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Aston Martin DB4: Buying guide and review (1958-1963)

Aston Martin DB4: Buying guide and review (1958-1963) Classic and Performance Car
Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4
Beautiful, superb to drive and genuinely usable grand tourers in the classic mould, it’s easy to see why the Aston Martin DB4 is so highly revered. Featuring an elegant Touring-designed coupé bodyshell, Superleggera construction and an all-alloy 3.7-litre twin-cam straight-six, the DB4 arrived in 1958, dragging Aston Martin into the modern age at the same time. 
 
After the ancient DB MkIII the DB4 was a revelation as it was agile, fast and more practical. The car would evolve to become the even more valuable DB5 and then the DB6, which is marginally more affordable. But only marginally...
 
And you can’t talk about the DB4 without getting into the values. There’s no doubt that rising values are a double-edged sword, pricing many would-be owners out of the market. But even if you will never be able to afford a classic like the DB4, then you can take some small comfort in knowing that high prices are keeping specialists and parts suppliers in business. That benefits all of us in the long run, and it means that more and more cars are being restored, to higher standards than ever before.
 

Which DB4 to buy?

 
It’s amazing how many barn-find projects still come onto the market – what’s even more incredible is how much money they tend to fetch. It seems that many buyers assume that values of these cars are now so high that they can always be restored economically but that’s not necessarily the case; a full rebuild will be hugely expensive so you might be doing well just to break even. 
 
While almost everything can be rebuilt and repaired, it’s vital that a car you’re looking at is complete. Some small but significant parts are very hard to find now – quarterlight catches, heater control levers and seat runners, to give just a few examples. The DB4 evolved quite rapidly during production and there were lots of minor changes.
 
Paradoxically, although classic Astons are being rebuilt to better-than-new standards and using modern solutions to age-old problems, owners are veering more and more towards originality in the way their cars are finished. Whereas a few years ago it was all about 4.2-litre engines, air conditioning, power-assisted steering and so on, people want them original in the belief that it adds value in the long run. 
 
The regular DB4 is very valuable but the GTs, convertibles and Zagato-bodied cars are even more so. Which derivative you buy will possibly be dictated by your budget as well as what’s available, but assuming it’s the standard car – which is by far the most common of the various DB4 derivatives – you don’t have too many choices to make.
 
All of these cars came with a four-speed manual gearbox, but later on there was a Vantage engine option which is sought after so it fetches a premium. Colour schemes tend to be on the sober side and most cars have now been restored – some better than others. So the best piece of buying advice is to make sure that you’re getting what you think you’re getting as tarted up or poorly restored cars aren’t rare. If in doubt engage an expert to inspect any potential purchase for you – they’ll almost certainly spot things that you won’t and could save you a lot of money.
 

Performance and specs


Engine  3670cc, six-cylinder
Power 240bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 240lb ft @ 4250rpm
Transmission Four-speed manual
0-62mph 8.5sec
Top speed 141mph
Fuel consumption  15.0mpg
Price when new £3980
 

Dimensions and weight


Wheelbase              2489mm 
Length 4480mm
Width 1676mm
Height 1321mm
Weight 1308kg
 

Common problems

 
• The DB4 uses Carrozzeria Touring’s Superleggera construction techniques. This consists of a stiff steel structure of welded, lightly pressed panels, topped by small-diameter steel tubes which are all welded together to form a stiff tub which is then clad in lightweight aluminium panels. Such a complicated construction combined with poor rustproofing when new means there’s plenty of potential for wallet-wilting repair bills.
 
• Start your checks with the sills, which can be hugely expensive to repair properly. Brittle aluminium panels are sometimes irretrievable so major panel replacement becomes the only option, along with a full repaint.
 
• The whole of the chassis needs careful inspection and look for electrolytic corrosion where the bumper tubes pass through the body. The doors are aluminium-skinned over a steel frame and rot from the bottom up. Also check the boot floor and on convertibles look for stress cracks in the bodyshell between the boot and the fuel filler flap.
 
• Although any handbuilt car like an Aston Martin will always require skilled labour to restore, advances in technology have made it easier to achieve really durable and consistent results. For example, at Aston Engineering, after the chassis and Superleggera framework have been shotblasted, instead of being painted in red-oxide as they were at the factory, the bare metal is now powdercoated with a semi-matt black and very tough chip-resistant coating, which is electrostatically attracted into every nook and cranny. 
 
