Things didn't change quickly at Aston Martin during the 1950's, and nor should they have, given the Aston's were arguably the best sporting cars ever made. Much like the Mercedes philosophy, change for change's sake was not a principal held in high regard.
The Aston Martin DB2
had been for sale for nearly 5 years before the company set about designing a successor - and then it would take another 3 years to get things just right.
The all-new DB4 carried over some DB2 characteristics, such as the conventional coil spring and double wishbone independent front suspension set up, along with the rack and pinion steering. But the similarities stopped when you compared chassis. Gone was the previous DB's multi-tube design, and in its place was a pressed-steel platform-type frame, the first ever to be used on an Aston.
The 240 bhp 3.7 liter engine
that powered the DB4 was an all new design by Tadek Marek, it featuring an aluminum block with cast iron wet liners. This same engine would grow to 4 liters and be fitted to both the DB5 and DB6, however even at 3.7 liters the Aston engineers soon determined the DB2's transmission could not cope with the bucketloads of torque on offer, and so a special David Brown 4 speed was designed.
Disc brakes were standard fare, and there was even an automatic available during the 1960's, although we have no figures on how many were thus optioned. The body was typically evocative, with Carrozzeria Touring of Milan being commissioned to undertake the design.
Dubbed "Superleggara" construction, aluminum panels were formed over small tubes laid out to define the body shape. Given the DB4 weighed in at 3000 lb., it is a good thing that the designers at least kept the body weight as low as possible.
The GT derivative arrived a year later (in 1959), taking the DB4 from the status of "potent" to "lethal". The GT was first seen in prototype form at the B.R.D.C. international meeting in May 1958, then driven by Stirling Moss, who would take out the Grand Touring Car race comfortably averaging 86.94 mph, and setting a fastest lap time of 58.8 seconds.
The biggest difference between the standard DB4 and the GT lay under the hood, the DB4's new engine being tweaked by Aston engineers so that it produced an incredible 302 bhp, thanks mainly to the 3 x two-choke Weber carburetors, dual ignition twin plug heads, high lift camshafts, 9 to 1 compression ratio and oil system which incorporated a full flow filter and cooler.
R-R 50 alloy was used for the crankcase/cylinder block and for the cylinder head. The purpose built David Brown 4 speed transmission was coupled to a twin plate 9 inch clutch, while the GT also featured a Salisbury "Powr-Lok" limited slip differential. To pick a GT from the lesser DB4, look for the faired-in headlamps and 5 inch shorter wheelbase and body (the latter evident at the door openings, where the 5 inches was saved). Also look for the magnificent Borrani wheels with their three-ear knock-on hub caps.
Inside the GT there were the typical Aston luxurious seats, however the designers did away with the back seat arrangement first introduced with the DB2, instead opting for an internal luggage shelf - perhaps more practical given the rear seat was really for show anyway. Helping pull the car to a stop were Girling disc brakes to all 4 wheels, developed in close consultation with the Aston engineers during competition work, they featuring quickly-replaceable segmental type
You could option no less than 5 different rear axle ratios, although given the competition nature of the GT the overdrive option was considered unnecessary.
The regular DB4's would undergo no less than 5 minor makeovers during the productin run, the Series 2 introducing overdrive as an option, minor cosmetic changes for the Series 3, and the Series 4 offering a tuned 266 bhp Vantage option. The final makeover was the Series 5, which afforded more leg room and boot space, along with a higher roof line. A four-seat convertible joined the introductory fastback coupe style in late 1961.
In all, some 1113 DB4's were manufactured, including a few four-seat convertibles that joined the introductory fastback coupe in 1961. Despite the "Super Light" body construction, the DB4 was heavy beast, but also a very powerful one. There was little doubt that the DB4 would become an instant classic.