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MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: THE ORIGINAL DB ASTONS

Posted on August 27 2018

In 1946, a newspaper advertisement offered a “High Class Motor Business” for sale. On enquiring, David Brown discovered that the company was Aston Martin. Brown was an English industrialist, born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire in 1904. After leaving school at the age of 17, he joined the family transmission engineering business that had been founded by his grandfather, becoming managing director in 1933.

English industrialist, David Brown. 

Under Brown’s leadership, the business significantly grew its international operations, and diversified into the production of tractors. The Second World War dramatically increased demand for the company’s gear and gearbox components for military use, and by the time war ended in 1945, Brown had become wealthy enough to indulge in his passion for sportscar production. He followed up on his enquiry, and visited Aston Martin to test drive their new prototype, the Atom.

Aston Martin "Atom"

Seeing potential in the model, Brown began negotiating to buy Aston Martin, acquiring the company for £20,500 in February 1947. Work then started on developing the prototype Atom into a production car, which Brown decided should be a convertible. The chassis was therefore redesigned to accommodate an open top, and the finished vehicle was launched the following year as the Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports.  

Aston Martin 2-Litre Sports

From the outset, Brown was keen to introduce a more powerful engine to the vehicles. He learnt that Lagonda Cars was in financial trouble and went to visit the factory where he met the legendary W.O.Bentley who was developing a new engine for the company. Brown bought the assets of Lagonda from the company’s liquidator, including the design for the new engine which he knew would be perfect for a new generation of Aston Martins – the first of which was the DB2.

Undeniably handsome and stylish DB2

Approximately 1300 DB2s were produced in various series between 1950 and 1957, including coupés, hatchbacks and dropheads - an example of the latter becoming one of the first Aston Martins to grace the big screen, driven by Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror-thriller “The Birds”.

DB2/4 Drophead Coupé in The Birds

Introduced alongside the DB2, was the DB3 (and later DB3S). Although the original model used the same Lagonda engine from the DB2 Vantage, it was a car designed specifically for racing. A total of 10 DB3s and 21 DB3Ss were produced before being replaced by the DBR1 in 1956.

Aston Martin DB3S

Prior to the DB2’s cinema appearance in The Birds, it is a DB3 that can claim the first movie role for an Aston Martin. The car starred alongside Terry Thomas in the 1960 Ealing Comedy, “School for Scoundrels”.

DB3S and Terry Thomas star in School for Scoundrels

At the London Motor Show in 1958, Aston Martin unveiled what is considered to be one of the most desirable cars ever created. The DB4 had a new engine – and a beautiful new lightweight Superleggera body designed by Carrozzeria Touring in Milan. 1204 DB4s were produced, with 75 of those made as the high-performance DB4GT, and 19 modified by the Zagato works in Italy into DB4 GT Zagatos.

DB4GT. Arguably the prettiest Aston.

With its photogenic looks, the DB4 has made dozens of movie and television appearances, the most famous of which is undoubtedly in The Italian Job (1969). In the film, the silver 1962 DB4 Convertible belonged to Charlie Croker, played by Michael Caine. Sadly, the “pretty car” was unmercifully crushed and tipped over a cliff by a Mafia bulldozer.

Michael Caine and DB4 Convertible in The Italian Job

Production of both the DB4 and DB4GT finished in 1963 when September of that year saw the introduction of what is often referred to as, "the most famous car in the world". The DB5 was an evolution of the final series V DB4 Vantage (which looked almost identical to its successor). An elegant convertible was launched alongside the new model, followed by an estate-style version - known as a "shooting brake" - which was influenced by David Brown's need for a car that would accommodate his dogs.

DB5. "The most famous car in the world".

It was, of course, a "modified" version of the saloon car that changed the course of history for Aston Martin. A DB5 prototype was provided to Oscar winning special-effects expert John Stears who incorporated a number of additional extras for the 1964 James Bond film, "Goldfinger", including revolving licence plates, smoke screen, tyre shredders, Browning machine guns and an ejector seat.

Sean Connery and DB5 in Goldfinger (1964)

In September 1965, a year after the release of Goldfinger, another new Aston was launched - the DB6. The model bore a striking resemblance to the DB4 and DB5, particularly at the front end, which retained the distinctive nose-shape first created for the DB4GT. David Brown was a fan of open-topped cars, and a convertible version of the DB6 was created - using the name "Volante" to denote the drop-top design. The name has continued to be used for all convertible Aston Martin models ever since.    

DB6 Volante formerly owned by British musician Jools Holland

At launch, the DB6 was already considered by some to be a dated design, but production continued to run from 1965 to 1970 - the longest of any Aston Martin up to that time. A total of 1,788 cars were produced, with many being acquired by Swinging Sixties celebrities, including Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Peter Sellers. Even Prince Charles joined the list of DB6 owners when Her Majesty The Queen bought him a MkII Volante for his 21st birthday.

 

Mick Jagger with his DB6 in Marylebone (1966) 

In 1966, Carrozzeria Touring was asked to continue their collaboration with Aston Martin by designing a replacement for the DB6, but the company went out of business that year. British designer William Towns was subsequently given the brief to create a more modern looking Aston, and a "fastback" design with squared-off front grille was developed that was comparable with contemporary automotive styling of the period.

Aston Martin DBS

Although the new car was intended to replace the DB6, the two models ran concurrently for three years, with DBS production running from 1967 until 1972. In October 1968, filming began on a new 007 movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", with a new actor, George Lazenby, playing the role of James Bond - driving a new car - a Series I DBS finished in Metalichrome Olive with black leather interior. However, a 1970 Bahama Yellow version of the car became the most memorable of all DBS Astons when it was driven by future 007, Sir Roger Moore, in the classic TV series, The Persuaders.       

Sir Roger Moore with DBS in The Persuaders (1971)

The DBS was the last model to be produced under David Brown's ownership of Aston Martin. When the David Brown Corporation was experiencing financial difficulties in 1972, Brown was forced to sell Aston Martin Lagonda, and the new owners dropped the DB moniker. Some 20 year later, under the ownership of Ford, Brown's permission was sought to revive the DB initials for use on the new "NPX" model that was being developed. His blessing was given, and he became Honorary Life President of Aston Martin Lagonda. The NPX became the DB7, and was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1993. David Brown passed away six months later, with the knowledge that his name would continue to be attached to the legend that he had created.

David Brown (10.05.1904 - 03.09.1993)


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