• The engine doesn’t have any weaknesses as such, but it won’t take neglect and it wears out eventually. With any rebuild work fiendishly expensive you need to make sure none is needed, so look for blue exhaust smoke under acceleration. Expect oil pressure of at least 80psi at 3000rpm on a healthy engine when hot.
 
• Undertake the usual checks for failed head gaskets plus oil and water leaks, and make sure the anti-freeze concentration is correct, to stop the all-alloy engine from corroding internally.
 
• Look down the right-hand side of the engine block, where there are weep holes from the cylinder liners. Brace yourself for a complete overhaul if there’s any significant staining or leaks present.
 
• If the timing chain hasn’t been replaced within the last 75,000 miles it’ll need doing soon or it’ll snap, leading to bent valves. If properly maintained, a DB4 engine will notch up well over 100,000 miles between rebuilds with nothing more than routine maintenance.
 
• Until very recently, it’s not been cost-effective to have parts remanufactured, due to the small quantities required; lower front wishbones are one of the more significant components that haven’t been available for years. Even so, RS Williams offers a repair kit for those – it’s usually the straight steel brake-reactor section that gets bent in an accident – and there isn’t much that can’t be obtained from specialists or, indeed, Aston Martin itself.
 
• The four-speed manual David Brown gearbox is strong but eventually the layshaft bearings wear leading to chattering when idling in neutral. Also expect tired synchromesh eventually, but rebuilt transmissions are available and the costs aren’t ridiculous.
 
• If you’re planning to buy your DB4 to use it, it’s worth pinning down exactly which diff ratio is fitted as there were various ones offered. It’s worth having a higher ratio for more relaxed cruising.
 
• The suspension needs to be lubricated every 2500 miles or so if it’s not to wear. For many cars this represents several years’ use, which is why it’s often overlooked.
 
• These cars originally featured crossply tyres but most now sport radials. Anything over 185-section rubber will make the steering very heavy at manoeuvring speeds which is why power steering conversions are popular.
 
• The interior trim is straightforward, so overhauling everything won’t trouble a competent trimmer. It won’t be cheap, but compared with the value of the car it’s not a deal-breaker.
 

Model history

 
1958: The Aston Martin DB4 coupé is introduced.
1959: The DB4 GT arrives. It’s a two-seater that’s five inches shorter and features a twin-spark engine that produces a claimed 302bhp. With a kerb weight 80kg lighter than for the regular DB4, the GT can do 0-60mph in just 6.1 seconds and tops out at 152mph. Just 75 are built, along with 19 ultra-light Zagato-bodied cars.
1960: The bonnet is now front-hinged and the capacity of the sump is increased.
1961: Overdrive is now available as an optional extra, the thickness of the body panels is reduced and triple rear lights are adopted. The heater is improved, a Vantage engine option is introduced (with triple SU carburettors, bigger valves and a higher compression to give 266bhp) and a DB4 convertible is now offered; 70 are built.
1962: The length is increased by 3.5 inches to increase rear seat leg room. At the same time, 15-inch wheels are adopted, in place of the previous 16-inch items.
1963: The DB5 supersedes the DB4, after 1040 have been built.
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.amoc.org – Aston Martin Owners’ Club
• www.amocna.org – Aston Martin Owners’ Club North America
• www.astonmartinworks.com – Aston Martin Works, the official Aston Martin workshop
• www.rswilliams.co.uk – RS Williams, Aston Martin specialist
• www.djsmail.co.uk – Desmond J Smail, Aston Martin specialist 
 

Summary and prices

 
The DB4 is perhaps one of the most desirable Aston Martins ever built, and that’s partly why values have been continually rising for many years. The cheapest model is the standard DB4 derivative, which today ranges from £350,000-£500,000 for a car in average condition. Top cars can cost up to £650,000. 
 
