A twist in the tail

In 1990s, As­ton Martin Works de­vel­oped its own take on a short-wheel­base db4 road-racer. They called it dp2155


As­ton Martin’s ‘Project cars’ have al­ways had an aura about them. Emerg­ing from As­ton’s hal­lowed in­ner sanc­tums at Feltham and New­port Pag­nell, they in­cluded those fab­u­lous Le Mans rac­ers, DP212, DP214 and DP215. They also in­cluded an even smaller num­ber of machines built for both road and track. The first was the DB4 GT pro­to­type, DP199. The last was the car you see here, DP2155.

In fact DP2155 started life as a well-used DB4 and its rein­car­na­tion as a De­sign Project car didn’t be­gin un­til the early 1990s. But while it may not have the pe­riod rac­ing prove­nance of its fore­bears, it too was de­signed from the out­set with competition very much in mind, while be­ing equally suit­able for road or track.

Project 2155 is also very much a car of its time, a time when Vic­tor Gauntlett as AML chair­man still ruled the As­ton Martin roost with his unique blend of flex­i­bil­ity and busi­ness acu­men, while Ford, which was happy for him to do so, was mid­way through its third year since tak­ing ma­jor­ity own­er­ship of the com­pany. It was in early 1990 that Works Ser­vice direc­tor Kings­ley Rid­ing-felce and Vic­tor, both like-minded As­ton en­thu­si­asts, first dis­cussed Kings­ley’s idea for a rather spe­cial DB4 – the car As­ton could have built as the ul­ti­mate de­vel­op­ment of the DB4/ DB4 GT. Ex­ter­nally it would look the pe­riod part, but un­der­neath it would boast some far more mod­ern tech­ni­cal ad­van­tages. Cru­cially, it would be use­able as both a road and competition ma­chine in the best of As­ton tra­di­tions.

Be­ing an in-house project, time was not at a pre­mium and it would be some seven years be­fore the com­pleted As­ton, still bear­ing its orig­i­nal chas­sis num­ber of DB4/207/R and UAW 707 regis­tra­tion, would fi­nally turn a wheel in anger. By then it had been of­fi­cially des­ig­nated DP2155, with 215 in def­er­ence to DP215, the last of the DB4 Gt-evolved cars, and 5 rep­re­sent­ing the fifth in the se­ries.

‘The back­ground,’ ex­plained Kings­ley in 1998, ‘was that a lot of people wanted to own DB cars, but they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily want to live with crossply tyres, a hot floor and a cart axle rear end; we needed to show what we could do and make ex­cit­ing cars, but also to mod­ernise the cars so that cus­tomers could have a clas­sic but with­out all the down­sides; to make them user-friendly.

‘At club rac­ing level, ev­ery­body was strug­gling with the back end,’ he con­tin­ued. ‘They were strength­en­ing the chas­sis but they couldn’t put the power down early enough. The idea was for a con­ver­sion that didn’t affect the in­tegrity of the cars and for Fac­tory ap­proval to be ac­cepted by the rac­ing boys. It would make for much more fun with­out spoil­ing the car.’

Hav­ing started life as a stan­dard DB4 (first reg­is­tered on De­cem­ber 21 1959), DB4/207/R had been specif­i­cally bought in poor con­di­tion as the ba­sis for this spe­cial Ser­vice Department restora­tion project – one that would also in­cor­po­rate sig­nif­i­cant en­gi­neer­ing devel­op­ments.

What en­sued as the project evolved was a chas­sis and body short­ened by 5in to DB4 GT di­men­sions, with spe­cial light­weight in­ner sills. Me­chan­i­cal changes were many, the most sig­nif­i­cant be­ing the RS Wil­liams-de­vel­oped (in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Rhoddy Har­vey Bai­ley), DP215in­spired in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion. This used fab­ri­cated dou­ble wish­bones mounted, no­tably, on a sub­frame that bolted di­rectly to the orig­i­nal axle mount­ings (and thus was in­ter­change­able with the orig­i­nal live set-up). It also fea­tured tele­scopic dampers rather than lever arms. It was just what DB4 de­signer Harold Beach had al­ways wanted.

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