Origins of the DB4 Lightweights
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.