Ori­gins of the DB4 Lightweights

VANTAGE - - Track Test | Db4 Lightweight - Stephen Archer

VIS­COUNT DOWNE was not only a fa­mous As­ton en­thu­si­ast but also a gifted en­gi­neer. His part­ner­ship with Richard Wil­liams would bear many fruits, in­clud­ing a Le Mans pro­gramme with the Nim­rod and the re­nais­sance of Project car DP212 in the 1970s. The DB4 Lightweight was an­other.

While the en­gi­neer­ing of the car was quite rad­i­cal, the pair were agreed that it should look as stan­dard as pos­si­ble. So the body changes were lim­ited chiefly to the aero­dy­namic blank on the bon­net and cleaner win­dow fits. The chas­sis had its steel plat­form sheet­ing re­placed by alu­minum, while strength and stiff­ness were in­creased by the fit­ment of a full roll-cage. The doors and all in­ner met­al­work were light­ened dra­mat­i­cally – the body and chas­sis work was done by Mau­rice ‘Mo’ Gomm, who had a long ca­reer build­ing top-flight racing cars and was a ge­nius with alu­minium. The net ef­fect was a weight close to 1000kg, or around 300kg less than the stan­dard car.

The sus­pen­sion had more ad­justa­bil­ity and the roll cen­tres were low­ered front and rear, making a vast dif­fer­ence to the han­dling. Bump-steer was care­fully di­alled out, and Koni tele­scopic dampers were fit­ted, along with up­rated disc brakes. The en­gine was clas­sic RSW 4.2-litre spec with triple We­bers. Cur­rent RSW MD Neil Thomp­son built the car and re­mem­bers the project well. Ini­tially the car ran with a stan­dard DB4 gear­box but dura­bil­ity was an is­sue and so Hew­land in­ter­nals were used, while the back axle had dou­ble half-shaft bear­ings in­stalled.

Af­ter the com­ple­tion of the Vis­count Downe car (pic­tured above left in the hands of Mike Sal­mon), six more were built by RS Wil­liams. Ad­di­tion­ally, other As­ton spe­cial­ists built a fur­ther 17 DB4 Lightweights.

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