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.