Convertible models are very rare, and values are significantly higher. Pay £750,000-£1,000,000 for an average car, with the very best pushing £1.3m. The short wheelbase GT models are in a different league, with average cars selling for £1.5m-£1.8m, although some will go for more than £2.5m. Zagatos range from £6m-£10m, depending on history and provenance.
Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4 Aston Martin DB4
Last updated: 19th Apr 2017
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  • 1960 Aston Martin DB4

    POA POA

    1960 Aston Martin DB4 This rare and beautiful Series II DB4 has been in a private collection that we have managed for the last 15 years. We have had many, many occasions over the years to drive and enjoy the car, including twice on the New England 1000 Rally. Likewise we have managed its meticulous care and maintenance for the owner. It is truly a driver’s car… nothing to do to it but turn the key and enjoy. Please inquire

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
    POA POA
    Matthew L. deGarmo Ltd
    203.852.1670  View contact number
  • Aston Martin DB4 Series II

    £535,000 £535,000

    Engine Size 3.7 l Mileage 67,700 miles Previous Owners 6 Bodystyle Coupe Seats 4 Transmission Manual Exterior Colour Wedgewood Blue Interior Trim Blue •Fully restored •Original 3.7 litre engine specifications •Original Buff log book •Substantial MOT history •Presented to Concours standards •Original colour paintwork to highest standard Delivered new in 1960, this delightful DB4 Series II must have considerably brightened the day of its first Bradford based owner. Finished in Wedgwood Blue with off white hides, it was supplied through distributors Charles Sydney and there can be little doubt the neighbours would have taken note not just from the DB4’s tuneful exhaust rasp! This superbly restored example of what is generally regarded as the prettiest of the DB4 evolution, was originally maintained by Aston Martin themselves before passing to its next North of England based owners. The original Buff Log Book and build sheet supplied with the vehicle history file, including a large quantity of MOT test certificates dating from 1967, attest to the mileage of just 66,000 covered from 1960 and confirm that the original registration number still applied. The car is restored to its original

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 67700 mi
    For sale
    £535,000 £535,000
  • ASTON MARTIN DB4 SERIES 5

    POA POA

    SOLD TO BELGIUM Brand Aston Martin Type DB4 series V Color Shadow Grey Interior Black Year of build 1963 Price Sold 1968 ASTON MARTIN DB6 This very beautiful DB4, One of only 17 left hand drive Series 5 examples, has been sold to a customer and friend in Germany. If you are interested in a similar model or If you are willing to sell a rare/unique automobile or your entire collection, we are looking forward to hear from you. Our collection is changing on a daily base and exists of approximately 90 cars. Due to the fact that some cars are transported or restored we do not offer all of our cars on the web. If you have specific requests, please let us know as we might have the car in our collection or we can help you in find your specific car. MORE INFORMATION For more information or an appointment, please contact Rutger Houtkamp by phone :+31 6 25 09 81 50 or send an e-mail to Rutger@Houtkamp.nl . Please feel free to contact us during evening hours or weekends. The Houtkamp Collection is located near Amsterdam, 10 minutes from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Please contact us directly or fill in the form to receive more information on this specific car Your Name (required) Your Email (req

    • Year: 1963
    For sale
    POA POA
  • DB4 Series II

    £560,000 £560,000

    We’re delighted to offer for sale this stunning and very original Aston Martin DB4 Series II. With 4 previous owners since 1961 this example is in the original Goodwood Green with Black leather specification, exactly as it left Newport Pagnell all those years ago. This DB4 it has been enjoyed in the UK as well as the United States and has been back on home soil since 2001. Having been well maintained throughout, it has a comprehensive document history with 5 folders of invoices and work notes. Having covered a total of 97,431 documented miles it is in perfect condition, ready to be enjoyed and would be a fantastic addition to any classic car enthusiast’s collection. For further information or to arrange a private viewing of this DB4, please contact our sales team who will be happy to assist. ----------------------- Brief history of the Aston Martin DB4 Announced at the Paris Motor Show in October, 1958, the DB4 ushered in a radical departure for Aston Martin in its determination to be a force in the production of true world beating manufacturers of GT cars of the very highest performance. The DB4 required a totally new platform chassis that was designed by Harold Beach, the chief c

    • Year: 1961
    • Mileage: 97431 mi
    For sale
    £560,000 £560,000
  • Aston Martin DB4 Convertible

    POA POA

    Engine Size 3.7 l Mileage 14,800 miles Previous Owners 6 Bodystyle Convertible Seats 4 Transmission Manual Exterior Colour Caribbean Pearl Interior Trim Navy Blue The car we are delighted to offer, Chassis Number 1076/R is a series 4 example from the first batch produced. Completed in October 1962 and delivered via Aston Martin Agents, Brooklands of Bond Street, in January 1963 to renowned socialite, Sir William Piggot-Brown. Finished in Caribbean Pearl with dark Blue VM.3282 interior hides, with matching hood and carpets. Fitted with Overdrive transmission and oil cooler. First changing hands in 1970, just 4 subsequent long term owners have since enjoyed and carefully maintained this very rare car. Upgraded to Special Series engine specifications in the 1980s, major restorative works carried out on 1076/R between 1999 and 2002, have included a chassis and body restoration, a bare metal repaint and rebuilds to the engine, gearbox, suspension & brakes, electrics and chrome plating where necessary. Additionally a body coloured, pre fitted and restored factory hardtop is supplied with the car. All restoration works have been carried out by highly respected Aston Martin specialists. Mo

