Now, in this line of work I get to drive a wide range of cars… Superminis, family saloons, sports cars, 4X4s, people carriers, vans and even the occasional quad bike. If variety is indeed the spice of life then my job blesses me with quite the spice rack, in which ingredients acquired from every corner of the automotive world sits. Some of the more exciting machinery I take great pleasure in testing, but today I am a very lucky boy. Today I have the keys to an Aston Martin DB4.
The forefather to James Bond’s DB5, the DB4 is a legend in its own right. This car when it was new, back in 1958, shocked the worlds media with performance that put Ferraris of the day back in their place. Powered by a 240BHP 3.7 litre inline-six, the Aston Martin DB4 announced very proudly that Great Britain was still a force to be reckoned with when it came to the motor car. This particular example is even more special for two reasons; it has an all-aluminium engine block and, through a process of elimination, we are 95% sure that it once belonged to the legendary racing driver Jim Clark. With less than 50 examples of this automotive icon still on the road, a good DB4 is now worth over £240,000!
This beautiful blue Aston Martin DB4 oozes charm and character from every curve, grill and spoke. Stationary it looks so incredibly majestic and regal, completely commanding the attention of anyone within the immediate area. Hand crafted in England, this car is a snapshot from a time where Britannia ruled the waves, the empire had defeated the Nazi threat and our “boys” were dominating the motorsport calendar.
Gripping the chrome handle, the large GT door opens with a mechanical click and closes with a satisfyingly sturdy clunk. Inside this time machine you enter a world where colour television has not yet been invented. The black dashboard trimmed with chrome, curious buttons and intricate dials is more reminiscent of a World War aircraft than an automobile. The landscape is dominated by a large wooden three spoked steering wheel that sits proudly amongst the leather upholstery.
Firing up the old girl brings all six cylinders to life with a rumble and a vibration that can be felt throughout the car. The DB4 feels alive and through the rim of the steering wheel you can feel its British heart pulse a rhythmic pattern. One of the first things you will notice as you set off is just how off to one side the pedal box is. Honestly, they are so offset that you would believe that he accelerator actually lived outside of the bodywork. At speeds below 20MPH the lack of power steering in a car with a bonnet that stretches to the horizon and an big heavy engine is hard work. Clearly previous owners developed upper body strength to rival the likes of Popeye the Sailor Man in driving this car on a daily basis. We have the use of Goodwood’s historic motor circuit, a fitting place to put the Aston through its paces. Heading out on track and picking up speed, the steering becomes lighter and immediately a very pure sense of where the wheels are is translated to the driver. Whilst the DB4’s change of direction is immediate, through faster corners its weight and lack of grip tends to push the car wide. Learning the characteristics of how this machine handles leads to rather flowing racing lines where you set the car up for the corner and naturally let it drift wide to the exit. Blipping the throttle and grabbing another gear from its delicious 4 speed box unleashes a symphony from under the bonnet. I couldn’t tell you how fast I was going as the speedo needle was jumping about more erratically than a cat with flees, but the continuous forward surge of momentum felt strong even for a car of this age. Though the brakes left much to be desired, as is the case in many classic cars, the feel through the pedal was good and the whole package provides high levels of communication between man and machine.
The Aston Martin DB4 is an astonishing experience. Its seduces you with its looks, sings to you with its engine and leaves you spellbound whilst you drive through the pages of history. I absolutely adore this car and love how it is the embodiment of the British stiff-upper-lip “we can take on the world if needs be” attitude. £240,000 you say? A safe investment I say…