Cars with breathtaking glamour are hard to resist, except when their status gets in the way of enjoying them
The 534,422 visitors to 1958’s International Motor Exhibition at Earls Court were treated to first viewings of the Austin A40 and Rover 3 Litre among more than a dozen new launches, but the Aston Martin DB4 was by far the most exciting. With discreetly dashing styling by Frederico Formenti of Carrozzeria Touring and a powerful new Tadek Marek-designed twin-cam straight six, this car encapsulated latefifties Britain’s aspirations of international glamour and sophistication perfectly via the medium of aluminium and steel. For £3980 those visitors could have bought six A40s or one DB4, a car that would – with minimal changes – evolve into the Bond-famous DB5.
To mark the event we’ve put together a special package of features, with the brave restoration of a DB4 prototype dragged from a Welsh cattle shed, a road trip exploring the real life of Aston saviour David Brown and a revealing interview with his grandson about those heady days.
Back when I was wrestling with the joys of student banger motoring, comedy actor Rowan Atkinson was part of the motoring aristocracy, using his success to enjoy a string of Aston Martins and other machinery that we mere mortals could only dream about. But when I spoke to him about his Mercedes-benz 500E and Lancia Thema 8.32, which we twin test in this issue, he explained how he’d tired of high-profile cars and all of the attention and high values that swirl around them. Instead he enthused about the joy of revisiting models from his past, cars that offer a thoroughly engaging driving experience without the corruption of modern technology, look-at-me status or inflated prices.
They typify the sort of great-value cars that I’ll be asking Quentin Willson about when we take to the stage throughout The London Classic Car Show in February to talk Smart Buys.
See you there.
Our Aston DB4 anniversary celebration has Phil pondering a (fantasy) E-type part-exchange