    • Year: 1963
    • Mileage: 14800 mi
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Aston Martin DB4 Series 2 Nut and Bolt Restoration

    POA POA

    Description This particular DB4 Series 2 is on the market for the first time in nearly 40 years, with the previous owner, Mr D Banton, having bought the car in December of 1976 and has just undergone a complete restoration through ourselves. DB4/449/R was first registered on the 17th November 1960 where it was sold to a Mrs N Cotton of Bournemouth, then sold to a Mr S Dicks of London in 1965, whereupon it was sold to Mr Richard Butt of Grays who subsequently sold it to his brother, a Mr (Roger) Butt who kept the car until 1976. Mr D Banton used the car regularly in and around London and perhaps more fitting for a car of this style, slightly further afield with trips across Europe to the French Alps for skiing holidays. In 1983 Mr D Banton sent the car for a full bare metal respray, keeping the original colour of Dubonnet Red. Other work includes receipts in the history file dating back to 1976 with hand written invoices from Ian Moss, Aston Martin specialists. Further maintenance was carried out in the late 70’s with bills from Aston Martin and Aston specialist Hyde Vale and later in 1996 with Ian Moss once again. Also in the history file is a copy of the buff log book, handbook an

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Aston Martin DB4 Series IV - £POA

    POA POA

    Chassis Number: DB4/818/L Engine Number: 370/791 UK Registration Number: TBA Date of first reg: 29th November 1961 Exterior colour: Aegean Blue Hood: Interior colour: Black Leather Current Odometer reading: 71300 km Mileage Warranty: Steering: Left Transmission: Manual Options: Chrome Wire Wheels Background Background: When the single pale primrose DB4 was launched at the Paris Salon in October 1958, Marcel Blondeau, the French distributor for Aston Martin approached John Wyer on the stand with tears in his eyes “This is not a car, it is a folly, but I can sell as many as you can supply.” With a top speed of 140 mph, it was one of the fastest four seaters in the world and was on a par with the best of Italian Grand Turismos. Not wholly surprising, given the decision to have this distillation of years of Feltham ideas designed by Touring of Milan using their “Superleggera” system. The body consisted entirely of aluminium mounted on a trellis of small diameter steel tubes welded together. Body panels were attached to the trellis and clinched around angle plates which were welded to the members with graphite pads. Items like windscreen, rear window frames an angle sections for the doo

    For sale
    POA POA
  • 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT

    POA POA

    Registration: TBA Chassis No: DB4GT/0158/R Engine No: 370/0145/GT Aston Martin were very aware that the benefits of their success on the race track were far greater than the costs of taking part and had a significant effect on sales and the public perception of the brand. The DB4, their new model for 1958, was a great success featuring the Tadek Marek all alloy engine and iconic coachwork by Touring, but the design team knew it was not really a high performance sports racer and were working on the ‘GT’ before the DB4 had entered production. To achieve the performance they were looking for the car needed to be lighter. This was principally achieved by shortening the wheelbase by 5 inches and making the body out of lightweight 18 gauge magnesium alloy as opposed to the weightier 16 gauge aluminium used for the DB4. Weight was shed wherever possible and accordingly the car had no rear seats, bumpers without over-riders and Borrani wheels. The weight saving was 185lbs and the car was also fitted with disc brakes all round, Perspex covers to the headlights and a large bonnet air-intake and another below the grill to service the oil cooler. The engine was uprated and notably fitted with

    • Year: 1961
    For sale
    POA POA
  • 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Recreation

