrant continued production. Following a long-term project, an eighth Series 1 Lagonda V8 was completed in 2007.
Series 2 Visitors to the 1976 Earls Court Motorshow were stunned by the Series 2 Lagonda V8. Featuring very edgy and futuristic William Towns styling, along with advanced LED instrumentation and touch-sensitive switches, this long and luxurious 4-door saloon was considered by many to be the motoring equivalent of Concord. In 1987 the wedge-shaped styling was softened, with six smaller headllights replacing the pop-ups and the LEDs giving way to cathode ray tube, and then later, fluorescent display instruments. 645 of the 280bhp, 148mph Series 2 were built up until 1989.
AM V8 VANTAGE VOLANTE AND PRINCE OF WALES VANTAGE VOLANTE
Built between 1986 and 1989, the 'standard' model featured flared wheel arches, front and rear spoliers and extended sill mouldings. Powered by the 410bhp 5,340cc Vantage-spec V8 engine, this convertible 'gentlemens club on wheels' covered 0-60mph in 5.3 secs and could reach 170mph. HRH The Prince of Wales, (whose warrant Aston Martin holds to this day), famously owned a Vantage Volante with less extreme bodywork, and so twenty-seven PoW-specification cars were also built (22 in right hand drive) and all were slightly different according to customer preferences.
Drawings and a scale model of the striking 'Vantage Zagato' were first shown at the 1985 Geneva motorshow and Aston Martin took deposits on all 50 cars planned (52, including prototypes, were subsequently built). A Volante version followed in 1987 and, although an even more limited run of 25 was intended, 37 Volantes were eventually made from 1986-1988. Featuring a Zagato-designed and built body, a shortened wheelbase and a more contemporary 2+0 interior, the car's 5,341cc V8 was boosted to 432bhp which combined with a 105kgs weight reduction made the V8 Zagato one of the world's fastest cars with 0-60 in 4.8secs and a tested top speed of 192mph.
V8 VANTAGE VOLANTE ZAGATO
A convertible Volante version followed the Vantage Zagato hardtop coupe in 1987 and, although an even more limited run of 25 was initially intended, 37 Zagato Volantes were eventually made from 1986-88. Of those just six were factory retro-fitted with the 432bhp Vantage engine and, together with a corresponding bonnet power bulge, this engine made it the world's fastest convertible with a sub 5 second 0-60 time and a near 190mph top speed.
Designed by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley, the Virage made its debut at the 1988 Birmingham Motorshow and close to 400 were produced up until 1995. The revised 5,340cc V8 featured new 16-valve cylinder heads to help overcome power losses from the newly obligatory catalytic converters. A new chassis with independent front suspension and unique A-frame rear suspension was employed, and running on unleaded fuel the Marelli/Weber-injected 330bhp Virage could run to 155mph. A 450bhp, 174mph 6.3-litre Mk. II version with bigger brakes and firmer suspension came to market in 1993.
Supercharged Unveiled at the 1992 Birmingham Motorshow, the new Vantage bore more than a passing resemblance to the Virage. In fact, the only body panels shared with the Virage were the doors and roof skins, but under the body was a heavily-revised chassis with de-Dion rear suspension. Additionally, the Vantage had two clusters of three headlamps, each behind a single heated lens, while the grille design was also new. Fitted with twin Eaton superchargers, its 5,340cc V8 made a whopping 550bhp. Mated to a 6-speed ZF gearbox, power was sufficient for 0-60 in 4.6 secs and 186mph. 288 were built - including 40 Le Mans special editions and eight Short Chassis Volantes.
Introduced at the 1996 Geneva Salon, the V8 Coupé inherited much from the Virage and later V8 Vantage. Powered by a non-supercharged version of the 5,340cc engine and equipped with a 4-speed auto transmission as standard, the V8 Coupé produced a more manageable 349bhp which translated to 0-60 in 5.9 secs and a top speed of over 155mph. The V8 Coupé's bodywork is similar to the Vantage's but features driving lamps mounted in a less aggressive front skirt and less pronounced wheel arches over unique, 8-spoke alloy wheels. 101 cars were built up until 1999.
Armed with 50bhp more horsepower than the standard V8 Vantage, the Aston Martin 'Works Service' created Vantage V600 was produced from 1998-2000. With a top speed approaching 200mph, the astonishing 600bhp version merged a traditional walnut, Wilton and Connolly leather bespoke interior with a catalogue of high-tech performance parts including hollow-spoked Dymag magnesium wheels, AP Racing brake calipers, upgraded Eibach/Koni suspension and an optional 5 speed 'short-shift' gearbox. The V600 marked the final incarnation of the 30-year old Tadek Marek V8, and four decades of coach-built cars from Newport Pagnell.
Le Mans Powered by a twin-supercharged engine, the mid-90s V8 Vantage boasted some 550bhp, while the later Works Service-created Vantage V600 made another 50bhp and had a top speed close to 200mph. The V600 amalgamated the Vantage's luxury interior with a catalogue of high-tech performance parts, but even more special were the 40 Le Mans versions built in 1999-2000 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Aston Martin's victory at Le Mans. With 550 or 600 horsepower, these cars featured an even bigger front spoiler, a largely blanked-off upper front intake, bonnet cooling ducts, DBR1-style vents on each side, Le Mans badging and directions to the Sarthe circuit.
Available as a 2+0 or a 2+2, the Vanquish marked another huge step forward for Aston Martin as it showcased a bonded aluminium/composite chassis structure, advanced production techniques, advanced electronics and greatly improved build quality and safety along with stunning Ian Callum design. Manufactured from 2001 to 2004, the Vanquish also featured an sequential paddle-shift 6-speed transmission (a conventional 6-speed manual could be factory retro-fitted) and fly-by-wire throttles. Powered by a further-developed, 6-litre 48-valve V12 delivering 460bhp, quoted performance was 0-62 in 5.0secs with a 190mph top speed.
The fastest road-going, production Aston Martin made its world debut at the Paris Motorshow in 2004. With the Cologne-built 5,935cc V12 now developing 520bhp and 425lb/ft of torque, the S had revised gearing and delivered even greater performance: 0-62 in 4.8 secs and 200+mph. Other modifications included a reshaped grill and boot lid, a front splitter, upgraded brakes and quicker steering geometry, while the previously optional Sports Dynamics suspension package now came as standard. With production ending in 2007, the Vanquish S was the final hand-built model from the Newport Pagnell factory.