    POA POA

    Registration No: FAS 302 Chassis No: DB4/272/R Aston Martin had all but withdrawn from racing by 1960; they had won Le Mans and the Constructor’s Championship in 1959 and felt that they could rest on their laurels. However, it quickly dawned on them that the benefits of their success on the track were far greater than the costs of taking part and had a significant effect on sales. Accordingly, shortly after the launch of the DB4 GT it was decided to get back into racing. They found the competition had grown even more formidable and they needed a faster, lighter and more competitive car. Initially Aston Martin approached Touring to see if they could come up with a new design, but their preferred coachbuilder already had its hands full with its own high volume work. However they introduced Aston Martin to the local firm of Zagato, a smaller company that could produce the specialist work required and in small numbers. However, at Zagato the project was given to a 23 year junior designer fresh from University, Ercole Spada. Despite his inexperience and as he recalls that he spent no more than a week on the main design and much of that polishing what he had produced in just a few days,

    • Year: 1960
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Aston Martin DB4

    £399,995 £399,995

    This Series 2 DB4 retains all of its particular- to- series body features, including the early ‘Art Deco’ rear lights, grille and bonnet scoop. It’s all a matter of taste, but these fittings do make the early DB4s purer for many collectors than the later cars. The engine is the original ‘matching numbers’ unit, but the cylinder head has been considerably upgraded some years ago to unleash a notable amount of the extra power potential that these units have in reserve. This includes special camshafts and porting, and a triple SU carb set-up. Not only is the engine straining at the leash when blipped from idle, but the performance on the open road is far more satisfying than a standard DB4. This lovely example was delivered on 26th November 1960 for the use of Mr John Bowthorpe, bearing the distinctive registration plate JB 720. Originally finished in Pale Primrose with black Connolly hide, the car has subsequently received a high quality colour change to a very attractive shade of deep red. Following two further owners in the UK and warranty work recorded until 1968 it was later purchased by the President of the Italian Section of the Aston Martin Owners Club, Massimo Meli. During his ownership in 1999 the publication Ruote Classiche used the car as a cover car in a 10page article. In 2011 it was brought back to the UK and was able to once again maintain the original ‘James Bond’ registration initials as delivered back in 1960. This new owner used the car at UK AMOC events over the years and had Aston Specialists check the car annually, only travelling a few hundred miles each year. With only 1,110 DB4s manufactured across all 5 series and prices of DB4s going skywards, we are delighted to offer this most useable Series 2. With options to drive or improve, this great driving Aston certainly represents investment with prices of restored cars now in excess of £500k.

    • Year: 1960
    • Mileage: 6000 mi
    For sale
    £399,995 £399,995
  • Aston Martin DB4

    £495,000 £495,000

    Variant: Series II We are delighted to offer this beautiful Aston Martin DB4, immaculately finished in RSW Green with Tan full leather interior. The car was originally supplied by OKE Bros Ltd of Kingsbridge, Devon to Mrs Mary Crook in February 1961. The car then passed to Mr Charles N Hill of Sidmouth in April 1965. The third owner was Mr Colin Bond, who purchased the car in November 1966 and he registered it to his company Thompson Bros Ltd of Bridgewater in Somerset. The mileage at this time was 28,700 miles and Mr Bond managed to drive the car for a little over 6 years until poor health caused him to put the car into storage for almost 10 years. In 1981 the car was fully serviced and made ready for the road again, now showing 57,213 miles however, she only travelled a further 55 miles that year before being placed back into storage. In 1982 the car passed onto Mr Colin Bond's son and it remained in storage until February 1998, when it was then sold to its last keeper, who by chance had actually known the car and its previous owner since 1966. From 1999 until 2002 the car had been subject to a detailed restoration. The full bodywork restoration was carried out by Bodylines Specialist Panel Beaters and Spray Tec Restorations Ltd, with Motorman Engineering tackling the full detailing restoration. The engine was rebuilt to a 4.2 litre unleaded specification, complete with vantage cams. The original SU Carburettors were retained in order to maintain the original standard look. Other works which had been carried out include a full flow oil cooler and electric radiator fan, which have been hidden from view. The suspension has been uprated with new springs, a thicker anti roll bar and Koni shock absorbers to the front. A high ratio back axle with Powerlock limited slip differential has also been fitted. The front brakes have been uprated and new Borrani wire wheels fitted, complete with spinners (an original option from new). The entire restoration has kept originality coupled with practicality at the forefront of its mind. Any upgrades to the original specification have simply been to improve the comfort and drivability of the car, without altering the iconic features and stunning characteristics. In 2004, thanks to the absolutely superb restoration, this car won 1st place in the Elite Class at the Aston Martin Owners Club Concours, held at Woburn Abbey.

    • Year: 1961
    • Mileage: 59700 mi
    • Engine size: 4.2
    For sale
    £495,000 £495,000